Nestled in the warm waters of the southern Caribbean Sea, just off the coast of Venezuela, lies the gem of an island: Aruba. Often called “One Happy Island,” this sun-soaked destination offers visitors an intoxicating blend of vibrant culture, pristine beaches, world-class accommodations, and adventure at every turn. As you set foot on its powdery sands and take in the endless blue horizon, you’ll soon understand why this island paradise draws travelers from all corners of the globe.
Geography and Climate:
Covering an area of about 180 square kilometers (or 70 square miles), Aruba is part of the ABC islands, which also includes Bonaire and Curaçao. It is the smallest of the three, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in charm. The island is blessed with a semi-arid climate, ensuring sunshine for most days of the year. Unlike many other Caribbean destinations, Aruba lies outside the hurricane belt, offering travelers peace of mind when planning their vacations.
Culture and History:
Aruba’s rich history is a tapestry woven from the diverse cultures that have called it home. From its indigenous Caquetío roots, Spanish colonization, and Dutch governance, to waves of migrants from nearby South American countries, this melting pot of influences is evident in everything from the island’s architecture to its cuisine.
Papiamento, a Creole language derived from African and Portuguese dialects with Dutch, Spanish, and English influences, is the predominant language. This linguistic blend encapsulates Aruba’s unique cultural identity, setting it apart from its Caribbean neighbors.
While the beaches of Aruba – such as the famed Eagle Beach and Palm Beach – are enough to entice any visitor, the island’s interior offers a different kind of beauty. The Arikok National Park, spanning almost 20% of the island, showcases a diverse range of flora and fauna, indigenous rock paintings, and natural pools. Among the park’s most famous residents are the Aruban whiptail lizard and the Aruban burrowing owl.
The island’s northeastern coast, sculpted by relentless winds and waves, offers a dramatic contrast to its calmer western shores. Here, the rugged terrain is punctuated by formations like the Natural Bridge and the Conchi Natural Pool – testament to nature’s artistic prowess.
Aruba’s culinary scene is as diverse as its history. With over 200 restaurants catering to every palate, one can savor traditional Aruban dishes like Keshi Yena (stuffed cheese) or indulge in international cuisines from Italian to Japanese. Fresh seafood is a given, with the catch of the day often featuring wahoo, mahi-mahi, and the island’s own delicacy, Aruban lobster.
As a beacon of the Caribbean, Aruba promises not just a vacation, but an experience. Whether you’re drawn by its azure waters, historical sites, adrenaline-pumping water sports, or simply the warmth of its people, Aruba beckons with a promise of memories that will last a lifetime.
Let this guide be your compass to the very best Aruba has to offer. Dive in, explore, and let the island’s magic envelop you. Welcome to Aruba, where every day feels like a dream and every sunset is a masterpiece.
Aruba Country Guide: A Brief History Of Aruba For Visitors
Aruba, a gem of the Caribbean, isn’t just an island of mesmerizing beaches and luxurious resorts. The tapestry of its history is woven with intriguing tales of indigenous cultures, European conquests, and the quest for autonomy. This narrative offers visitors a deeper connection to the land and its people. Let’s embark on a journey through Aruba’s rich past.
The Caquetío Indians: Before the Europeans arrived, Aruba was inhabited by the Caquetío Indians, a branch of the Arawak tribe from the South American mainland. Archaeological discoveries in caves, such as the Quadirikiri and Fontein, provide evidence of their presence, with petroglyphs and artifacts showcasing their way of life. These natives lived primarily off the sea and cultivated maize and cotton.
The Spanish Conquest: In the late 15th century, the Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda sighted Aruba. By 1513, the Spanish had claimed it, alongside Bonaire and Curaçao. The island’s indigenous people were, unfortunately, subjected to slavery and transported to Hispaniola to work in mines. However, with little interest in establishing a colony due to the island’s arid landscape, Aruba became a livestock ranching outpost for the Spanish.
