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Language: Dutch | Currency: Bahamian dollar (ƒ) | Local time: (UTC-5:00) | Average flight time: 10.00hrs
Aruba’s capital, Oranjestad, is the best bet if you’re after urban delights: namely, loads of restaurants, nightclubs, cinemas, boutiques and bars playing the local Dande music. Most of the action is downtown, at Main Street’s designer shops and malls, or around the busy harbour and beach areas.
Hotels tend to be located between these pockets, with the sand a matter of minutes away. The Renaissance Aruba Resort goes further by boasting its own island on which there are private beaches (Aruba’s only ones), plus a restaurant, spa and tennis court.
A five-minute drive northwest of Oranjestad, you will find the low-key Low-Rise neighbourhood. It comprises several coves – Bushiri, Druif, Manchebo and Eagle Beaches – although many people label the entire area Eagle Beach.
Accommodation options here include couple-catering boutiques, family-focused resorts and some of Aruba’s all-inclusives (most of which are in High-Rise). Generally speaking, Low-Rise is more chilled, more bijou, less crowded and less showy.
There are also some adult-only retreats here, for grown-ups who crave a calm, tranquil escape. One example, the Bucuti Beach Resort & Tara Beach Suites, has won awards for its romantic atmosphere.
Beginning a quarter of a mile north of Eagle Beach, and stretching all the way along Palm Beach – its alternative moniker – the glamorous, fast-paced High-Rise is where Aruba’s classic hotels are located. It’s the island’s Las Vegas, Waikiki and Cote d’Azur rolled into one.
A dozen of Aruba’s premier all-inclusive resorts are here, stretching back from the beach into landscaped grounds. Some are decidedly upscale, others more mid-range in price and informal (everyone wears flip-flops) in atmosphere. You’ll always find flashy casinos, as well as a supporting troupe of restaurants, bars, pools, stages and, normally, spa facilities. Dive boats depart along the coast from their respective piers.
Sitting regally at Palm Beach’s far end, the Ritz Carlton is probably the most luxurious High-Rise hotel. One of Aruba’s cheaper options, the Holiday Inn Resort positioned midway along the beach is a good shout if you’re on a budget.
Aruba hotel rates plummet in the summer, the island's low season, which essentially lasts from spring through to autumn. That said, with so many resorts and all-inclusive hotels available, cheap Aruba package holidays are readily available throughout the year.
Free credits – for casinos, spas and bars – are a common element of special deals among the bigger hotels. Palm Beach’s Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort has been known to offer one free night as part of their summer sale, and chuck in resort credits of $100 on top.