Aruba: the happy island

The main harbour of Aruba. (Shutterstock)

The main harbour of Aruba. (Shutterstock)

JULIA BRYAN, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:46 PM ET

As the buds begin to blossom, I start to dream about my next winter vacation. If the sunny south is on your mind too, you may want to explore Aruba, where I discovered that it must be among the most welcoming places on Earth.

Aruba is a 33-kilometre long island in the southern Caribbean Sea. Together with Bonaire and Curacao, it forms a group referred to as the ABC Islands.

The name of the island comes from the discovery of its gold resources. The word Aruba means "red gold" ( "ore" for gold + "ruba" for red). However, these days, those searching for gold have a better chance of finding it in the jewelry shops of Aruba.

Aruba is not the like many other Caribbean islands. First, it remains a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but functions independently with its own government.

In keeping with its Dutch roots, Aruba's official languages are Dutch and the local language of Papiamento, which is unique to the ABC Islands. But in addition, most Arubans speak a minimum of four languages including English and Spanish.

Unlike many of its Caribbean neighbours, Aruba has a dry climate and an arid landscape. This climate has helped tourism as visitors to the island can reliably expect warm, sunny weather.

In fact, the temperature is almost invariably 28 degrees accompanied by constant winds from the Atlantic Ocean. Note: after my visit I re-named Aruba the "Island of bad hair" because of these constant winds!

But most importantly, Aruba is renowned for its white, sandy beaches on the western and southern coasts of the island. They are sheltered from ocean currents, and this is where most tourist development has taken place.

Divi-divi trees, easily recognized by their distinctive shape, dot the landscape and along the northern cliffs the waves have carved high, coral bridges and deep, dark limestone grottoes.

Located on Aruba's picturesque southern coast, Oranjestad is the capital city. Here, multi-colored houses combine traditional Dutch tiles with the airy open style of the Islands.

Oranjestad is also the place to shop for Aruban art and local handicrafts. And along the wharf, merchants come to sell fresh fish and produce right off the boats each morning.

Maybe it's because of the year-round sunshine, but as you explore Aruba, you'll notice smiling faces everywhere. And that's how you know it's a happy place to be.

Julia Bryan handles communications and public relations for DeNure Tours in Lindsay, Ont.


Photos