The Dutch Era: In 1636, during the midst of the Eighty Years’ War, the Dutch captured Aruba. Unlike the Spanish, the Dutch saw potential in Aruba’s deep-water ports and strategic location. The island became a haven for merchants and pirates. By the late 18th century, the town of Oranjestad was founded, and Aruba became a center for the Caribbean slave trade, though it never established plantations like other Caribbean islands.
19th Century to World War II:
Gold Rush: In the early 19th century, gold was discovered in Aruba, leading to a mini gold rush. Mines were established, bringing wealth and new settlers to the island. By the end of the 19th century, however, the gold reserves had dwindled.
Oil Refining Era: In the 20th century, Aruba’s economic focus shifted from gold to oil. The establishment of the Lago Oil and Transport Company by Standard Oil of New Jersey in the 1920s transformed Aruba into one of the world’s largest refineries. This boom brought prosperity, along with a wave of immigrants from the Caribbean and South America.
World War II: During the war, Aruba’s strategic importance was amplified due to its oil refineries. German U-boats targeted the island, leading to heightened security measures. The island became a key Allied base, with British and Dutch forces stationed to ensure its protection.
Post-War Era to Present:
Tourism Boom: As oil refining began to decline in the latter half of the 20th century, tourism emerged as the backbone of Aruba’s economy. The government made significant investments in infrastructure, promoting Aruba as a premier Caribbean destination. The pristine beaches, stable climate outside the hurricane belt, and vibrant culture attracted tourists from around the world.
Path to Autonomy: In the political realm, the latter half of the 20th century saw Aruba pushing for greater autonomy. In 1986, it achieved ‘Status Aparte,’ becoming a separate entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with its own constitution and a greater say in its internal affairs.
Legacy & Cultural Preservation:
Today, Aruba is a harmonious blend of its native, Spanish, and Dutch influences. Efforts are in place to preserve its rich history. The National Archeological Museum in Oranjestad is a testament to its indigenous roots, while Fort Zoutman stands as a reminder of its colonial past.
From the Arawak days to its modern, tourist-centric era, Aruba’s history is a tale of resilience, adaptability, and cultural melding. As visitors walk its beaches, explore its towns, or interact with locals, understanding its past deepens the connection to this “One Happy Island”.
source: Island Hopper TV on YouTube
Aruba Top Attractions: Best Places to Visit on Aruba
Looking for a Caribbean island nation that is a sure bet for sunshine? Aruba fits this bill, as its dry climate sees less than 500 millimetres of rain per year.
There is more to this country than its many excellent beaches however. A country that is tied to the Netherlands, Aruba bears many hallmarks of its Dutch colonial roots. You can see it in the architecture of its capital Oranjestad, and in the cuisine available in its many local restaurants.
Make time to discover this country’s culture in between your time enjoying the many attractions that can be found on the island of Aruba.
Currency: Aruban guilders
Languages: Dutch, Papiamento, English, Spanish
Before Aruba was a hotspot for tourism, people came here to try and strike it rich. The Bushiribana & Balashi Gold Mill Ruins are one of the few remnants of that era; it was in these mills in the early 19th century where gold ore taken from the interior hills was processed.
More than three million pounds of gold passed through both these facilities in their heyday, but today, only crumbling stone walls and foundations remain. Take care when exploring, as their stability may be compromised by generations of erosion.
If you want to get a quick background on the history of this island, spend an hour or two walking around the National Archaeological Museum of Aruba. This institution contains exhibits displaying artifacts from the various indigenous peoples that have called Aruba home as far back as 2500 BCE.
It also details the history of the island from the colonial period in the early 16th century through to the present day.
The National Archaeological Museum of Aruba is located in downtown Oranjestad. When you are finished exploring, don’t be in a rush to get back to the beach, as the colorful nature of its buildings are an attraction in and of themselves.
