Aruba Caribbean

Situated only 32km (20 miles) north of Venezuela, the sunny Dutch island of Aruba has some of the finest beaches in the southern Caribbean, along with scuba diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, and all the other watersports you'd expect. The concentration of stores and malls in Oranjestad, the island's capital, is as impressive as any in the Caribbean, and there are a dozen casinos, two of them just steps from the cruise ship terminals in the Port of Oranjestad.

TOP BEACHES Just north of crowded Palm Beach, with its high-rise hotels, the sugar-white sands of Eagle Beach offer a more relaxed scene. The top beach for families is Baby Beach, at the island's easternmost point, a shallow bowl of warm turquoise water protected by an almost complete circle of rock. Under the sea The best snorkeling sites are around Malmok Beach (also a great windsurfing spot) and Boca Catalina, where the water is calm and shallow and marine life is plentiful.

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Out and about Aruba's desertlike interior, full of cacti, divi-divi trees, iguanas, and bizarre rock formations, is fun to explore by jeep or ATV. Head for Arikok National Park on the northern coast, with its distinctive cave-pocked mesas full of bats and petroglyphs. Shopaholics alert Downtown's Renaissance Mall and Renaissance Marketplace are magnets for high-end shopping.

Across from the high-rise hotel area there's fun boutique shopping at Paseo Herencia and the Village.

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