Credit: David Webb
An easy five-hour plane ride south of Toronto, Aruba offers more than just the resort lifestyle — outdoor adventure awaits, if you know where to look:
Explore Arikok National Park
An amazing 18 per cent of this diminutive island is set aside as Arikok National Park, a sprawling coastal desert abounding with adventure potential. Mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding and caving (at Guadiriki Cave) are just a few of your options within this red-rock expanse. Make sure to check out the view from Aruba’s tallest mountain, 200-metre-tall Yamanota, and cool down with a swim at the famous Natural Pool, hidden away on the northern coastline of Arikok.
Stand-Up Paddleboard Paradise
Warm, clear waters and expansive sandy beaches beckon the stand-up paddleboarder to Aruba’s shores. Palm Beach, where the island’s high-rise hotels can be found, has multiple options for SUP rentals and instruction. The wind can often make paddleboarding tricky, but the water is bathtub-warm and the sand is soft, so tip-overs are actually a welcome refresher. Surf breaks can be found on the island’s north shore, for advanced riders.
Snorkel Spanish Lagoon
Tranquilo Charters is the only operator with access to Spanish Lagoon, a natural aquarium located offshore of Aruba’s south-central coast. Book early — it’s well worth the trip to spot parrotfish, sergeant majors, grunt fish, trumpetfish and yellow damselfish, along with otherworldly brain coral and various submerged sundry. Enjoy easy shallow-water snorkelling, and then head into 10-metre-deep water for Tranquilo’s signature Drift Snorkel atop Mike’s Reef, taking full advantage of the staggering 25-metre-plus visibility in Aruba’s diamond-clear seas.
Looking for a way to work up a sweat on the sand? Introduced to Aruba 12 years ago, Beach Tennis has become one of the most popular sports on the island. Aruba has no shortage of professional players who compete against 15 other countries regularly, as well as tournaments, lessons and court rentals for players of every skill level. Think of it as tennis-meets-badminton-meets-beach-volleyball; it’s social, active and challenging. And when visiting Aruba it’s an absolute must — a real slice of local culture and sport.
The trade winds blow nine months of the year in Aruba, offering not only respite from the tropical sun but world-class windsurfing conditions. In fact, Aruba is known as one of the planet’s best windsurfing destinations — it has been home to the Aruba Hi-Winds competition for the past 25 years and has spawned numerous high-ranking pros, like women’s champ Sarah-Quita Offringa. If you’re a novice, don’t fret — Palm Beach has many options for rentals and instructions (try Aruba Active Vacations). You’ll be up and surfing in no time. (As expected, Aruba is also a great place for kitesurfing.) Aruba Tourism