As it turns out, the coordinates for paradise are 12.5211 degrees north, 69.9683 degrees west. This precious pocket of land, which spans just over 19 miles long and 6 miles wide, is Aruba. But the natives call it “One Happy Island.” With 52 weeks of sunshine, an average annual temperature of 81 degrees and the constant cool breeze of eastern trade winds to keep harsh heat at bay, it’s not hard to understand why.
Nestled in the Southern Caribbean, just north of Venezuela, Aruba beckons U.S. travelers—leisure and business alike—with powdery beaches and direct flights through which to access them. Airtime from Miami is less than three hours. From Atlanta, it clocks in under four hours, and from New York City, less than five.
The island’s compact layout enables visitors to enjoy short commutes to and from every destination on their dockets. Plus, there are no long transfers for groups between attractions. The drive from Queen Beatrix International Airport to the sprawling hotel district in Oranjestad, Aruba’s affluent capital city and a bustling port of call for cruise ships, is a mere 6 miles. The brief, scenic ride reveals this harbor city’s charm, which comes to life in the candy-colored buildings that line the streets, along with the backdrops of brilliant blue water. And though it’s small, Aruba packs quite a punch.
“We call it three islands in one,” says Hal Davis, sales manager for the Aruba Convention Bureau. Davis is referring to Aruba’s combination of terrain, which pairs pristine blond beaches with a rocky northern coastline and arid desert dusted in cacti and succulents.
Rich in Culture
With rich historical roots and deep colonial heritage, Aruba is home to friendly locals who are as diverse as the land. The island’s population of 104,000-plus represents more than 80 nationalities. A fusion of Dutch influence (the country is a constituent of the Kingdom of the Netherlands) and native practices imbue the island with a distinct culture—one in which a handful of languages can be heard in the same breath. While Dutch is the official language, residents are also fluent in Spanish, English and Papiamento (the island’s native tongue, which is a blend of seven different dialects) before they complete grade school.
It’s a place where vibrant carnival events tip their hats to African, Latin American, European and Arawak customs (of the Paraguana Peninsula in Venezuela) while drawing inspiration from traditional Caribbean music and dance. This spirit of international flair also finds an outlet in the island’s impressive culinary scene.
For every “Bon Bini” (“Welcome” in Papiamento) exchanged, there’s a piece of Dutch architecture—think gables painted in pastels—that begs to be photographed, a calypso tune that brings a crowd to its feet and a local dance troupe that leaves an audience breathless.
Aruba’s real draw, though? With so much to drink in and experience on the island, the concept of all-inclusive stay is almost foreign.
“The idea is for visitors to explore the entire island rather than stay in their hotels or resorts for the duration of their trips,” Davis says.
While some resorts offer all-inclusive packages, they aren’t the norm. Aruba’s reputation as one the safest and wealthiest islands (unemployment is low) in the Caribbean means visitors have the confidence to explore freely without worry. Plus, the wide acceptance of U.S. currency and major credit cards makes enjoying the island’s far-reaching amenities a breeze.
Beyond its bevy of fascinating attractions, luxurious accommodations and beautiful scenery, Aruba hangs its hat on another bragging point—one that fuels its economy as a magnet for tourists: Guests just can’t get enough after one visit.
“We are proud to say that Aruba enjoys the highest repeat visitor rate within the Caribbean,” says Jerusha Rasmijn, conferences and events manager for the Aruba Tourism Authority. “More than half of our loyal visitors return, year after year.”
From intimate boutique properties to expansive resorts boasting the best-known brand names, Aruba’s 30-plus hotels invite meeting planners and globetrotters to get away. Keep these six standout spots on standby.
The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba
Guest rooms: 320
Meeting rooms: 7
Indoor meeting space: 10,000 square feet
Outdoor meeting space: 2,400 square feet
Perks: Beach access, four restaurants/bars, spa, gym, two outdoor pools
Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino
Guest rooms: 558
Meeting rooms: 10
Indoor meeting space: 22,000 square feet
Outdoor meeting space: 18,000 square feet
Perks: Beach access, eight restaurants/bars, fitness center, casino, outdoor pool
Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
Guest rooms: 411
Meeting rooms: 7
Indoor meeting space: 10,450 square feet
Outdoor meeting space: 30,000 square feet
Perks: Beach access, six restaurants/bars, gym, casino, two outdoor pools
Holiday Inn Resort Aruba
Guest rooms: 597
Meeting rooms: 3
Indoor meeting space: 6,000 square feet
Outdoor meeting space: 107,000 square feet
Perks: Beach access, four restaurants/bars, spa, casino, three outdoor pools
Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino
Guest rooms: 357
Meeting rooms: 8
Indoor meeting space: 15,000 square feet
Outdoor meeting space: 24,000 square feet
Perks: Beach access, five restaurants/bars, spa, fitness center, casino, two outdoor pools
Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa and Casino
Guest rooms: 357
Meeting rooms: 6
Indoor meeting space: 9,00 square feet
Outdoor meeting space: 10,000 square feet
Perks: Beach access, five restaurants/bars, spa, casino, outdoor pool