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On Aruba you can participate in every conceivable water sport, as well as play tennis and golf or go on a fine hike through Arikok National Wildlife Park.
Biking is a great way to get around the island; the climate is perfect, and the trade winds help to keep you cool.
Rancho Notorious. Exciting mountain-biking tours are available here. The 2.5-hour tour to the Alto Vista Chapel and the California Lighthouse are $50 ($75 with bike rental). Boroncana, Noord. 297/586–0508. www.ranchonotorious.com..
If you plan to take a cruise around the island, keep in mind that the trade winds can make the waters choppy and that catamaran rides are much smoother than those on single-hull boats. Sucking on a peppermint or ginger candy may soothe your queasy stomach; avoid boating with an empty or overly full stomach. Moonlight cruises cost about $40 per person. There is also a variety of snorkeling, dinner and dancing, and sunset party cruises to choose from, priced from $30 to $60 per person. Many of the smaller operators work out of their homes; they often offer to pick you up (and drop you off) at your hotel or meet you at a particular hotel pier.
Mi Dushi. This romantic, two-masted ship ("My Sweetheart") offers daytime snorkeling trips that include breakfast, lunch, and drinks for $59 per person. It also offers popular sunset happy-hour cruises. Turibana Plaza, Noord 124, Noord. 297/586–2010. www.midushi.com..
Octopus Sailing Charters. The drinks flow freely on Octopus's trimaran. It holds about 20 people for a three-hour afternoon sail, which costs $35. Pelican Pier, Palm Beach. 297/586–4281. www.octopusaruba.com..
Red Sail Sports. Red Sail can arrange everything for your fishing trip. Choose between four catamarans, including the 70-foot Rumba. They offer a popular sunset sail, including drinks and a lively atmosphere for $49 per person; the dinner cruise package includes a three-course meal and open bar for $99. Red Sail Sports also has locations at the Hyatt and Marriott hotels. And though it's best known for its diving trips, Red Sail will also take you parasailing, and they offer courses for children and others new to scuba diving. An introductory class costs about $95. J.E. Irausquin Blvd 348-A, Palm Beach. 297/586–1603; 305/454–2538 in U.S. www.redsailaruba.com.
Tranquilo Charters Aruba. Operated by Captain Hagedoorn, Tranquilo offers entertaining cruises, including a six-hour tour to the south side of the island for $75. Snorkeling equipment and free lessons are included in the package, and so is the very good "mom's Dutch pea soup" served with lunch (also included). The owner's little dog scampering about the deck with a life jacket on is an added bonus. Renaissance Marina, Oranjestad. 297/586–1418. www.tranquiloaruba.com.
With visibility of up to 90 feet, the waters around Aruba are excellent for snorkeling and diving. Advanced and novice divers alike will find plenty to occupy their time, as many of the most popular sites—including some interesting shipwrecks—are found in shallow waters ranging from 30 to 60 feet. Coral reefs covered with sensuously waving sea fans and eerie giant sponge tubes attract a colorful menagerie of sea life, including gliding manta rays, curious sea turtles, shy octopuses, and grunts, groupers, and other fish. Marine preservation is a priority on Aruba, and regulations by the Conference on International Trade in Endangered Species make it unlawful to remove coral, conch, and other marine life from the water.
Expect snorkel gear to rent for about $20 per day and trips to cost around $45. Scuba rates are around $50 for a one-tank reef or wreck dive, $75 for a two-tank dive, and $55 for a night dive. Resort courses, which offer an introduction to scuba diving, average $65 to $80. If you want to go all the way, complete open-water certification costs around $450.
Aruba Pro Dive. Experienced divers head here for good deals. Ponton 90, Noord. 297/582–5520. www.arubaprodive.com.
Dive Aruba. Resort courses, certification courses, and trips to interesting shipwrecks make Dive Aruba worth checking out. Wilhelminastraat 8, Oranjestad. 297/582–7337. www.divearuba.com..
Native Divers Aruba. Underwater naturalist courses are taught by PADI-certified instructors here, and the company has legions of return customers. Marriott Surf Club, Palm Beach. 297/586–4763. www.nativedivers.com.
Deep-sea catches here include barracuda, kingfish, wahoo, bonito, and tuna. November to April is the catch-and-release season for sailfish and marlin. Many skippered charter boats are available for half- or full-day sails. Packages include tackle, bait, and refreshments. Prices range from $300 to $500 for a half-day charter and from $550 to $700 for a full day.
