Aruba, part of the Lesser Antilles, is a tiny Dutch Caribbean island that rounds out the ABC islands with Bonaire and Curaçao. Sun seekers make a beeline to this popular island destination because of its pleasant demeanor and luxurious yet down-to-earth resorts and accommodations. Locals in Aruba take pride in their white-sand beaches (Eagle Beach being perhaps the most gay-friendly), cooling trade winds, and their slogan “One Happy Island.” What is it that makes this desert-meets-beach Caribbean island one of the most visited destinations in the area? The 82-degree beach weather and a unique terrain that seems to meld perfectly with the turquoise waters, combine to make for the ultimate vacation.
The first settlers, the Arawak Indians, arrived from Venezuela just before 1,000 CE and founded villages on the coast near present-day Malmok and Palm Beach. Explorer Alonso de Ojeda discovered and claimed Aruba for the Spanish throne in 1499 and later the Dutch occupied the island in 1636 to protect their salt supply. The island then became part of the Dutch West India Company (except for a brief occupancy by the British).