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While there is no doubt that there are plenty of high rise hotels in Aruba, there are also quainter romantic gems away from the main drag and plenty of natural beauty if you want to get away from the commercial side of this luxurious island.
Even though Aruba extends for only 70 miles, there's very different energy on Aruba's northeastern coast than what you'd find on the hotel strip and in and around Oranjestad, which has lots of fabulous restaurants. There are also more down-to-earth hotels scattered about, as well as spas, clubs, bars, bistros and more.
Outside the food and drink scene, there's plenty to keep the adventure traveler and nature lover happy. In the north, you'll find limestone cliffs, desert, and stunning wildlife, particularly in Arikok National Park. Other things you'll take in beside dunes, savannah-like hills and rocky cliffs, are wild goats, donkeys, parakeets, whiptail lizards, and the indigenous burrowing owl called the shoco. There's also a chapel in the middle of nowhere called the Alto Vista Chapel which has wonderful views of the sea in the distance.
Inside the Arikok National Park, you can experience Guardirikiri Cave, which has two chambers inside.
Aruba is also known for its pristine beaches, from the lesser visited ones like Boca Prins Beach where there's no shortage of crabs running about, to Dos Playa Beach, which locals flock to for picnicking.
Daimari Beach is a great spot to go horseback riding and if you have kids in tow and want to go swimming, there's a Natural Pool where you can swim among exotic colorful fish.
Also a favorite for swimming (and snorkeling) is Malmok Beach which is calmer than some of the others and Hadicurari Beach is the spot to go for windsurfing. You'll also find kitesurfers here. Also on the west coast is one of the most beautiful beaches Palm Beach, which is another great spot for families.
Eagle Beach, where I stayed, has plenty of water activities and beach cabanas, as well as places to stop and grab a drink or even dinner on the beach. Even though I didn't see them when I was there, sea turtles do their hatching on Eagle Beach. It is also loaded with fofoti trees which are oh so lovely.
Manchebo Beach is the island's widest beach, offering numerous shaded cabanas and beach lounges, and where I stayed in a wonderful independent hotel known for yoga and wellness retreats. Right next door is a 5-star property and the epic restaurant Elements where you can order cocktails and lunch right on Manchebo Beach — it was so wonderful.
There's also a butterfly farm which has been around since 1999 and opened by the same guys who started a butterfly farm in St. Martin. Here, you'll see hundreds of exotic butterflies from all around the world, including South America, South East Asia, Philippines, Australia, China, Africa, as well as some who are local such as the Caribbean Longwings and the Monarch.
I love ostriches and have many fond memories of hanging out with them when I lived in South Africa many moons ago so was thrilled to learn that they had an ostrich farm as well, which boasts an 80-count flock of the largest living species in the world.
They offer tours which provide the opportunity to learn about the natural behavior and survival instincts of these amazing creatures through education and personal encounters with the birds.
Luxury spa gals can head to Pure Indulgence Spa not just for massages and facials, but they have a full salon as well and specialize in weddings and special events. OR take in a hot tub at the Aruba Marriott Resort around sunset where I stayed for a few days. All of it is pure bliss.