Aruba is a
very small Dutch island in the Southern Caribbean forming part of the Leeward
Antilles in the Lesser Antilles. It is 180 sq km (69 sq mi) and is only 27
km from Venezuela. You can see Venezuela from several locations on
the island. Together with Bonaire and Curaçao, Aruba forms a group referred to as the ABC islands.
The capital and cruise ship port is Oranjestad. Aruba is part of the
Kingdom of the Netherlands, which includes the Netherlands, Curaçao and Sint Maarten.
Languages spoken on the island include Dutch, English and Papiamento,
which is a blend of Dutch, Portuguese, African languages and
Spanish. There are just over 100,000 inhabitants on this Dutch
Attractions in Aruba:
Things to see and do:
Oranjestad - Wander the streets of the Aruba’s port; the “j” is pronounced as an “h” in Dutch.
A free trolley takes passengers from the cruise ship terminal to the
newly developed pedestrian area downtown on Schelp Straat. See
Archaeological Museum. Then cross over to the harbor to
visit the Market Place and enjoy free wifi plus dining opportunities such as
the Dutch Pancakehouse.
Catch an open air bus tour of the island at the cruise dock.
De Palm arranges most of the large bus tours of the island.
Take the city/island bus to Baby Beach, Palm Beach or Eagle
Beach. All the beaches in Aruba are public, but the palapas and
lounge chairs aren't. The bus terminal is located next to the
cruise terminal and provides an inexpensive transportation alternative
that covers the island.
Natural Bridge and Baby Bridge – the Natural Bridge collapsed in 2005.
Ayo and Casibari rock formations
Baby Beach – an infamous and popular beach in a protected lagoon at the south end of the island.
The Natural Pool (Cura di Tortuga)
California Lighthouse – built in 1910 and named after the SS California, which sank off the coast of Aruba around the same time as the Titanic.
Chapel of Alto Vista
Arikok National Park – wild donkeys and iguanas; See some divi-divi trees.
Quadirikiri and Fontein Caves
Bushiribana Gold Mine Ruins
Marriott Renaissance Private Island, Oranjestad, Aruba
Butterfly Farm – Aruba’s most popular attraction.
Aruba Aloe Factory
De Palm Island Beach – snorkeling, beach and water park
Antilla Shipwreck – the 400 foot ship sank in 60 feet of water during World War II, but parts are still above the surface
Aruba Visitwith Tim
We chose to tour Aruba with Shore Excursions
Group. Their online ticketing system produced an e-ticket confirmation which directed us to meet an El Tours agent at the cruise terminal in Oranjestad.
We were there 20 minutes early, which turned out to be a good thing because there was a slight mix up on the tour start time.
About 14 Italians had already
been waiting for us for about 15 minutes.
We were quickly escorted by a comfortable air conditioned van to the 4x4s and en route they confirmed by cell phone in Dutch what the departure time was
for the ship. After experiencing unending paperwork for our snorkel tour in Dominica, we were very surprised by the easy process here.
We hopped out of the
van, our guide asked me to drive the red 4x4, which was empty, and a few seconds later we were on our way.
No liability waivers, no proof that I had a driver’s
license and no discussions about insurance for the vehicle. Now that’s a pace I wish I could get on any excursion.
It was great to be travelling in our own vehicle in the tropical breeze that our motion created.
First we headed north past the RIU Resort and the wealthy
homes on the northwestern portion of the island. We stopped at the California Lighthouse.
The only downside is that it became apparent that we were part of a large
migration of tourists that day, travelling in every imaginable type of vehicle. Our guide was extremely amiable.
He spoke English, Dutch and Papiamento. He handled
the two of us, while his partner spoke Italian to the rest of the tour.
Next we headed to the Chapel of Alto Vista. There were numerous crosses at the roadside as we
approache. These marks stops where the congregation prays during
their approach to the church. The church was very small but contained outdoor seating that tripled its size.
I always find it strange that tourists are so interested in churches
and have no qualms about touring during sermons and prayers.
Next we headed off road along the east coast of the island.
This was very exciting and beautiful. We drove on rough roads and through puddles
that had formed from recent rains. We were right along the water at many times and
we were also among cactus and interesting land formations. We stopped at viewpoints, a small natural bridge, an abandoned gold transport
fortress called Bushiribana Ruins, the Baby Bridge and the collapsed Natural Bridge.
We also drove past Ayo Rock.
We then had a pleasant lunch at the B55 restaurant, though the cleanliness of the facilities wasn’t as good as the food.
After lunch we drove to
Arikok National Park. Although the route was paved, there were crushed stone open culverts every few hundred yards that forced you to slow down to bump
through. The cacti were interesting. At the ocean again, we came on a series of caves.
We visited the smailler Fountien Cave as the Italians were scared of
bats and didn't want to go in the larger cave. The cave we visited was still large enough to stand in and had hieroglyphics on the ceiling. It was very hot and
humid in the cave and I was glad to move on.
From there we went off road again and followed the coast south.
By now the bumpy roads had moved in status from exciting to annoying.
We arrived at
Baby Beach and spent an hour there. You could rent snorkel gear for $10 but we chose to swim and take a few pictures instead.
I was surprised that this
beach is so well known. It does have a sheltered lagoon with a lovely sandy beach, but it’s isolated at the tip of the island and is right beside an oil refinery.
There was one food stand and you could also pay for restroom facilities.
The only big plus I saw was a lot of good looking women who chose not to wear much clothing.
The drive back to Oranjestad from Baby Beach was hectic traffic.
Near the cruise terminal traffic crawled slowly for more than 15 minutes in
the heat of the day. We were back with more than 2 hours to spare before departure.
All in all, I’d rate this trip highly. It was great to drive the entire island in your own vehicle and see so many sites.
The pricing was great with Shore Excursions
too. We paid $180 for two of us for a full day. Normally you would expect to have shared the vehicle with two others at this price.
Princess charges $269 per
vehicle for a half day.
Aruba is a very small Dutch island. It is180 sq km (69 sq mi) and
is only 27km from Venezuela. The capital is Oranjestad. I had
visited Oranjestad before on the Coral
Princess. That time I enjoyed the Disneyland like city and went
snorkeling. This time we went to the interior on the Island
Highlights and Beach. The tour included a drive through Oranjestad,
the Casibari rock formations, a visit an aloe factory and time at the