Teaser Charters. The expertise of the Teaser crew is matched by a commitment to sensible fishing practices, which include catch and release and avoiding ecologically sensitive areas. The company's two boats are fully equipped, and the crew seem to have an uncanny ability to locate the best fishing spots. Captain Kenny runs a thrilling expedition. Renaissance Marina, Oranjestad. 297/582–5088. www.teasercharters.com..
The Links at Divi Aruba. This 9-hole course was designed by Karl Litten and Lorie Viola. The par-36 flat layout stretches to 2952 yards and features paspalum grass (best for seaside courses) and takes you past beautiful lagoons. It is a testy little course with water abounding, making accuracy more important than distance. Amenities include a golf school with professional instruction, a swing-analysis station, a driving range, and a two-story golf clubhouse with a pro shop. Two restaurants are available: Windows on Aruba for fine dining and Mulligan's for a casual and quick lunch. Divi Aruba Resort, J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 93, Oranjestad. 297/581–4653. www.divilinks.com. $90 for 9 holes, $129 for 18 holes, Dec.–Apr. 9 holes, 2952 yards, par 36.
Tierra del Sol. Stretching out to 6811 yards, this stunning course is situated on the northwest coast near the California Lighthouse and is Aruba’s only 18-hole course. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., Tierra del Sol combines Aruba's native beauty—cacti and rock formations, stunning views, and good conditioning. Wind can also be a factor here on the rolling terrain as are the abundant bunkers and water hazards. Greens fees include a golf cart equipped with GPS and a communications system that allows you to order drinks for your return to the clubhouse. The fully-stocked golf shop is one of the Caribbean's most elegant, with an extremely attentive staff. Malmokweg. 297/586–0978. www.tierradelsol.com. $159 in the morning, $129 from 1 p.m.; three and five-day packages also available. 18 holes, 6811 yards, par 71.
Hiking Aruba's arid and rugged countryside will give you the best opportunities to see the island's wildlife and flora. Arikok National Wildlife Park is an excellent place to glimpse the real Aruba, free of the trappings of tourism. The heat can be oppressive, so be sure to take it easy, wear a hat, and have a bottle of water handy.
Nature Sensitive Tours. Eddy Croes, a former park ranger whose passion for the area is seemingly unbounded, runs this outfitter with care. Groups are never larger than eight people, so you'll see as much detail as you can handle. Expect frequent stops, when Eddy asks for silence so that you can hear the sounds of the park. The hikes are done at an easy pace and are suitable for basically anyone. A moonlight walk is available for those looking to avoid the heat. Pos Chiquito 13E, Savaneta. 297/585–1594. www.naturesensitivetours.com.
Ranches offer short jaunts along the beach or longer rides along trails passing through countryside flanked by cacti, divi-divi trees, and aloe vera plants. Ask if you can stop off at Cura di Tortuga, a natural pool that's reputed to have restorative powers. Rides are also possible in Arikok National Wildlife Park. Rates run from $35 for an hour-long trip to $65 for a three-hour tour; private rides cost slightly more.
Rancho Daimari. Rancho Daimari will lead your horse to water—either at Natural Bridge or Natural Pool—in the morning or afternoon for $80 per person. The "Junior Dudes" program is tailored to young riders. There are even ATV trips. Palm Beach 33B, Noord. 297/586–6284.
Rancho Notorious. The one- to three-hour tours here include one to the countryside for $55 and a trip to the beach for $100. All skill levels are welcome. The company also organizes ATV and mountain-biking trips. Boroncana, Noord. 297/586–0508. www.ranchonotorious.com..
Kayaking is a popular sport on Aruba, especially along the south coast, where the waters are calm. It's a great way to explore the coastline.
Aruba Watersport Center. Operating since 1960, Aruba Watersport offers both single and double kayaks. L. G. Smith Blvd. 81B, Noord. 297/586–6613.
The southwestern coast's tranquil waters make windsurfing conditions ideal for both beginners and intermediates, as the winds are steady but sudden gusts are rare. Experts will find the Atlantic coast, especially around Grapefield and Boca Grandi beaches, more challenging; winds are fierce and often shift course without warning. Most operators offer complete windsurfing vacation packages.
Aruba Active Vacations. Aruba Active Vacations is a major windsurfing center on the island. near Fisherman's Huts, Malmok Beach. 297/586–0989. www.aruba-active-vacations.com.
Sailboard Vacations. Complete windsurfing packages, including accommodations, can be arranged with Sailboard Vacations. Equipment can be rented for $60 a day. L.G. Smith Blvd. 462, Malmok Beach. 297/586–2527. www.sailboardvacations.com.