Aruba is thought to have become inhabited around 1000 AD by the Caquetios Amerindians, escaping repeated attacks by the Caribs. Owing to strong sea currents that prevented canoe travel, Aruba remained more closely linked both ethnically and culturally to the continent of South America rather than the other islands of the Caribbean. After the island’s discovery by Amerigo Vespucci, Spain colonised Aruba in 1508 and remained in power for over a century. The Netherlands acquired the small island in 1636, and despite moves toward independence, Aruba continues to be part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Located 15 miles north of Venezuela, Aruba sits in a unique area of the southern Caribbean that sees few hurricanes and rarely has a rainy day, geographic factors that make it popular with tourists all year long. Along with nearby Bonaire and Curacao, Aruba forms one of the “ABC” islands, long revered by the Dutch for their stunning beaches and even year round climate.
Aruba’s culture is truly that of an international haven, with people of 92 different nationalities living on the island as of the 2005 census! As in many Latin American and Caribbean nations, Carnival is an important festival that is often celebrated for weeks on end, while Dutch holidays such as Sinterklaus are also widely feted. The main religion is Catholicism, but all types of faith are accepted and observed. While Dutch and Papiamento are the official languages, most Arubans also speak English and Spanish fluently.
If you love beaches oh, what beaches you’ll find in Aruba! Eagle Beach and Palm Beach are two of the finest, with gorgeous white sand and clear jade water that rivals the best in the world. Snorkelling can be a fun activity for an afternoon, but divers in Aruba should not expect to find an abundance of coral reefs – underwater exploration around this island is more about the ship wrecks.
Oranjestad offers many opportunities for shopping and exploration, and a walking tour through the town reveals a mix of colonial buildings and modern shops, bars and restaurants. A history museum and archeological museum are in the centre of town, and you can go to visit the historic 18th century Fort Zoutman to get an idea of the city’s former fortifications.
Lining the northern coast of the island you will find Aruba’s most unique flora – the fofoti trees. These are windswept trees that are often referred to as “nature’s compass” because their trunks are bent at a 90 degree angle in a southwesterly direction. Otherworldly and yet somehow perfectly at home on these white sand beaches, the fofoti trees make a lovely photo opportunity.
Bobby Farrell (musician), Gene Kingsale (baseball)
The beautiful Caribbean with a distinctly Dutch flair.