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Just 20 miles long and six miles across, this little island, not to mention the pervading vibe, offer you a warm and sunny greeting. Although it is truly a Caribbean island, it is unlike any other you may have visited: With a low rainfall (it averages 300 sun-soaked days a year!), it is not lush and tropical, but the beaches and natural wonders make it a paradise for tourists. Its history was much less marred by the plantation system and the African slave trade; the three centuries of Dutch colonial rule, followed by nearly a hundred years as a constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, have left a legacy of peace adorning this sunlit paradise.
If you enjoy museums, Aruba has several very good ones. Start with the Historical Museum of Aruba and the Archaeological Museum to learn more about the original Arawak inhabitants and the other people who have settled here since the 15th century. Although Aruba was mainly spared by the stormy wars of conquest that swept the Caribbean, there is Fort Zoutman, still maintained as an historical site. You can also sign up for a walking tour of Oranjestad or rent a bicycle and explore on your own.
Of course, there are the beaches. Baby Beach borders a man-made lagoon that teems with marine life, or visit Rodgers Beach, which is a bit more on the relaxed side of things. Over on Palm Beach, with its white sand and calm waters, is the place to go for water sports; concessions will get you started with what you need to go snorkeling, diving, kayaking and kitesurfing. For surfing, Wariruri Beach is the most popular. But don't miss the magnificent Eagle Beach, near Oranjestad; it is rated as one of the best beaches in the world. The island is renowned for its natural beauty, too. Arikok National Park features species of animals found nowhere else in the world, including burrowing owls and the brown-throated parakeet. The Ayo Rock formations are fascinating, and some rocks have ancient Arawak petroglyphs. Be sure to visit the Bubali Bird Sanctuary, where you can view more than 80 species of migratory birds. For a very special experience, go to the Butterfly Farm, where you can witness scores of species from around the world, in all stages of their life cycle.
Choose from a wide variety of restaurants, representing a host of different cuisines. Steak houses and European restaurants are there, as well as some wonderful seafood cafes. Such places as the Hadicurari and the Old Cunucu House will give you a taste of traditional Aruban food in a relaxing atmosphere. Before you leave, be sure to visit the Warfside Flea Market on the old dock in Oranjestad to find local arts and crafts as gifts for your for your friends who stayed home (and maybe for yourself, too).