They are collectively known as the ABC islands. Their shared Dutch colonial history and West Indian heritage, plus their fortuitous location outside of the tropical hurricane belt, make these islands a coveted playground for snowbirds, sun seekers, avid windsurfers and scuba divers. The islands have varied terrain, pristine beaches, coral reefs and an off-the-beaten-path vibe that attract low-key globetrotters. Aruba is the most developed of the islands, with golf courses, malls, casinos and international restaurants in the capital Oranjestad and surrounding resort areas. Part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Dutch is the official language as it is on Bonaire and Curacao and English is commonly spoken, but residents of all three islands also speak Papiamentu, a Creole language that combines Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English, and is the second official language of Aruba. Its dry, sunny climate and fine beaches attract holiday-makers and second-home buyers from the US, the Netherlands and Venezuela.
ABC Islands Compared
Bonaire and Curacao
A school of tropical fish off the coast of Aruba. I was determined not to make the same mistake as the Spanish and hired a car to fully explore these idyllic isles lying off the tip of Venezuela. Caribbean islands are often portrayed as lushly tropical but the ABCs, which form part of the Lesser Antilles, are semi-arid, dotted with cacti, the lopsided divi-divi tree and salt marshes where flamingos flock. They are also out of the hurricane belt. My first stop was Aruba, only 20 miles long and six miles wide. The island is dubbed a mini Miami or Las Vegas with shopping malls selling designer brands and daytripping cruise passengers swelling the cute, compact capital Oranjestad. On nearby Flamingo Beach, I found seven pink flamingos basking in the sun, the perfect photo opportunity.
My 2018 two week ABC island hopping itinerary
Curacao and Bonaire are two Caribbean islands located in the southern Caribbean, in the Lesser Antilles near the north eastern coast of Venezuela. All three islands were part of the autonomous country called Dutch Antilles or Netherlands Antilles , until the official dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles in The three islands maintain ties to the Netherlands; Aruba and Curacao are autonomous and self-governed, while Bonaire is a municipality of the Netherlands. Both islands are rich in wildlife, and home to an interesting mix of cultural and natural diversity.
Bon bini! Lying just north of Venezuela, these cactus-studded limestone isles have long been part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, resulting in deep-rooted Dutch heritage mixed with spicy Latin flair. Mother Nature endowed Aruba with poster-perfect white beaches and consistent northeast trade winds that make for world-class windsurfing and kiteboarding. One of the most cosmopolitan Caribbean destinations, the island is also tops for spas and nightlife.