With plenty of buildings boasting Dutch Colonial facades that are painted in a variety of Caribbean influenced pastel colors, it is a sight that is well worth capturing. Ensure that you have room on your camera before exploring its streets.
Along the way, there are plenty of boutiques boasting duty-free shopping, restaurants, and bars to keep you entertained.
Other Cultural Attractions: Trip to Aruba
While there are plenty of beaches on Aruba that are world-class, be sure to go for a swim at the Natural Pool before leaving the island. A tidal pool sheltered from the open Caribbean Sea by sizable rocks, the shallow water within is heated quickly by the tropical sun everyday, making it a very pleasant place to wade.
Even if you don’t go in, the sight of crashing swells on the outer rocks will make for an excellent photo opportunity. Getting here is half the fun, as its location at the end of a rough track means that hiking in or renting a 4×4 vehicle are the only ways to get here.
When it comes time to hit the beach, make Eagle Beach your first stop. A regular on many ‘best beach in the world’ lists, it is one of the widest on the island, giving you plenty of room to find a spot to roll out your towel.
It is one of the best places on Aruba to photograph the Fofoti, a tree that is unique to this island. If you are feeling particularly active, join the locals in a game of beach tennis, as there are many courts available.
Those that want a more urban beach experience will want to stay in the Palm Beach area. With plenty of beach bars, restaurants, watersport rental shops, and other services at the ready, all your needs will be only a short stroll away.
At night, the area comes alive with some of the best nightlife on the island, with plenty of clubs and casinos located within close proximity to each other.
What to Eat in Aruba
With a long history of Dutch Colonial influence, it should come as no surprise that Bitterballen is a popular snack among local Arubans.
Consisting of minced beef or veal combined in a roux with flour and various seasonings, and then rolled into balls that are then battered with breadcrumbs and deep fried, this savoury treat is the perfect way to quiet hunger pangs between meals. These can be easily found at bars throughout Aruba, so try some with a Balashi beer.
For dinner during one of the nights of your stay in Aruba, try to find some Keshi Yena. Cheese lovers will adore this dish, as it is made by stuffing the rind of an Edam or Gouda cheese with spiced chicken and olives. A melty mess when served, suspend any thoughts of healthy eating for one meal and enjoy this decadent treat.
Enjoy a sweet ending to your day by indulging in some Banana na Binja. Consisting of sweet plantains that have been sauteed in butter, and then mixed with brown sugar, port wine, and cinnamon, it will be a dish that you will order more than once during your time in Aruba.
source: Jumping Places on YouTube
Top 55 Things To Do on Aruba For Visitors
Aruba offers a mesmerizing blend of sun-soaked relaxation and vibrant cultural experiences. Here’s a list of 55 top things to do, ensuring a memorable trip on this magnificent island.
Natural Attractions & Beaches:
- Eagle Beach: Enjoy the soft white sands and the iconic fofoti trees against a backdrop of azure waters.
- Palm Beach: Engage in water sports or relax by the beachside bars and restaurants.
- Arikok National Park: Explore this ecological preserve, hosting indigenous flora, fauna, and caves.
- Conchi Natural Pool: Discover this secluded, naturally formed pool surrounded by volcanic rock.
- Hooiberg: Climb this 165-meter-high hill for panoramic views of the island.
Historical Sites & Museums:
- Fort Zoutman: The island’s oldest structure now houses the Historical Museum.
- Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins: Remnants of a 19th-century gold smelter.
- National Archaeological Museum: Learn about Aruba’s pre-Columbian history.
- Antilla Shipwreck: Dive to explore this WWII German shipwreck.
- California Lighthouse: Visit for sweeping views and the adjacent California Sand Dunes.
- Windsurfing & Kitesurfing: Harness the trade winds at Hadicurari Beach.
- Scuba Diving: Explore the vibrant marine life at sites like Baby Beach and Mangel Halto.
