Aruba, “One Happy Island”

Aruba, “One Happy Island”

Aruba at a glance:

Location – Lies in the southern Caribbean, north of Venezuela and east of Colombia.

Capital – Oranjestad (literally “Orangetown”)
Area – 179 sq. kms. (69 sq. mi.)

Climate – Hot dry, average temperature year-round is in the 80s Fahrenheit, very little rainfall, lies outside the hurricane belt.

Population – Approximately 106,113 as of 2011 census with 92 nationalities. First inhabitants are the Arawak Indians from South America, later colonized by Spain and has been under Dutch administration since 1636.

Language – Official language is Dutch and Papiamento, the mother tongue. Most people speak English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Government – Constitutional monarchy as a Dutch protectorate.

Currency – Aruba florin or guilder (1.78 florin to a $US)

Aruba, which means “red gold” (“ore” for gold and “ruba” for red), is a small island of natural beauty. Generally flat and riverless, the island aside from its world-famous beaches (all public) has a desert-like topography studded with cacti, rock and boulder formations, sand dunes, tumbleweed, aloe, and the island’s trademark bent-over “divi-divi” trees that are easily recognized by their distinctive shape only pointing in a southwesterly direction due to the trade winds.

The Princess docks in the capital and largest city Oranjestad, known for its impressive Dutch gabled colonial architecture. All are within a walking distance from the port – the Renaissance Mall and Marketplace, the casinos and restaurants. You don’t have to hire a taxi unless you want to experience riding a unique mode of local tansport – the colourful banana bus. In Aruba, taxis are unmetered but don’t worry because rates are regulated by the government.

Exploring the “One Happy Island” enables us to get close and personal with the iguanas squatting on rooftops or on tree branches, with the cacti hedges and stonewalls built in front of houses to protect against goats, sheeps, and donkeys, and with the smiling Aruban faces everywhere (it’s a happy place to be!).

Located in the centre of Aruba is its version of the English Stonehenge, the Casibari Rock Formations, geologically unusual formations in which you can climb at your own risk to the top where the wind blows continuously.

On the island’s north side can be seen the fallen Natural Bridge (collapsed into the sea in 2005) and the Baby Natural Bridge, two stunning formations of coral limestone cut out by years of pounding surf.

One of Aruba’s scenic highlights is the California Lighthouse, perched on a high elevation and named after the S.S. California, a wooden sailing ship that sank off the coast of the island. This silent sentry offers nice views of the whole island and coastlines.

Worth visiting is the Aruba Aloe Museum for a free 25-minute admission factory tour to get an inside look into the production process first-hand from aloe vera leaf to finished aloe lotion and also learn the 160-year history of aloe. Aruba, which enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean region including a low unemployment rate, is the world’s largest aloe exporter.

Aruba boasts of the legendary beaches in all the Caribbean, notably Palm Beach with its white sand and blue water, and the quieter Eagle Beach that offers a variety of water sports.

These are the bests of Aruba waiting for you anytime of the year!