Head to the ABC Islands to escape the crowds, find sunny skies and enjoy hotel rates that won’t break the bank
The Caribbean hurricane season is winding down, but why chance it. In the ABC islands there’s never a concern for tropical storms. This trio of Dutch islands—Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao—lie well south of the hurricane belt. Here, arid landscapes guarantee plenty of sunshine and warm, clear waters, and the culture is an inquiring mixture of Dutch, Spanish and African influences. By mid winter, beachfront hotel rooms will be at a premium, but in the days before thanksgiving, there are bargains to be had.
If sun and sand are your number one priority, you can’t do much better than Aruba. Long expanses of beach and secluded coves ring the island, but the action centers on the island’s northwest coast and the two-mile expanse that includes Palm Beach. This stretch of powder-fine white sand caters to everyone from laid- back sun seekers to adrenaline junkies on overdrive. Here, you’ll find every kind of water sports from mild to wild. Take a paddleboard yoga class, play on a water bike or go for a tow in an inflatable. The steady trade winds that blow across the island are ideal for sailing, kite boarding and windsurfing. Colorful wrecks and reefs await divers just offshore, and there’s even an underwater submarine for those who want to stay dry. After a day on the water, Aruba serves up one of the most vibrant nightlife scenes in the Caribbean, from casinos to dance clubs and island-style beach parties. The island is also known for its diverse cuisine, with influences from more than 90 nations adding to the culinary melting pot.
With a nickname like “Diver’s Paradise,” you’d expect Bonaire to attract the scuba set. The island is ringed by coral slopes that start shallow and close to shore, and are protected within the Caribbean’s oldest estabished marine park. At points all along the sheltered western shore, yellow-painted rocks mark entry points for dive and snorkel sites, where exploring the reef is as easy as wading in. A number of waterfront resorts centered near the town of Kralendijk also offer short boat rides to the reefs of uninhabited Kline Bonaire. If you’d rather keep your head above water, there’s sailing charters, windsurfing, kiteboarding, kayak trips and deep sea fishing, and the entire northern end of the island is a National Park. Visitors can spend a day at remote coves on the windward side of the island, or hike the rugged hillsides for panoramic island views. To promote off- season business, a number of hotels and dive shops are participating in the Fall Festival promotion, with incentives such as dine and dive packages, as well as a number of special events.
If you are looking to add a bit of international culture to your vacation, look no farther than Curacao. The island is home to a vibrant art scene, with galleries that attract both local and international talents. The narrow streets of downtown Willemstad are lined with Dutch Colonial buildings from the 17th and 18th century, all painted in bright island colors. A 130-year-old floating bridge connects a pair of historic districts, and the waterfront of St. Anna’s Bay hosts a floating market where fruits and vegetable are sold from boats arriving from nearby Venezuela. Treat yourself to Dutch waffles, Gouda cheese and a game of darts at one of the Dutch bars. If city life isn’t your thing, head to the cunucu—the rocky cactus-and-scrub interior— for a jeep safari tour, mountain biking excursion or hiking expedition to the top of Mt. Christoffel, the tallest peak on the island.