- Horseback Riding: Tour the island’s rugged landscapes.
- Off-roading: Navigate the rocky terrains of Aruba’s north coast.
- Snorkeling: Delve into the underwater world at De Palm Island.
- Taste Keshi Yena: A local delicacy made of stuffed cheese.
- Sip on Aruba Ariba: The island’s signature cocktail.
- Seafood at Zeerovers: Enjoy freshly caught fish and shrimp.
- Visit Aruba’s Aloe Factory: Learn about the significance of aloe in Aruba’s history.
- Dining at Barefoot Restaurant: Experience beachside dining.
- Bon Bini Festival: Attend this weekly music and dance event at Fort Zoutman.
- Carnival: Join the biggest party of the year, with parades and music.
- Learn Papiamento: Engage in a workshop on the local language.
- Local Art Galleries: Visit Cosecha for authentic Aruban crafts.
- Attend a Local Mass: Experience spirituality at Alto Vista Chapel.
Shopping & Leisure:
- Renaissance Mall: Shop luxury brands in Oranjestad.
- Local Markets: Buy handcrafted souvenirs at the Aruba Artisan Market.
- Paseo Herencia: Experience shopping, dining, and entertainment.
- Spa Day: Relax with a beachside massage.
- Attend a beach yoga session: Embrace relaxation and mindfulness.
Nightlife & Entertainment:
- Casinos: Try your luck at Stellaris or Wind Creek Crystal Casino.
- Beach Bars: Experience the nightlife at Moomba Beach Bar & Restaurant.
- Open-air clubs: Dance the night away at Gusto Nightclub Aruba.
- Watch a Carnival Show: Experience the Caribbean spirit at local hotels.
- Sunset Cruises: Set sail in the evening for romantic views.
- Butterfly Farm: Marvel at these beautiful creatures in a tropical garden.
- Ostrich Farm: Learn about and feed these fascinating birds.
- Donkey Sanctuary: Visit and support the rehabilitation of Aruba’s native donkeys.
- Philip’s Animal Garden: A rescue and rehabilitation center for exotic animals.
- Bird watching at Bubali Bird Sanctuary: Spot herons, egrets, and more.
- Take a submarine tour: Dive deep without getting wet.
- Visit San Nicolas: Admire street art and local culture in Aruba’s “Sunrise City”.
- Island Tours: Hop on a guided tour to explore Aruba’s highlights.
- Flamingo Beach: Encounter these pink birds on Renaissance Island.
- Visit Baby Beach: A shallow, calm lagoon perfect for families.
Events & Festivals:
- Aruba Summer Music Festival: Experience top Latin artists.
- Aruba International Film Festival: For cinema enthusiasts.
- Carubbian Festival: Celebrate every Thursday in San Nicolas.
- Dande Festival: A unique musical tradition of New Year wishes.
- Aruba Hi-Winds: The largest windsurfing event in the Caribbean.
Ecotourism & Sustainability:
- Mangrove tours: Kayak or paddleboard through the mangrove forests.
- Solar-powered tours: Engage in eco-friendly exploration.
- Cactus tours: Discover Aruba’s desert-like landscapes.
- Community volunteer opportunities: Give back during your visit.
- Eco resorts: Stay in accommodations committed to sustainability.
Aruba is not just another Caribbean destination; it’s a kaleidoscope of experiences. Whether you’re an adventurer, a history buff, a foodie, or someone simply seeking relaxation, Aruba promises memories to last a lifetime.
source: Chews to Explore on YouTube
What To Eat and Drink on Aruba
Blessed with a fusion of cultures, Aruba’s culinary landscape is as enticing as its beaches and sunsets. A visit to Aruba without indulging in its cuisine is simply incomplete. From traditional dishes to contemporary culinary creations, here’s a detailed guide to what you should eat and drink on this Caribbean gem.
