Aruba is a Caribbean island nation modest in size but rich in natural beauty and cultural activity. Following is a city-by-city look at everything lovely about this unique tropical paradise.
Oranjestad is Aruba's glittering cultural center, replete with all manner of can't-miss attractions. You'll find illuminating museum experiences thanks to organizations such as the
Palm Beach is home to many of Aruba's resorts, providing tourists with calm waters and white beaches ripe for frolicking. The nearby restaurants are not to be missed and serve an array of cuisines. For Brazilian fare, head to either
Just south of Palm Beach lies the coveted Eagle Beach. Though smaller in size and density, Eagle Beach nevertheless takes pride in being touted as one of Aruba's best beaches, carrying a charm all its own. It gets crowded on the weekends, but its restaurants are still a hoot. For those who prefer some French flair in their dining fare,
Noord is home to the northernmost area of Aruba, with the landmark
San Nicolas is Aruba's second largest township. As such, it is home to everything a good "second city" should have. First and foremost among these amenities is a series of world-class sporting events. Marathonners from around the world flock to the island for the annual
Santa Cruz, near the island's center point, is home to a pair of attractions sure to impress upon every visitor the true scope of nature's wonder. The
National Park Arikok
Just a ways past Santa Cruz is Aruba's grand Arikok National Park, land of unspoiled countryside and invaluable historic sites.
The earliest inhabitants of Aruba were the Caquetio Indians. Around 1000 AD, who fled their home on Venezuela's Paraguana Peninsula to the island in order to avoid the violent attacks of their neighboring enemies, the Carib Indians. Their indigenous ancestry is still present today in that the names of many towns and geographical landmarks are named after various Indian chiefs. Many remnants of Aruba's earliest people can be found in the caves at the Arikok National Park or at the Historical Museum of Aruba located in Oranjestad.
There are many legends about the origin of Aruba's name. It was once thought that their name was Spanish for "there was gold" ("oro huba"), but in reality the Spanish were unsuccessful in their mission to hit the gold jackpot. Another possibility for Aruba's name source is that it was a Carib Indian word for "shell" and "island." Whatever the name "Aruba" might have meant back in the day, today it certainly means sun, fun, and seaside friendly climes.
During the age of exploration, Aruba underwent many changes as several European countries claimed ownership over it. In 1499, the Spanish explorer, Alonso de Ojeda, took claim over the island in hopes that they would strike gold. At this time, the Spanish were unable to locate the gold mines and they abandoned the island in order to seek more profitable endeavors. At this point, Aruba was informally taken over by pirates. The remains of a pirate fortress can still be seen at the Bushiribana Ruins. Around 1636, the Dutch acquired ownership of Aruba and it remained that way for the next 200 years. For a brief period in the early 1800s, the British took control, but it was soon after returned to the Dutch in 1816.
With the arrival of the 20th century, Aruba developed its two major industries. While Aruba's gold rush reached its peak in the early 1900s, they soon recognized the value in oil known as "black gold." By the 1920s, the island saw the opening of its first oil refinery. The island's refineries were a prosperous source of income despite its relatively short-lived existence as they were closed in the 1980's. With the closing of their oil refineries, the tourism industry became the island's focus as a staple part of Aruba's economy.
Today, Aruba's developed and well-established tourism industry continues to be one of the Caribbean's best spots for vacationers from around the world. In fact, Aruba has developed a reputation as being the "Las Vegas of the Caribbean." Despite many changes of ownership in the previous centuries, Aruba today is independent of the Netherlands Antilles, but transition towards full independence of the Netherlands was stopped upon request of Aruba.