by Lydia Schrandt for USA TODAY 10Best

Take a virtual tour of the island of Aruba

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Miles of white sand beaches, a colorful capital city and near-perfect weather make Aruba the most-visited island in the southern Caribbean.

Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital, is easily recognized by its colorful gingerbread Dutch colonial architecture and linear park along the waterfront. It’s one of the best Caribbean destinations for shopping.

Every single beach on Aruba is public, and many are ranked among the best in the world. Eagle Beach offers a wide swath of white sand punctuated by the island’s famous Divi Divi trees.

Head inland into Arikok National Wildlife Park, and you may forget you’re on a Caribbean island. This stretch of desert covers nearly 20 percent of Aruba’s total area.

Much of the rugged Arikok National Park is inaccessible to cars, so many visitors choose to explore by ATV or 4x4 vehicle.

The northeastern coast of Aruba, protected by Arikok National Park, features a rocky shore with crashing waves quite unlike the beachy areas on other parts of the island.

Early explorers to the Caribbean discovered gold on the island of Aruba. The Bushiribana gold mill processed ore from the mines during the 19th century gold rush.

One of Aruba’s most popular natural attractions is also among the most remote. The Natural Pool, or Conchi (bowl), is formed by jagged volcanic rock formations jutting out of the sea.

The historic Alto Vista Chapel enjoys quite the view, set atop a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The church dates back to 1750, bearing the distinction of the first Roman Catholic church in Aruba.

For the best 360-degree views over the island, head to the California Lighthouse on the northwestern tip of Aruba. The lighthouse was named after the wrecked S.S. California.

Aruba boasts more wrecks in its waters than nearly any other island in the Caribbean. The wreck of the German freighter Antilla is a particular favorite, attracting divers from around the world.

Donkeys once served as transportation, but with the arrival of cars, the animals were abandoned. The Donkey Sanctuary was established to give resident donkeys a protected environment.

Aruba celebrates Carnival in a big way. The biggest party of the year comprises a month-long calendar of street parties, parades, colorful costumes and music competitions throughout the island.

Photo courtesy of Ayrton Tromp / Aruba Tourism Authority

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