Everyone’s heard of Aruba, thanks to the Beach Boys’ catchy "Kokomo" tune, but corporate groups are still discovering this tropical incentive destination.
Located off the coast of Venezuela and outside the Caribbean hurricane belt, Aruba’s climate remains steady year-round: Temperatures average 82 degrees, and a strong breeze blows constantly. An average annual rainfall of under 20 inches results in a desert landscape, although resorts like the Radisson Aruba have managed to cultivate spectacularly green grounds, thanks to irrigation and the nearly constant sunshine.
About 70 percent of visitors to Aruba are Americans. A high standard of living, which contributes to a low crime rate, is a big draw. "It’s considered a no-hassle, safe destination," says Jeff Lesker, general manager for the Radisson.
Sun worshippers prefer Aruba for its pristine beaches, but this compact destination (6 miles by 19 miles) offers plenty of activities for groups as well.
Tierra del Sol Resort & Country Club has opened Aruba’s first world-class golf course, designed by Robert Trent Jones II to complement the natural surroundings. Opened in the mid-1990s, it incorporates native cactus, rock formations, and native fauna including parakeets and neon-colored lizards. A spa at the clubhouse offers a variety of treatments. A new nine-hole golf course is scheduled to open in early 2004.
Four-wheel drive "safaris" are offered as a
And, of course, the azure Caribbean beckons with water sports such as deep-sea fishing, sailing, scuba, snorkeling, and "snuba" (a cross between snorkeling and scuba).
Casinos, nightclubs, and international dining options abound in Aruba. Aruban-style restaurants serve up fresh seafood and local specialties such as pastechis (spicy filled pastries), kesio (caramel custard), and tutu (cornmeal mush with black-eyed peas). The island has its own Chain de Rotisseurs chapter, representing the fine-dining establishments such as Chez Matilde, a charming four-diamond French restaurant that occupies one of the original 19th-century homes in Aruba’s capitol, Oranjested (and is available for private parties).
Aruba lies about a two-and-a-half-hour flight from a handful of U.S. east coast gateways, including Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte, Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. Direct flights are also available from Houston and Chicago, and seasonal charter service is offered from a number of locations.