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Aruba offers long gleaming beaches, many water sports activities, and is a favourite port for cruise ships, but visitors also lodge here to take advantage of upscale restaurants, lively nightclubs, and some of the best windsurfing in the world. Oranjestad is the island’s capital, and the bustling city has a distinct Dutch feel with colorful buildings painted in historical Antillean style. Shopping is abundant, with duty-free stores offering jewellery, perfume, linen, alcohol and designer clothing. Discos and nightclubs abound and gaming is on offer at 11 resort casinos.
Most of the beaches are found along Aruba’s Northwest coast. There are two main resort areas – one with low-rise buildings, the other with high-rises – with a series of glorious beaches: Druif, Eagle and Palm, with much of it fronted by a pedestrian walkway. The Palm Beach area offers parasailing, glass-bottom boat rides, excursions aboard the submarine Atlantis, and high-octane turbocharged jet boat rides. Just north of Palm Beach is a world-renowned windsurfing and kite-surfing mecca.
Scuba diving is popular, offering good visibility, coral reefs and wrecks - most notably the Antilla, a German freighter sunk during World War II, which is the largest in the Caribbean. For golfers there is Tierra del Sol, an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones II, and the nine-hole Divi Links near Oranjestad. Half-day horseback tours take visitors along beaches and into the cunuku.
Aruba is noteworthy for its arid interior cunuku, or countryside. Casibari and Ayo boast curious rock formations. At the Fontein cave, visitors find natural stone pillars and Amerindian paintings. Nearby, the Guadirikiri caves are home to hundreds of bats. Bus tours are popular but visitors can also tour the cunuku in a convoy of Range Rovers or ATV’s. In addition to the geological scenery, there is the Chapel of Alto Vista, built in 1750 by Spanish missionaries, and the Bushiribana gold mine ruins. Also explore the summit of 541-foot Mount Hooiberg; Arikok National Park, a 13 square-mile preserve filled with iguanas, rabbits, migratory birds, goats and donkeys; and Jabaribari, home to parakeets.