Aruba Travel
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Aruba Opinions

If all you want to do on your vacation is to ensconce yourself at a deluxe resort, take in the sun, and never venture beyond the gates, than you may love Aruba. This small desert island (not deserted, but arid, with less than 24 inches of rain annually), where large hotels crowd the nicest beaches, pretty much guarantees sunny, breezy, hot days.

Tourism is a big business on Aruba, which attracts more than 350 000 visitors a year. Shopping and casinos are major recreational activities here. The island has more than 100 restaurants and 6,500 hotel rooms, and virtually all are located on the island's west coast. Are you getting the picture?

This is an island that tries hard to be quintessential Caribbean destination, but has less personality than boiled potatoes. Granted, it does have a year-round temperature of 82F, and constantly blowing trade winds, but it's not a particularly pretty island. Although most of the resorts have interesting landscaping inside their gates, drive around the island and you'll see that it's mostly a dust bowl with cactus and the oddly bent divi-divi trees.

In Aruba's favor is that everything runs smoothly and the visitor infrastructure is polished - it's a convenient, fairly dull island. There is abundant air access, from the east coast, and the local bus system serves tourists as well as locals, minimizing the need for a pricey rental car.

With little local culture in evidence, visitors are left with: (a) a couple of great beaches lined with high-rise resorts, (b) a thoroughly Americanized veneer that runs the gamut from Outback to Hooters to Hard Rock, and (c) miserable sightseeing excursions in - your choice - big tour buses or in caravans of jeeps, that tour the featureless countryside in search of a view. Plus, this is not a cheap island - eating out, in particular, will cost you a wad of greenbacks. Aruba is a good spot for travel neophytes who are leery of their first trip abroad and for families who want easy access to babysitting services and a variety of activities suitable for children.

Aruba is a major package -tour destination for Americans and Canadians who fancy big resorts, casinos, and duty-free shopping. It's like one huge cruise ship anchored 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela - all that's missing is Kathie Lee. But if you want is to be pampered at a deluxe resort - say, the Marriott or the Radisson - than you'll be quite content, and you'll sport a great tan by the end of the week.

One cool thing about Aruba: the people. It's a cosmopolitan culture with 80 nationalities represented on the island, and the people are friendly and helpful. You'll notice a strange language that sounds a lot like Spanish but is not. It's Papiamento, a native dialect that is a combination of Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese with some African and Arawak words thrown it. Most locals here speak at least four languages: Papiamento, Dutch (the official language), English, and Spanish. Oh, one other bonus: Aruba lies completely outside the Caribbean's hurricane belt, making August through October visits - peak hurricane season of the region - a safe vacation investment.

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