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Categories: Caribbean > Aruba


Located 15 miles north of Venezuela in the warm waters of the southern Caribbean, Aruba is home to beautiful white-sand beaches, 82-degree days and some of the warmest people in the world.

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Our island is 19.6 miles long and 6 miles across, with a total area of 70 square miles. We’re located just below the hurricane belt, and unlike many islands in the Caribbean, our climate is dry, so we rarely have a rainy day. On the south and west coasts of Aruba, you’ll find Oranjestad, our capital city, and miles of beaches that have been named some of the best in the world. Here, you’ll find most of the hotels and all-inclusive resorts in Aruba, and Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA).

In the interior of the island, you'll find Arikok National Park, a desert-like preserve with a variety of wildlife, cacti and dramatic rock formations. You’ll also find some of Aruba's most striking views, as the ocean crashes against the rugged shoreline below.

On the northeast coast, along the windward shore, you'll see our island's unofficial mascots, the fofoti trees. The constant trade winds have permanently sculpted them into graceful, southwesterly bending forms.

Home to beautiful white-sand beaches, 82-degree days and some of the warmest people in the world.


Quick Facts

  • U.S. travelers:

    Valid passport needed for entry

  • Official language:

    Dutch and Papiamento (English is widely spoken)

  • Official currency:

    Aruban florin (American dollars are widely accepted)




Family looking at colorful wall art

Why Aruba?
According to TripAdvisor.com, Aruba has one of the top ten best beaches in the world. And that’s just the beginning.

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Woman in a colorful flowery dress at Carnival

Experience the Culture
Today’s Aruba is a happy melting pot. Our multicultural history is reflected in everything we do, from language to food, to our unique holidays and celebrations.

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Family playing on the beach near the ocean

Beautiful Beaches
Fringing turquoise Caribbean waters, Aruba’s beaches include wide shaded expanses, quiet retreats, and busy sunbathing and water sports meccas.

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Categories: Caribbean > Aruba



Aruba is among the livelier, more developed islands in the Caribbean. Aruba has low- and high-rise resorts, great restaurants, and glitzy casinos lining the white-sand beaches and the downtown boulevard. You'll find plenty of things to do on Aruba, too: sunbathing, world-class windsurfing and waterskiing by day, and discos, cabarets, dinner shows and high-stakes gambling at night.

Except for the Arikok National Park Foundation, you won't see an abundance of natural attractions in Aruba. Nor is Aruba covered in lush foliage. It's about as close to a desert island as you'll find in the Caribbean, with stands of cacti and aloe vera dotting the dusty terrain. In fact, Aruba is so dry, goats eat the cacti in search of something resembling leaves. Still, Aruba has one of the world's most threatened tropical ecosystems—its mangrove forests.

Must See or Do

Sights—View the wind-shaped rock formations at Ayo and Casibari; bird-watching at Bubali Bird Sanctuary; go spelunking to see the impressive Caiquetio petroglyphs at the entrance to the Fontein Cave in Arikok National Park; spectacular views at the California Lighthouse.

Museums—Artifacts that trace the island's history and culture over 4,500 years at the National Archaeological Museum Aruba; the Historical Museum of Aruba at Fort Zoutman/Willem III Tower; soothe your skin at the Aruba Aloe Museum and Factory in Hato.

Memorable Meals—A late lunch at Cafe the Plaza; local seafood specialties at Flying Fishbone; Caribbean dishes at Papiamento Restaurant.

Late Night—Evening concerts, musicals and ballet at Cas di Cultura; gambling, live bands and shows at one of the island's casinos; dance to merengue at Mojito's Cantina and Grill, or simply groove at Local Store; hop on the Kukoo Kunuku, Aruba's No. 1 party bus.

Walks—Climb to Yamanota Hill in Arikok National Park, the highest point in Aruba; hike up the steps of Hooiberg for another great view of the island; stroll through Oranjestad to explore its Dutch-Colonial architecture; a walk through Wilhelmina Park to Seaport Marina.

Especially for Kids—An early-morning visit to The Butterfly Farm; baby ostriches at the Aruba Ostrich Farm; a day at Blue Parrotfish Water Park on private De Palm Island; more than 52 different species at Philip's Animal Garden; petting the donkeys at Donkey Sanctuary Aruba.

Aruba Travel Agents


Just 15 mi/24 km off the coast of Venezuela, Aruba is the farthest west of the Dutch Caribbean islands known as the ABCs (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao). It is 19 mi/30 km long and 6 mi/9 km wide, and the land is mostly flat and arid with scattered fields of cacti and aloe plants.


The islands off the Venezuelan coast and their Caiquetio inhabitants (part of a larger group of Caribbean people called Arawaks) were sighted by the Spanish in 1499, but the island was not developed because the newcomers found nothing useful there. (They were not aware of the gold.) However, Captain Henry Morgan and the infamous Edward Teach (Blackbeard) found use for the island's many hidden coves during their pirate days plying the waters.

Although the Dutch claimed Aruba in 1636, no European settlers arrived until the 1750s. The discovery of gold in 1824 brought some excitement and colonists to the island. The mining lasted 100 years and produced more than 3 million lb/1.4 million kg of the glittering mineral. For several years in the mid-1800s, Aruba was the world's largest exporter of aloe, and aloe products are still produced there on a small scale.

