This Caribbean Dutch Island is home to the famous wreck of the Antilla — a 120-meter/400-foot German ex-supply ship that was scuttled during World War II to avoid capture - along with the wreck of the Pedernales, and several other wrecks. Reef dives such as Malmok Reef, Barcadera Reef and Lago Reef are packed with schooling fish and healthy coral formations. Most divers come to Aruba to experience the wrecks. In between dives, Aruba caters to even the most sophisticated traveler with state-of-the-art casinos, first-rate entertainment, accommodations in 5-star all-inclusive resort, an extensive array of fine restaurants as well as fabulous shopping in downtown Orangestad. For something less man made, there are still plenty of off-the-beaten-track options including hiking, cycle tours, jeep safaris, night walks and even rock-climbing.
When to Go:
April through June generally has calm weather, while winter fronts (known locally as "Anchor Rattlers") are frequent in January through March. Summer months provide good diving conditions, although June-October is also hurricane season in the Caribbean, with the highest risk around September.
Marine Life Seasons:
Many fish and lobster mate in spring. Manta Rays are more common around October, and in December and January you can find massive mating schools of Nassau grouper.
When to Get the Best Deals:
Visit during the off-season, between mid-April to mid-December to get the best deals.
What to Pack:
Pack a 3/2 mm wetsuit, sturdy shoes for hiking in the desert, sunscreen and light tropical clothing for going out at night. Aruba has some upscale nightclubs, restaurants and bars, so a nicer outfit or two is recommended. DAN card.
Seasonal averages: 26°C/79°F in winter and 29.4°C/85°F in summer.
Seasonal averages: 29-31°C/85-89°F year-round.
Aruban Florin (AFG) is the official currency of the island. US dollar is also accepted in most places.
Passport should be shown at the entry. Visa is not essential for most countries. Check with the immigration website.
A $32US departure tax is usually part of your ticket.
What to Eat:
Aruban cuisine is a fusion of African, Spanish, French, Dutch, Indian, and Chinese specialties reflecting this island's multicultural population. Many dishes revolve around the sea - fish, conch, calamari and lobster - served with a variety of spicy sauces. You'll also find curried goat or goat stew on many menus served with funchi (corn-meal mush) or pan bati (a pancake-like bread). Special desserts usually involve fruit and coconut.
What to Drink:
Balashi is the local beer made from Aruba's desalinated water. Palmera is the local rum and coecoei (a liquor that looks like grenadine and tastes like tequila) is part of the famous Aruba Ariba cocktail.
A haven for duty free shopping, you can find almost any and every high end or brand name product on Aruba. Hike or mountain bike Arikok National Park and see the rock art in the Indian caves.
Customs and Culture:
Prominent Dutch influence can be seen in the architecture. American culture has also influenced the natives.
Carnival has become the prominent festival of Aruba, which takes place in January through March. The brand new Caribbean Festival, which was inaugurated in June 2011, celebrates the multicultural influences of Aruba.
Electricity and Internet:
Electricity in Aruba is 110 volts, 60 cycles. Internet service is available in most of the hotels and cyber cafes.
Drink the water?
Local water is distilled and safe to drink.
Dutch is the official language of Aruba. People also speak Papiamento, English and Spanish.
Amazing Marine Life
In early spring females haul themselves onto Aruba's beaches to lay eggs in clutches of 100 or more. Year-round, they can be found swimming in leisurely fashion or napping under ledges on most reefs.
These predatory pelagic fish are often seen on the reefs. They can swim at incredible speeds and can grow up to two meters/six feet in length, but even a small one can earn a diver's respect with a flash of its jaw full of razor-sharp teeth.
Also known as devil rays (for their somewhat sinister "horned" profiles), these giants soar like flying carpets through the night waters, feeding on plankton.
Also known as rock lobsters, these crustaceans sport brown or orange shells, often colorfully dappled with yellow, blue, or green.
Mottled in scaly patterns of reds and browns, the scorpion fish can blend easily with polyp-encrusted rocks, but its venomous dorsal spines render this beauty a danger.
Like something from a science-fiction flick, the brain coral grows in large round mounds.
These relatives to coral branch in intricate, sometimes lacy patterns, decorating the underwater landscape.
Growing to sizes of up to a meter/three feet, these barrel-shaped bottom-dwellers color the landscape with a multitude of bright colors. At deeper locations where colors have been filtered out by the water above you, shine a dive light on a sponge to see its brilliant red, orange, or purple revealed.
A smaller relative of the manta (and the shark), these rays often hang out on sandy bottoms, but can also be seen swimming around the reefs. Keep your distance from its venomous barbed tail.
Most often found in holes, caves, and wrecks, moray eels sometimes venture out so divers can see their entire snakelike length.
Top Dive Spots
Antilla (Ghost Ship):
Just north of Palm Beach, this famous wreck rests 18 meters/60 feet below calm water with good visibility. Sometimes crowded with divers, the site is also crowded with yellowtails, angelfish, grunts, eels, corals and giant tube sponges.
This fairly shallow wreck (9 meters/30 feet) provides refuge for parrotfish, trumpetfish, squirrelfish, and angelfish, and divers regularly spy spotted eagle rays as well. The ship itself is the middle section of an oil tanker torpedoed by Germans in World War II.
A wrecked pilot boat nearby seethes with multi colored reef fish. This site is noted for soft corals, marine plant life, barrel sponges and enormous heads of brain coral.
Standing almost on end, this wrecked freighter is an excellent place to spot Eels, Creole Wrasse, Sergeant Majors and Angelfish, along with Brain Corals, Sea Fans, Fire Coral, and Colorful Sponges.
Malmok Reef and Debbie II:
The reef here sweeps downward to a depth of 27 meters/90 feet, featuring multicolored giant barrel sponges, stingrays, brain corals, and oversized lobsters. A sunken barge (Debbie II) swarms with eels and schooling pelagic fish including barracudas.
In this wonderland of grand coral formations, dwell a whole host of green moray eels.
A little bit of everything can be found at this site, particularly when it comes to varieties of corals. Fortresses of star coral, brain coral, pillar coral, sheet coral, finger-leaf coral, and flower coral sculpt the landscape, while turtles, manta rays, and schooling snappers provide the counterpoint of movement and color.
This site resembles the explosion of a crayon box, brilliant color everywhere. Sponges in purples and oranges, sea fans, and a proliferation of different corals make this spot a favorite for macro photographers.
Mangel Halto Reef:
The range of depths on this reef (from a shallow 5 meters/15 feet to a bottom at 33 meters/110 feet) makes for a wide variety of marine life for a diver to encounter. At the recreational diver's limit, you might find octopus, green moray eels, and deepwater sea fans and anemones. Flitting in the middle depths you'll see blue tangs, butterfly fish, stingrays, and barracuda and look for the occasional encounter with nurse shark, turtle, and even seahorse.
Rum Runner Wreck:
A wooden fishing vessel sunk as an artificial reef, the Rum Runner now houses lobsters, reef fish, and turtles, with soft anemones and hard corals studding the hull.