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TREASURE ISLAND

From diving to off-roading, Aruba has something to offer everyone


TREASURE ISLAND
From diving to off-roading, Aruba has something to offer everyone

The Occidental Grand Aruba


 
The Occidental Grand Aruba

The Occidental Grand Aruba

There’s never a bad time to jet off to Aruba. This tiny island (30 kilometres long) off the coast of Venezuela is the perfect getaway for everyone in your gang. It’s tucked outside of the hurricane belt in the southern Caribbean Sea. With an average yearly temperature hovering around 28 C, your only stress will be finding your version of paradise, whether that’s 007-style gambling or chilled-out spa indulging.

WILD SIDE
For those who like to quickly slip into the island culture, much of Aruba consists of a peaceful desert landscape, with wind-sculpted divi-divi trees (think bonsai trees with bushy ’80s dos), intimate public beaches and local villages. Hotels such as the Bucuti Beach Resort have a chilled-out boutique vibe. But, if you really want to experience the island’s natural beauty, head straight for the Cunucu Arubiano Eco-Lodge. Choose from three freestanding one-bedroom luxury casitas, all outfitted with colourful local art and antiques. Don’t be alarmed if you’re enjoying a glass of chardonnay on your terrace and a furry four-legged friend swings by to say hello—the lodge is nestled within Donkey Sanctuary Aruba, which is home to four dozen (and counting) of the creatures.

ACTION-PACKED
For an underwater adventure, take a ferry to De Palm Island and sign up for the Sea Trek. Slip on an underwater helmet (aka glorified scuba gear), which helps you breathe underwater while giving you zero gravity. Plunge 20 feet under the sea and wander along a 375-foot man-made underwater walkway surrounded by tropical fish.

Renaissance’s private island Aruba


 
Renaissance’s private island Aruba

Take a boat to the Renaissance’s private island

PAMPER TIME
Need to escape your BlackBerry-filled life back home? One of the island’s most luxe spas, the Okeanos, is located within the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino in the downtown core of the capital city, Oranjestad. Posh treatments including black-caviar facials and chocolate Swedish massages that leave your skin with a red-carpet-worthy glow. For relaxing beach time, stop by the Renaissance’s 40-acre private island. Timbaland recently tied the knot at this secluded spot, where the population of iguanas and flamingos outnumbers tourists.

SUN AND SURF
If you prefer to do as the locals do, then head to the beach for a little windsurfing. Aruba’s consistent trade winds make it a hub for this exhilarating sport. A couple of wipeouts are guaranteed, so leave the teeny two-piece back at the hotel. The Fisherman’s Huts windsurfing centre in Malmok offers a variety of lessons throughout the year. It also plays host to the Aruba Hi-Winds amateur windsurfing event in July—so be prepared to spot some major eye candy.

BACKSTAGE PASS
Music lovers, save your vitamin D boost for May, when the five-day Soul Beach Music Festival takes place. It’s the Caribbean’s answer to Coachella, so expect celebrities, concerts and nightclub parties galore. Past performers include Estelle, Wyclef Jean, Robin Thicke and Alicia Keys. For live music year-round, Mr. Jazz and Sopranos Piano Bar on the main strip are the hot spots.

Hyatt Regency Aruba


 
Hyatt Regency Aruba

A private beachside dining hut at the Hyatt Regency

VEGAS, BABY
Oranjestad is like Vegas gone to the tropics. For 007 types feeling lucky, several of the casinos are tucked within the hotels on the high-rise strip of Palm Beach. The Occidental Grand Aruba is a zero-hassle all-inclusive. High rollers should make the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino their crash pad. When you’re not hitting up the blackjack tables, lounge in one of the plush outdoor canopied sofa beds and enjoy the island’s signature sip, an Aruba Ariba—a refreshing mix of banana liqueur, rum, vodka and fruit punch. At night, head to Palms Restaurant, an oceanfront venue with killer mojitos and ceviche. Better yet, call ahead to book a private beachside dining hut.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Don’t spend all of your time chowing down in the resorts; the best food on the island is served at family-run restaurants. Driftwood is perfect for casual dining in shorts and flip-flops. The specialty is fresh seafood caught daily by the owner. Big hits include pan bati (an Aruban take on corn bread) and keshi yena (baked Gouda cheese stuffed with meat, cashews, olives, raisins and spices). In many ways, Aruba’s cuisine is a perfect reflection of the island as a whole, which might best be described as a high-low cultural mishmash with something for every palate.

“Treasure Island” has been edited for FLARE.com; the complete story and where-to-buy appears in the November 2009 issue of FLARE.

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