Traditional Aruban Dishes:
- Keshi Yena: Often considered the national dish of Aruba, Keshi Yena is a hearty meal made from a large round ball of cheese stuffed with spiced meat, usually chicken or beef, complemented by vegetables and sometimes dried fruits and nuts. The entire ensemble is baked until it’s golden and bubbling.
- Pastechi: These are deep-fried pastries filled with a variety of ingredients such as cheese, chicken, beef, or seafood. They’re the Aruban version of empanadas and are popular breakfast or snack items.
- Sopi di Pampuna: A local favorite, this is a pumpkin soup often flavored with cinnamon and other spices, offering a unique combination of sweet and savory.
- Funchi: A cornmeal dish similar to polenta, funchi is often served as a side dish with stews and fried fish.
- Pan Bati: This translates to “beaten bread”, and is a cross between a pancake and bread. It’s slightly sweet and is an excellent accompaniment to various Aruban dishes.
- Aruban Seafood: The surrounding waters provide a bounty of fresh seafood. Look out for dishes featuring wahoo, red snapper, mahi-mahi, and the Aruban lobster.
Modern & International Influences:
- Tropical Fusion: Many restaurants offer fusion cuisine, combining Aruban flavors with international techniques, especially from Dutch, Spanish, and South American traditions.
- Gourmet Dining: Over the years, Aruba has become a culinary hotspot with several high-end restaurants, offering dishes that are as much a visual treat as they are to the taste buds.
Drinks to Savor:
- Aruba Ariba: This is Aruba’s signature cocktail. Made with a mix of vodka, rum, fruit punch, Coecoei (a local liquor), and a splash of Grand Marnier, it’s both refreshing and potent.
- Balashi Beer: Brewed on the island, this is Aruba’s local beer. It’s crisp and perfect for beachside relaxation.
- Coecoei: A sweet red liqueur unique to Aruba, it’s made from rum, sugar, and agave sap.
- Rum Punch: A classic Caribbean drink, Aruban rum punches are often flavored with tropical fruits and decorated with freshly grated nutmeg.
- Cadushi Liqueur: Made from the native cactus, this is a unique drink you must try when in Aruba.
- Aloe Vera Juice: While it might sound unusual, Aruba is renowned for its aloe production. Some local restaurants and cafes offer fresh aloe vera juices, which are not only refreshing but also have numerous health benefits.
Desserts & Sweet Treats:
- Pan Bollo: This is a bread pudding dish often infused with rum and studded with dried fruits. It embodies the rich and comforting flavors of Aruba.
- Cocada: A delight for coconut lovers, this is a coconut candy made from grated coconut and condensed milk, cooked until caramelized.
- Bolo Preto: Often referred to as Aruban Black Cake, this dessert is reserved for special occasions. It’s rich with dried fruits and rum.
Tips for Dining in Aruba:
- Seafood: Aruba’s proximity to the sea ensures that seafood is as fresh as it gets. Opt for the catch of the day at local restaurants.
- Local Markets: For a genuine taste of Aruba, visit local markets. They often have stalls that serve traditional dishes.
- Water: Aruba’s tap water, sourced from a modern desalination plant, is safe to drink and of excellent quality.
- Cultural Respect: While Aruba is quite modern, it’s always a good gesture to respect local customs, especially if visiting a local’s home.
In conclusion, the culinary landscape of Aruba is a delightful blend of its historical influences and rich natural resources. Whether you’re diving into a plate of Keshi Yena, sipping on a freshly made Aruba Ariba while watching the sunset, or exploring the modern gourmet scenes, Aruba offers a gastronomic journey as vibrant and memorable as its landscapes.
Aruba Travel Guide: Final Thoughts
Aruba, often referred to as “One Happy Island”, is more than just a moniker; it’s an embodiment of what awaits every traveler upon setting foot on its sun-drenched shores. As our exploration of this Caribbean paradise draws to a close, let’s reflect on what makes Aruba a unique and unforgettable destination.
