Lingering off the coast of Venezuela like a floating oasis in the sea, Aruba sparkles with sunshine, salt-tinged breezes, and undoubtedly Dutch flavor. While one could easily toss down a blanket on the beach and happily roast for days, there are a few must-see spots worth waking up for.
Arikok National Park
Located near Mt. Arikok, close to the center of the island, nearly twenty percent of Aruba's land is dedicated to massive Arikok National Park. A natural preserve featuring Aruba's uncommon plants and wildlife such as kwihi trees and iguanas, the park is best explored by foot on one of the numerous hiking trails. Some companies offer guided tours, but as long as you stay on the main paths, you're safe to venture on your own. The highest points in Aruba, Arikok and Jamanota hilltops, are located in the park.
The park was first designated as an area of noteworthy national importance in the early 1980's and encompasses the three primary geological formations that shape Aruba: the Aruba lava formation; a quartz diorite formation; and a limestone formation extending inward from the coastline. These unique formations have contributed to a habitat supporting several animal species that can only be found in Aruba, such as the Aruban whiptail lizard, the Aruban burrowing owl, and the Aruban parakeet, plus a few very innocent snakes -- so keep your eyes peeled!
If you're looking to do a little off-the-beaten-path exploring with your beloved, head to the outer reaches of the park to the Guadirikiri Cave, home to hundreds of harmless bats and rumored hiding spot of pirates -- bring a flashlight! Famed for its two chambers where sunlight shines through, the cave is a perfect backdrop for extraordinary photos.
Also not to be missed is the stunning result of the Atlantic surf's hearty appetite: Natural Bridge. Gobbling away at a chunk of the rocky mountain northern shore for years, what's left is a 100-foot-long and 25-foot-high mini marvel. It is the island's highest and most photographed coral attraction, so take your film or have your digicam charged, and get ready to shoot.
It's an easy drive to the bridge by car along well-paved roads and a great swimming and picnicking spot, due to the bridge acting as a nice natural buffer between the waves and the shore.
Palm Beach to Eagle Beach
Speaking of shores, Aruba's beaches boast some of the finest, whitest, and softest sands you will ever encounter, and the waters are so azure they seem unreal. But the stretch of beach from Palm Beach to Eagle Beach is completely dedicated to the majority of travelers like us. Palm Beach has wonderfully calm waters, making it great for snorkeling and swimming, and lies directly in front of the island's luxury high-rise hotels. Eagle Beach is popular with the locals and full of shaded picnic areas and easy parking. Many low-rise hotels are nearby, just off the street from the beach.
There are many other fabulous beaches to explore, including Baby Beach, which is perfect for inexperienced swimmers and snorkelers, and Hadikurari Beach, also great for snorkeling.
Even if you're a glued-to-the-beach-towel type, you'd be missing out not seeing some of these wonderful and unique attractions, so make a date with your newlywed and see everything Aruba has to offer!
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