The "A" of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao), this little "rock," as the locals call it, is one of the most popular sun destinations in the entire Caribbean due to its stellar soft white sand beaches and a perfect year-round climate. (Aruba is outside of the hurricane belt with an annual rainfall of less than 20 inches per year and an average temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit.) It has a highly developed and sophisticated tourism infrastructure with full-service resorts, casinos, entertainment, world-class dining, eco-activities, upscale nightlife, modern business services, and a well-educated and multi-lingual local population (most Arubans speak at least three languages including English, Dutch, and Spanish along with the local dialect of Papiamento). The capital Oranjestad is a very popular cruise ship port of call offering good bargains on luxury items and the airport, though small, is well-equipped and one of the few in the Caribbean that offers the convenience of pre-US customs clearance on departure. It's no wonder, then, that this little 75-square mile outpost welcomes over one million visitors by air and sea to its paradisaical shores. But beyond the beach-centered resorts, there are many misconceptions about Aruba being a "tropical" island, not in terms of weather (it is in the tropics and very close to the equator) but in terms of lush vegetation. The swaying palms and the brilliant hibiscus and bougainvilleas surrounding the resorts and their beaches are all transplanted, and represent the only really verdant areas of the entire island. Many visitors are truly surprised to discover that the island's entire interior, called the "cunucu" (countryside) in the native language of Papiamento, is actually a very arid desert-like rough and rocky outback. Cacti and aloe are the main vegetation; wild donkeys, goats, and iguana meander through the scrubby brush, and twisted divi-divi trees -- bent almost in two by constant trade winds -- dot the craggy hills. The island's many cliffs point the way back to the hotel strips and an entirely different world.