Natural Beauty & Diversity:
Aruba’s landscape is a compelling mix of contrasts. The western and southern coasts boast pristine beaches like Eagle and Palm Beach with calm turquoise waters, while the eastern and northern coasts provide rugged terrains, with wild seas and dramatic rock formations. Inland, you’ll find Arikok National Park, a testament to the island’s geological and biological diversity.
Rich Tapestry of Cultures:
The island’s history is a melting pot of Amerindian, Spanish, African, and Dutch influences. This rich heritage is evident not only in its architecture and historical sites but also in its culinary, linguistic, and artistic expressions. Papiamento, the local language, is a harmonious blend of these influences and is spoken with pride.
From traditional treats like Keshi Yena to international gourmet dining, Aruba offers a culinary journey that satiates every palate. The fresh seafood, influenced by the surrounding Caribbean waters, and the innovative fusion of global flavors make dining on the island an adventure in itself.
Beyond its beaches, Aruba is an adventurer’s haven. Whether it’s diving into the marine wonderland of shipwrecks and coral reefs, exploring the island’s landscapes on horseback, or harnessing the trade winds for windsurfing, the island promises adrenaline-pumping activities for thrill-seekers.
Warmth of the Aruban Spirit:
Perhaps Aruba’s most endearing quality is its people. Arubans are known for their warm hospitality, always greeting visitors with a smile. Their genuine pride in showcasing their island’s treasures and their commitment to sustainability and eco-conscious tourism make the travel experience even more enriching.
Aruba’s commitment to sustainability is evident in its numerous eco-friendly initiatives. The island aims to transition to 100% renewable energy and has numerous conservation projects to protect its indigenous flora and fauna. As travelers, supporting these initiatives ensures that Aruba remains a paradise for generations to come.
Accessibility & Modern Amenities:
Despite its idyllic island setting, Aruba offers all the modern amenities and infrastructure that travelers seek. From high-end resorts, shopping venues, to state-of-the-art medical facilities, Aruba seamlessly marries comfort with adventure.
Safety & Connectivity:
With one of the highest repeat visitor rates in the Caribbean, Aruba’s reputation as a safe destination is well-earned. The island’s efficient public transport, reliable telecommunication services, and friendly local police ensure that visitors feel secure and connected throughout their stay.
Aruba is more than a destination; it’s an emotion. It’s the gentle caress of the Caribbean breeze, the rhythmic beats of calypso music, the rich flavors of its multi-cultural cuisine, and the embrace of its golden sands. Whether you’re seeking soul-soothing relaxation, a dive into history and culture, or exhilarating adventures, Aruba beckons with the promise of memories that linger long after the tan fades. As you depart from its shores, it’s not a question of if you’ll return, but when. One trip is seldom enough to capture the essence of this Caribbean jewel, for in Aruba, every sunrise promises a new discovery.
Whispers of Aruba
In the heart of the Caribbean’s embrace, Lies Aruba, an island of grace. Where the sun kisses the sea’s blue face, And time seems to slow its pace.
Golden sands stretch far and wide, With secrets of ancient tides inside. The winds dance, the palm trees sway, Inviting travelers to come and stay.
Eagle Beach to Arikok’s terrain, Every corner has a story, a refrain. Calypso rhythms fill the air, Whispers of legends, tales to share.
Papiamento echoes, a song so sweet, In every market, every street. Flavors bold, from land and sea, A culinary dance, wild and free.
Beneath the waves, mysteries unfold, Of shipwrecks brave, tales untold. Above, the stars shine bright and clear, Guiding dreams, drawing near.
But beyond the sights, sounds, and sun, It’s the Aruban heart that truly stuns. Warm and welcoming, like a long-lost friend, Promising memories that never end.
So, traveler, when you seek a place, Where love and adventure interlace, Listen to the Caribbean’s song anew, For Aruba’s embrace awaits you.