Whether you prefer the beach or the mountains, this Caribbean island has what you need to satisfy the craving for adventure.

By Samantha Lefave
Updated: January 07, 2018
Photo: Colin Anderson / Getty Images

When you think of vacationing in the Caribbean, images of turquoise water, beach chairs, and rum-filled cocktails immediately come to mind. But let's be real-nobody wants to lie in a beach chair all day, every day anymore. In fact, 72 percent of millennial travelers say they prefer to spend more on experiences, according to a study by Harris Group. (Ready to pack your bags? Take a look at the adventure travel apps you need to download right now.)

And when you're choosing which Caribbean destination to visit, you'll want to put Aruba at the top of your list. The island is in a geographically diverse location, so it'll satisfy your thirst for active adventure regardless of which landscape you prefer. There are the rough mountains that are perfect for thrill seekers and white sand beaches for anyone who wants to get their feet wet. Have the boarding pass in hand? Great. Now here's how you can stay active and fit while soaking up some sun.

1. Wind and Water Sports

When you walk out of the airport in Aruba, there's one thing you'll notice right away: It's really windy. While average wind gusts of 16 mph don't exactly make for a great hair day, it does makes it super easy to try fun water sports like windsurfing. Book a lesson through Vela Aruba and you'll score all the equipment you'll need-including your board and water shoes-and learn everything from how to get on the board to how to properly hold the sail, and the best ways to change direction and pick up speed. Have more time on your hands? Consider a kitesurfing lesson-pros say that while it's an ideal sport for beginners, you'll probably need a few days' worth of lessons before you're able to crest along the waves with ease. (And check out these seven insane water sports you've never heard of.)

2. Group Classes

If you prefer more structured workouts, take a group fitness class. An array of options can be found at Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino-from complimentary salsa and merengue classes to tennis clinics and Pilates-and Vela Sports offers beer yoga every Thursday if you want to enjoy local craft brews with your workout. (Related: I Went On a Wellness Retreat As a Last-Ditch Effort to Get Healthy)

3. ATV Riding

No one should ever go to Aruba without exploring all that Arikok National Park has to offer. The destination makes up nearly 20 percent of the island, and the winding, bumpy roads make it perfect for exploring by ATV. A few stops you should be sure to take: Huliba Cave, nicknamed the Tunnel of Love for its heart-shaped entrance; the Natural Bridge; and the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins.

4. Dancing

The best part about traveling to a new country is experiencing a new culture. If you visit Aruba anytime from January to mid-February, you're likely to see a Carnival celebration happening in the streets of San Nicolas or Oranjestad. Aruba's Carnival season is known for its loud music, joyous celebrations, and eye-catching parades. Join in the fun and not only will you see lavish costumes and color-popping floats, but there'll be plenty of opportunities to dance in the streets with the locals. Visiting later in the year? From February to November, locals throw a mini Carnival, known as Carubbean Festival, every Thursday night in San Nicolas. Consider it the perfect way to make new friends, soak up the culture, and bump up your daily calorie burn.

5. Beach Tennis

For the sportier traveler, beach tennis is an activity you won't want to miss. After all, Aruba is the birthplace of the sport. A mix of tennis, beach volleyball, and badminton, beach tennis requires you to volley a depressurized ball without letting it hit the sand. It's easy to pick up-you'll be shocked at how many skills you remember from your days of badminton in high school gym class-and it makes for a fun, competitive day in the sand. Pro tip: Play at Eagle Beach, ranked the third best beach in the world by TripAdvisor. You may even get lucky and spot iguanas cheering you on from the sidelines. (Related: One of the Best Beach Workouts for Sand-Circuit Training)

6. Biking

While Aruba's roads are mostly flat, there is one major hill on the northwest side of the island that will surely spike your heart rate. (You can rent a bike from Green Bike, btw.) The extra effort is worth it-once you're at the top, you'll be standing in front of the California Lighthouse and rewarded with 360-degree views of the island. Those feeling extra ambitious can climb to the top of the lighthouse, but just grabbing a smoothie from Yum Yum next door is totally acceptable, too.

7. Swimming

With turquoise water as far as the eye can see, there's no way you won't want to take a dip in the cool waters surrounding this island. When you're ready for a break from the beach, make your way to Arikok National Park. It's home to the Natural Pool (aka Conchi), which looks like an in-ground pool thanks to its shell shape from the surrounding lava rocks. Getting there requires off-roading (it's highly recommended you book a visit through De Palm Tours), and you'll want to wear water shoes to protect your feet. If the tide isn't too rough and you're feeling brave, you can leap off the rocks and into the water below. A bit of forewarning: This is a popular tourist spot, so get there early or be prepared to wait before you take the plunge. (If open water isn't exactly your speed, discover these incredible pools that will make you want to swim some laps.)

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