Caribbean / Mexico

Aruba: One Happy Island!

Oranjestad architecture | Photo credit: Svitlana Prada

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear Aruba?

If you thought:

  • White sandy beaches
  • Warm tropical breezes
  • Sparking turquoise waters
  • I’d love to go NOW

Then you would be correct on all accounts!

Folks have been visiting the island of Aruba for generations … and for (many) good reasons.

Aruba is a Caribbean island 24 kilometres north of the coast of Venezuela, renowned for its white sand beaches and Divi Divi trees.

A long an interesting history …

Together with Bonaire and Curaçao, Aruba, forms a group referred to as the ABC islands of the Leeward Antilles, the southern island chain of the Lesser Antilles. As well, Aruba is one of the four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, together with the Netherlands, Curaçao, and Saint Maarten, whose citizens share Dutch nationality.

Europeans first learned of Aruba following the explorations of Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda in the summer of 1499. Aruba’s first inhabitants are thought to have been Caquetíos Amerinds from the Arawak tribe, who migrated here from Venezuela. Though Vespucci boasted of discovering the island, he and Ojeda were likely guided there by natives of nearby islands.

Aruba was colonized by Spain for over a century, but Aruba has been under Dutch administration since 1636, initially under Peter Stuyvesant.

Today, this island is often referred to as “One happy island”, which accounts for the fact that Aruba is one of the most popular island destinations in the Caribbean and why some travellers have vacationed here year-after-year. It’s just that kind of place …

The Aruba of today is a very well developed infrastructure of commerce and tourism.

The islands’ 100,000 inhabitants reflect it’s history of settlement, acquisition, and immigration. The native Aruban population has ethnic roots in Arawak, African, and European peoples, which is reflected in the local foods, architecture, celebrations, and languages.

English is spoken by most Arubans, particularly those in the tourism business. The island’s lingua franca, however, is Papiamento, a lyrical language that evolved from Spanish and Portuguese, Dutch, some French, English, and a smattering of African languages.

The cultural festivities of the island are often related to its history and background, although some Aruba’s music and culture ceremonies are derived from other Caribbean islands. The music you’ll hear in hotels and at many of the festivals is calypso, soca, or reggae, often accompanied by the timbre of steel bands.

Welcome to Aruba, "One Happy Island!" | http://www.dinebythesea.com/Aruba.html

While Aruba is not the stereotypical tropical island of lush, steamy forests and constant rains, it does have fascinating animal and plant life, some of which is found nowhere else but on the island. The Divi-Divi Tree is perhaps, the most recognizable Aruban icon. It’s an endemic bush in the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao), and you’ll see images of it on T-shirts, mugs, hats, and on several place-names around the island. The tree is permanently bent at nearly a right angle, with its Medusa-like branches seemingly swept back by the wind. All Divi-Divi trees point to the west, in the direction of the trade winds that come from the northeast.

What makes Aruba so popular (You ask?)

Aruba’s residents are renowned for being visitor-friendly. You are assured of being welcomed wherever you may be on the island.

Dining and nightlife is among the best in the Caribbean.

The powder-soft beaches and turquoise waters are legendary.

But aside from savouring the sun, sand and water, you should take some time to explore the island.

The capital of Aruba is Oranjestad. The town is named after the Dutch royal house of Oranje, and has been the island’s capital since 1797.

This charming island city is best explored on foot. Its palm-lined central thoroughfare runs between old and new pastel-painted buildings of typical Dutch design (Spanish influence is also evident in some of the architecture).

Located on Aruba’s picturesque southern coast, Oranjestad is the historical Dutch capital city where the tall multicoloured houses of Wilheminastraat combine carved wooden doors and traditional Dutch tiles with airy open galleries and sloping, Aruban-style roofs. All of Aruba’s government buildings and main offices are located in the capital city. Depending on the time of year, you could also find yourself in the middle of Carnival, a summertime festival, the New Year’s fireworks, or even a parade in honour of the Queen.

You can shop downtown and Seaport Village, which are the major shopping areas. Dozens of shops line Lloyd G. Smith Boulevard. The Seaport Village Mall, on the north side of the street and the Seaport Marketplace, on the east side of the yacht basin the harbour, feature the best of the chichi shops, as well as small cafes.

Every morning the wharf teems with activity as merchants sell produce and fresh fish – often right off their boats. Island schooners and houseboats anchored near the fishing boats add to the port’s ambience. Wilhelmina Park, a small tropical garden on the waterfront along L.G. Smith Boulevard, has a sculpture of the Netherlands’ Queen Wilhelmina, whose reign lasted from 1890 to 1948.

If you are “A Shopper”, watch for Dutch imports, such as Delft porcelain, high-quality original art, pottery, and sculpture, English china, French perfume, Danish crystal, Indonesian fabrics, Caribbean rum and liqueurs and Aruba Aloe beauty and health products.

If you are looking for a little culture, Oranjestad has a handful of museums and houses of worship that are worth visiting.

Get out-and-about …

The trademark Divi Divi tree, Aruba | Photo credit: Aruba Tourism Authority

Aruba’s wildly sculpted landscape is replete with rocky deserts, cactus clusters, secluded coves, picturesque vistas and the trademark Divi-Divi tree. To see the island’s wild, untamed beauty, you can rent a car, take a sightseeing tour, or hire a cab. The main highways are well paved, but on the windward side (the north- and east-facing areas) some roads are still a mixture of compacted dirt and stones. Although a car is fine, a four-wheel-drive vehicle will allow you to explore the unpaved interior.

Stay a while. Relax.

Aruba’s tourism infrastructure is well developed and mature. Which means that you can, – and will – find everything that you want or require.

Many of the upscale resorts have a casino, a fitness center, some kind of spa, an assortment of dining and drinking venues, lush gardens, and magnificent pools.

The majority of Aruba hotels are in the Palm, Eagle, Manchebo and Druif Beaches resort area on the northwest coast, offering accommodation of a high standard. Rates are lower in the summer, which is the island’s low season.

In addition to these districts, there are various types of accommodations in Oranjestad near restaurants, casinos, shops and nightclubs.

Small hotels and private villas are spread out across the island.

Come Visit.

Some 1.5 million travellers visit Aruba each year.

So if you like …

Beautiful beaches, Great snorkelling, Hoseback riding along the beach, Great dining an an active night, Divi-Divi trees, a multitude of natural wonders and Being outside the hurricane belt, then Aruba’s the spot.

If you haven’t been here, you’re missing “One Happy Place”. And if you’ve been, then you know.

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