In many ways, the Caribbean Island of Aruba feels like a heady, feat-ridden and party-focused corner of America. As a popular package-deal vacation spot for East coast sun lovers, the bars and restaurants are not unlike a typical US town, with the islands dozens of expensive up-market resorts hosting swimming pools, bars and sections of white sand beach to match the price tag. The indigenous culture, sadly, is all but swamped. These days Aruba is a place to get a tan, swim in clear waters and take advantage of the locals' reputation for impressive hospitality. Sail sports, kayaking and numerous other water-based activities are more than enough entertainment for the active visitor.
There are plenty of beaches to make the most of, including ‘Baby Beach’ where the child-friendly waters are never more than 5ft deep, and Hadikurari Beach, a blustery venue on the world windsurfing championship tour. For those looking to escape the beaches and resorts and explore this island paradise more deeply, there are a few off-the-beaten-track gems too. Arikok National Park is a maze of twisted trees, cacti and long abandoned gold mines, while heading to the extreme ends of the islands takes you away from the tourist traps to a more rugged waterside landscape and a more solitary kind of relaxation, something you'll struggle to find amongst the abundant package tourists.
Scuba and snorkel trips take you to visit haunting sunken ships, while exploring the cliff side will bring you to natural bridge arches (the most famous of which recently collapsed, but there are still several more to discover) as well as caves and large colonies of Iguanas and Flamingos. Other attractions you can hunt down include a rich-smelling Aloe Factory, a Butterfly Farm and an Ostrich Farm.
Capital Oranjestad is a cotton candy, palm tree ridden colonial town that never loses its holiday atmosphere, hosting a tax-free harbor and the cannon-guarded mini fairytale of Fort Zaumann. All in all, the tiny island of Aruba and its gentle surroundings are the perfect stress-relief vacation, with a few on-the-side surprises to explore when work finally becomes just a distant memory.