The arrival of the oil industry in the 1920s, after black gold was found in nearby Venezuela, had a big economic impact. Lago, which later became Exxon, was a crucial supplier of fuel to U.S. naval ships during World War II. At its height in 1965, the refinery in San Nicolas produced 550,000 barrels of oil a day.

When the market declined in the mid-1980s, Exxon closed the facility. Successive companies failed to maintain the operation, but the San Antonio (U.S.)-based Valero Energy Corporation gained control of the facility in 2004 and reportedly invested close to US$640 million in upgrades. However, San Nicolas's town economy took another blow in 2012 when the Valero Aruba Refinery closed.

Tourists began arriving in the 1960s, but development of large resort hotel-casinos really started in earnest in the 1980s, when declining oil revenues led the government to seek new ways to bolster the economy. The boom outdid itself in enthusiasm, and the government had to issue a five-year moratorium on hotel building in the 1990s to keep supply and demand at the proper ratio; still, many new resorts have risen along Aruba's windswept shores.

Today, tourism is the leading industry, and more than half a million people visit Aruba each year, making it one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean. As a result, the island is prosperous by Caribbean standards, and its citizens enjoy a high rate of literacy, good housing, education and health care.

The island has been influenced as much by Venezuela (only 15 mi/24 km away from Aruba) as by the Netherlands. Most Arubans speak English, Spanish and Dutch, as well as the native language, Papiamento (a mixture of African, Arawak, Dutch, English, Portuguese and Spanish idioms).

Formerly a part of the six-federation Netherlands Antilles, Aruba gained separate status on 1 January 1986. This means that Aruba has direct ties to Holland, but the island has its own constitution, based on Western democratic principles. This calls for a governor and an eight-member council of ministers vested with executive powers and headed by a prime minister. A 21-member parliament is responsible for legislative matters. Judicial powers lie with the common courts in Aruba, and ultimately with the High Court of Justice in Holland.


Aruba's foremost attractions include beaches, shopping, casinos, watersports, excellent restaurants, high-energy nightlife and friendly people.

If you enjoy good beaches, ethnic food, gambling and quality shopping, Aruba is for you. Don't expect, however, to partake in a "Bali Hai" island experience (Aruba resembles a flat desert) or to find much distinctive Caribbean culture. If you prefer lush rain-forest-type destinations, Aruba may not be your preference. It's more like Arizona or New Mexico than Puerto Rico or St. Croix.


Several ranches on Aruba raise paso fino horses—descendants of the Andalusian and Arabian horses brought to the New World by the conquistadors. The creatures' controlled and elegant gait is delightful, and trail rides are offered for all skill levels.

Those unusual-looking trees bent over by the wind are watapana (divi-divi) trees, and they make it impossible to get lost on Aruba. All of the trees are bent to the southwest, where the majority of the hotels and resorts are located.

The frequently used description cunucu house refers to a house in the countryside. Cunucu means "country" in Papiamento.

The city of Oranjestad was established in 1824 and named in honor of the Dutch Royal Family, which is known as the House of Orange, whose first king was Willem van Oranje-Nassau (1544-84).

Fort Zoutman, site of the Bon Bini festival every Tuesday night, was built in 1798 to protect the east side of the island. Bon bini means "welcome" in Papiamento, and the festival is a year-round folkloric event that celebrates Aruban music, local cuisine and crafts.

Nature lovers: Be sure to pay attention to the lizards and cacti on the island—there are unusual species of both.

If you want to speak Papiamento, start with con ta bai ("how are you"). Masha danki means "thank you very much." Bon dia means "good morning."

For some reason, the Aruba Island Rattlesnake chooses not to rattle a warning before striking. The danger of being bitten is very slight, however—in fact, the snake is an endangered species and one of the rarest rattlesnakes in the world.

Aruba's Natural Bridge was once one of the island's most recognizable attractions, gracing every tourist item from shot glasses to postcards. Alas, this wave-carved wonder collapsed into the sea in 2005.


Aruba's port is at Oranjestad, the island's capital and main town, which is on the southern coast, 2.5 mi/4 km west of Queen Beatrix International Airport. The dock is toward the north end of the town center, within easy walking distance of the bus terminal, shops, restaurants, casinos and museums.

Cruise ships tie up at one of two modern, air-conditioned terminals. On-site services include a tourist information office, phones, Wi-Fi hot spots, tour desks, vendor stands, car rental operators and taxis. The terminals are operated by Aruba Ports Authority, Port Administration Building, L.G. Smith Blvd. 23, Oranjestad. Phone 523-4300. http://arubaports.com.

Shore Excursions

Typical shore excursions include around-the-island sightseeing, an off-road Jeep or ATV tour through Aruba's wild countryside, or a sail around the island with stops for snorkeling and swimming. Some passengers may prefer a day of guided scuba diving or a horseback ride along the coast. Special-interest tours are available for photographers, and beach bums can sign up for a day pass at one of the waterfront resorts, which often includes use of all the facilities and watersports equipment.

Shore excursions—and their prices—vary from cruise line to cruise line. Check with your travel agent for additional information.

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