Aruba’s Year-Round Appeal

Music festivals and other attractions add to Aruba’s charm

By: Aaron Dalton

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Aruba’s famous beaches attract more
than one million visitors each year.
Last October, the Fifth Annual Aruba Music Festival brought STYX, Lionel Richie and an estimated 2,500 tourists to the island. Lionel Richie’s show sold out a week in advance and the STYX concert also drew a big crowd.

The event, one of the more popular festivals on Aruba’s calendar, took place on two consecutive evenings in the balmy open-air environment of the Aruba Entertainment Center. General admission tickets were available for a reasonable $44 a piece, with preferred seats going for $66 and $110, respectively. A number of hotels on the island offered four- or five-night hotel and concert packages, making the music festival an attractive draw.

This year’s Aruba Music Festival will feature Richard Marx and Robin Gibb, among others, and promises to bring in even larger crowds.

Though the Aruba Music Festival will no doubt bring many visitors to the island, there are plenty of other reasons for your clients to consider a trip to Aruba. Approximately one million tourists per year visit this destination in the extreme Southern Caribbean.

The island’s location just off the coast of Venezuela places Aruba outside the path of most hurricanes, allowing the island to serve as a year-round, warm-weather destination.

Indeed, if there’s one thing more dependable than warm weather on Aruba, it’s sunshine. Most tourists come to the island for the beach weather, knowing that Aruba enjoys a sunny climate with an average temperature of 82 degrees. So little rain falls on the island that the local flora consists mainly of cacti. If your clients like the lush rain forests of Puerto Rico or St. Croix, Aruba might not be their perfect destination, but if they enjoy vacations in the resorts of Arizona or New Mexico, Aruba might be just what they are looking for.

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The island is famous for its aloe, and
clients can visit the Aruba Aloe Museum.
The low rainfall has brought another unexpected benefit. The island’s drinking water is incredibly clean, thanks to the massive desalination plant in the town of Balashi that produces 11 million gallons of clean, fresh water each day. The World Health Organization has rated the water from the desalination plant as being among the best in the world. (For technically minded visitors, the desalination plant’s free Thursday tours may be of interest.)

All that clean water isn’t just used for brushing teeth. It’s also used to make Aruba’s popular Balashi beer. The Balashi Brewery offers free tours Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11 a.m. with advance reservations. Or clients can just experience the brew firsthand at many of Aruba’s bars and restaurants.

Since the sun is so hot, visitors to Aruba will want to make sure they don’t burn. And, they’ll want to make sure their skin heals if they have gotten too many UV rays. Fortunately, the Aruba Aloe Museum (www.arubaaloe.com) features various Aruban sunscreens and after-sun products containing the aloe that originally served as the backbone of the country’s economy in the days before tourism. Tours of the museum and factory are offered throughout the day for a small fee; visits to the gift shop are free.

Sun lotion rubbed on, it’s time for visitors to get back outside. There are lots of ways to have fun in the sun, from lounging on the island’s beautiful beaches to snorkeling and scuba diving off shore. Various sunken wrecks, including the 400-foot hulk of a German freighter, provide for fascinating diving experiences. Rodale Scuba Diving magazine has named Aruba the top wreck diving destination in the Caribbean.

An adventurous option for landlubbers is to get off-road and explore the island’s wild desert landscape. It’s possible to see this side of Aruba on horseback via half-day organized ranch tours or romantic sunset beach rides.

Alternatively, visitors can bump along in the back of a Jeep in a DePalm Tours expedition(www.depalm.com). The eight-hour package includes a half-day in the Jeep past landmarks like the Bushiribana gold mill ruins and the remnants of the island’s Natural Bridge, plus a few all-inclusive hours of lunching and relaxing on DePalm’s private island for $95 per person. Children over 5 years old are allowed to join the Jeep tours, but the ride may be too bumpy for pre-teens. Young children might prefer just to visit the new Blue Parrot Water Park on DePalm Island. A five-hour visit to the Island costs $65 per person.

CONTACT

Aruba Tourism Authority

The official Web site of the Aruba Tourism Authority offers a myriad of vacation-planning tools, including cultural activities, sports and entertainment events, and musical festivities throughout the year.
www.aruba.com

Getting There: Aruba is served by American Airlines, US Airways, Continental, United Airlines, Delta and JetBlue. The island is 2½ hours from Miami.

Where to Stay:The Westin Aruba , a 481-room former Wyndham property, was briefly known as the Aruba Resort, Spa and Casino while it was unaffiliated with any brand. The property underwent numerous upgrades after officially joining the Westin family. Located on prime space on Palm Beach, the complimentary tennis courts and fitness center are nicely appointed and often empty. Eight restaurants and three lounges provide lots of different dining options.
www.westin.com/aruba

Additionally, two new hotel options include the five-star all-inclusive luxury resort, Occidental Grand . The property features four restaurants, an array of clubs and lounges and a casino.
www.arubagrand.com

The Hotel RIU Palace is located on popular Palm Beach, and features spectacular Caribbean views.
www.riu.com

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