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Aruba

Area: 75 sq miles (194 sq km)

Population: 68,675

Capital city: Oranjestad (pop 20,500)

Language: Dutch, Papiamento, plus English and Spanish
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Aruba is a wonky parallelogram measuring 20 miles (32km) long and 6 miles (10km) across with about the same area as Washington, DC. Aruba's location, 19 miles (30km) north of Venezuela and 990 miles (1590km) south of Miami in the balmy Caribbean Sea, is where the DC analogies come tumbling down. The island is scrubby and pretty flat, reaching somewhat pathetically for the sky from 620ft (188m) Mount Jamanota.

Aruba is warm, dry and soothed by trade winds year round, with daily highs generally between 80-90°F (27-33°C). The hottest months are August and September, the coolest January and February. Rainfall is scant, which accounts for the island's arid landscape. The precious few clouds that pass this way drop their meager load between October and January. Aruba is outside the hurricane belt, so there's no need to worry about a big blow during the June-to-November Caribbean hurricane season.

Oranjestad
Aruba's bright and breezy pastel-colored capital is on the island's southern leeward coast, just southeast of the main resort area. It has a distinctly Dutch flavor, thanks largely to the modern vogue for fake colonial architecture. Most tourists visit to scour its boutiques and duty-free shops, but it has three small museums worth a peek if you're interested in the island's history.
Arikok National Park
Aruba doesn't have a lot of land to play with, so it's heartening that almost 20 percent of the island has been set aside as the Arikok National Park. It encompasses a significant chunk of the interior and a long stretch of the northern windward coast. The park encompasses 620ft (188m) Mount Jamanota, Aruba's biggest hill. There's a road running through the park, but you'll appreciate the landscape more by exploring one of the hiking trails.
Natural Bridge
Aruba's natural bridge has been formed over millennia by surf eating away at a portion of the rocky northern shore. At 100ft (30m) long and 23ft (7m) tall, it's no major miracle, but it's a pretty decent break from the beach and a good spot to snap photos.
Palm Beach & Eagle Beach
Take an exquisite slice of nature, add a bunch of concrete monoliths, a forest of palm thatched beach umbrellas and a flotilla of watersport toys, and you'll get some idea of the adventure playground that the resort area stretching from Eagle to Palm Beach has become. There's no denying that the sand is as soft and fine and golden as you could wish, or that the water looks like it belongs in a Bacardi ad.


    
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