Capital City: Oranjestad
Official Language: Dutch and Papiamento with English widely spoken
Currency: Aruban Florin (AWG) but United States Dollars are accepted everywhere
The island of Aruba is so special because of the abundance of joy only a happy island can give. Aruba has some of the most beautiful and famous beaches in the world on which to relax; crystal clear warm waters of the west coast for diving, sailing, snorkelling, swimming; a rough and rocky coast to the east to explore; museums, galleries and landmarks. There are plenty of things to do to keep nature lovers, culture-seekers, water sports fanatics, art enthusiasts, families and couples busy and happy. Aruba is the most revisited of all the Caribbean islands and it is easy to see why. The people are friendly, the island has a very low crime rate, it is easy to get around, perfect year round sunny weather and Aruba is off the main hurricane Caribbean hurricane belt.
Must see places in Aruba
There are no tour guides, maps or signs at the entrance to these caves. A small stand at the entrance holds flashlights for use inside the cave; it’s pretty dark in there so grab one. The caves consist of three chambers. The two larger chambers are easily accessible but the third does take some crawling to get to and is filled with harmless bats. The caves are filled with Amerindian petro glyphs (rock engravings) and contain large stalactites and stalagmites. Tours are offered from the Arikok visitors centre or with tour groups from Oranjestad if you want to know more about the interesting history of the caves. The natural lighting into parts of the caves provides for interesting photographs.
Bushiribana Gold Smelter Ruins
Aruba means “red gold” and the island did have a mini gold rush from around 1824. Small mines sprung up all along the coast and these eventually produced around three million pounds of gold ore. The gold has long since run out but you can now have fun exploring the ruins of the gold mines. The ruins are of historical interest to adults but kids will have hours of fun running around and climbing through the ruins.
The lighthouse at California Point has nothing to do with the Golden State in the US but is rather named after the one hundred year old wreck of the California which sits just off the coast. The lighthouse is now one of the most scenic tourist destinations in Aruba offering spectacular views of the island. The California Sand Dunes next to the lighthouse offer hours of family fun sand boarding or just running around on the dunes. The best time of the day to visit the lighthouse is at sunset to watch one of the most spectacular sunsets you will ever see. Don’t forget to watch for the green flash at the moment the sun sets.
Arikok National Park
This stunning national park takes up almost twenty percent of the island of Aruba. The park offers many unique cultural, geological and historical sites as well as protecting the local flora and fauna. You can explore the park on your own or by guided tour. There are a number of old ruins in the park which attest to the history of Aruba from the native Indians through to the plantations that covered this part of the island. One of the most popular attractions here is the Natural Pool which is protected from the rough sea of this section of the coast by rocks. The pool is a perfect spot for swimming, snorkelling or diving off the rocks.
Alto Vista Chapel
This small Catholic chapel is also known as the Pilgrims Church and is located on the North shore of Aruba. The chapel has been restored but it originally dates back to 1750 and was built by Domingo Antonio Silvestre. You access the chapel via a long winding road with crosses marking the Stations of the Cross. The little church is often photographed and the site enjoys spectacular views over the coast. You will find a special place of peace and contemplation filled with a sense of history. The chapel is a great starting point for long walks or bike rides along the coast.
You will find these rock formations in the centre of the island. A gentle path leads you to the top of these boulders. On a clear day you can see the entire island from this beautiful vantage point and possibly as far as Venezuela if the conditions are right. These are the most famous and photographed of the various rock formations on the island. Children will have lots of fun climbing around the boulders.
The Natural Bridge
This natural bridge was formed over centuries by the pounding of waves against the rock. In September 2005 the bridge collapsed. It was one of the largest natural bridges in the world spanning 30 meters and it stood 7 meters above sea level. The bridge is still a popular spot for photographs and you can visit and walk across the nearby Baby Bridge.
Rum is generally the drink associated with the Caribbean but in Aruba beer is the drink of choice. The Dutch import, Heineken is very popular but most people drink Balashi, the local brew. The brewery is located in the Aruba countryside and you can visit on your own or if you want to drink a few, guided tours from hotels are available. Tours of the brewery and tasting are offered Monday to Friday and there is an excellent on-site restaurant where you can enjoy a few cold beers and a good meal.
This brightly painted building in Oranjestad houses Aruba’s historical museum. It was built in 1798 to protect the small Dutch colony against the English and other colonists. The tower was added in 1868 and served as a both a lighthouse and clock tower. The museum is housed in the tower and traces the history of Aruba from early prehistory to the 1920’s. The Fort hosts a weekly Bon Bini or welcome festival on Tuesday nights which serves as a great introduction to Aruba’s past through music and stories.
The capital city of Aruba is a wonderful city to walk around and look at the stunning Dutch architecture. Oranjestad houses many historical buildings and peaceful squares to relax in. The city is home to more than a hundred fantastic restaurants that showcase the cuisine of the island. A visit to the city’s picturesque marina is a must. The city is also home to a number of upscale shops such as Louis Vutton and Armani.
Things to do in Aruba
Explore the stunning beaches
Some of the most child friendly beaches in the Carribean are found in Aruba such as the famous Baby Beach, Eagle Beach, Reniassance Island and De Palm Island. If you want some wild romantic beaches then head to Malmok Beach, Boca Grandi or the hotel lined Palm Beach.
Watch a sunset
Spend a quiet evening on the beach with a glass of wine and watch an amazing sunset. At least once on your trip go out for a sunset catamaran cruise.
A guided Jeep tour will take you to some of the more interesting parts of the island that are not accessible with a normal car such as Natural Pool.
If you enjoy scuba diving then diving the wreck of the Antilla will be a highlight of your holiday. This German cargo ship was scuttled by her crew in 1939 to avoid her capture by Dutch Marines from Aruba. The Antilla is one of the Caribbean’s largest wrecks. Due to storm damage it is now considered unsafe to enter the wreck but it is now a truly beautiful reef to dive.
Best time to visit
Tourists visit Aruba from December to April
The weather in Aruba is consistent year round and doesn’t really vary from 28 degrees Celsius. The High season extends from December to April as visitors from the USA try to escape the cold and Aruba can be crowded. If you want a more peaceful trip then visit from May to November.
Did you know?
Aruba has to import much of its food due to the size of the island and poor state of the soil but the island is a melting pot of many cultures which has led to an interesting and unique cuisine.
- Keshi Yena
- Beregin Hasa
- Promenton Yena
- Carnaval - The Aruban version of Carnival takes place in January or February and includes a grand parade and an all night party that involves the whole island.
- Aruba International Film Festival - This festival normally takes places in June and brings the international film community to the small island. Around 45 films from 20 countries are shown at a number of different venues.
- Soul Beach Music Festival- The Soul Beach Music festival is held over Memorial Day Weekend and is held over multiple nights. Popular international and local soul musicians perform at a variety of venues from nightclubs to the beach.
- Aruba Piano Festival - The most prestigious of the Caribbean music festivals, the Aruba Piano festival attracts a number of distinguished artists from all over the world. The festival normally takes place in September.
- The Dande Festival takes place at the end of December and is the biggest music festival in Aruba. The festival features a number of singers performing original and traditional Dande songs to welcome in the New Year
- Practise a few Dutch phrases such as” spreek je Engels” do you speak English and “dank je” thank you, to show that you have taken the time to learn some of their language. It can help you to form friendships with the locals.
- Take a guided island tour as there is very little information available at the different sites.
- The island uses the same voltage and plugs as the USA.
- Service charges or tips are normally included in the bill at 10%.
- Don’t buy bottled water as the islands water is perfectly safe to drink and comes from the second biggest desalination plant in the world.