Choices are plenty for those seeking a Caribbean island escape. So let us help you narrow it down. Forgo Jamaica's reggae, forget the Dominican Republic's white-sand beaches and never mind Puerto Rico's passport-free entry.
Instead, head down to the island nation of Aruba for an authentic glimpse of Caribbean life that's as charming as it is unexpected.
Though it's often overlooked for bigger, flashier destinations, Aruba has some bragging rights. It's outside of the hurricane belt, it suffers very few rainy days, and its average high temperature rarely dips below 80 degrees or rises above 90 degrees any time of the year.
It's safer than many other Caribbean destinations, and its beaches are clean and simply stunning.
Add its cooling trade winds and manageable size to the list, and you've got a destination that's perfect both for beach bums and for avid explorers.
Visiting Aruba soon and want to make the most of your vacation? Read on for tips for enjoying the island to the fullest.
1. Be prepared for strong sun and wind
The trade winds that whip across the island are great for staying cool, but they're merciless and unrelenting and can certainly do a number on perfectly coiffed hair. Pack a hat, or plan to wear your locks back tightly.
Though the point of an island getaway is to get some sun, you have to be very careful under the southern Caribbean's powerful rays. Aruba has a dry, desert-like climate and is not covered with palm trees like many other islands, so shade can be hard to come by.
Take sunscreen or a hat with you everywhere you go, and always err on the side of caution with sun exposure.
2. Do stray from your resort
Aruba is only 20 miles long and 6 miles across at its widest point, but there's plenty to see once you escape the confines of your resort. Renting a car is easy, and driving in this tiny island is even easier, as there is practically no traffic.
Drive to Aruba's southern tip to visit some of its pristine beaches — Baby Beach's lagoon-like waters are heavenly — and make a stop through Arikok National Park to admire Mount Jamanota, the highest point on the island at 617 feet above sea level.
Then, head up to the island's northernmost point to spend time snorkeling at Arashi Beach before stopping at the California Lighthouse to snap some panoramic photos.
Leave time to explore the candy-colored capital city of Oranjestad, full of restaurants and shops, and then pop over to the Casibari Rock formations, a collection of castle-like boulders that were once an important site for the island's first settlers, the Arawak people.
From there, it's a quick drive over to rugged Andicuri Beach, home to rogue waves, pebbled shores and the famous (now-collapsed) natural bridge.
3. Give public transit a go
Aruba boasts a great bus system designed to get tourists from the north side of the island to the south, and vice versa. At just $2.30, it's an affordable and comfortable ride — coaches are spacious and equipped with air conditioning.
Ride the bus south to rough-around-the-edges San Nicolas, where most tourists don't venture, to get a feel for local life.
4. Bring a camera
This one seems pretty obvious, but hear me out. Your photos in Aruba won't be run-of-the-mill beach shots. For one thing, Aruba is home to some unique flora, such as the unmistakable fofoti tree (sometimes called divi-divi tree) and plenty of species of cactus. And the sunsets are divine, if you're a sucker for getting those irresistible crimson-colored horizon shots.
5. Don't hesitate to drink the water
In restaurants, as ice cubes, on freshly washed produce or right from the tap in your hotel — go for it. Aruba's water is perfectly safe to drink and won't give tourists any tummy trouble.
6. Get to know the locals
Aruba has been dubbed "one happy island," and its locals deserve all the credit. You'd be hard-pressed to find a friendlier bunch of people, in the resorts and elsewhere. Most Arubians are multilingual, speaking Dutch and the local creole, Papiamento, at the very least. English and Spanish are used widely as well.
Strike up a conversation in whatever tongue suits you and chances are you'll have a new friend before you know it.
Sound like your kind of place? Browse our deals to Aruba.