In addition to white-sand beaches and Caribbean beauty, Aruba has a wealth of history and exceptional sites to offer. Though you may not want to leave your plush beach resort, you should certainly explore some of these sites located throughout the island. Here are some helpful travel tips for the adventurous traveler.
The island of Oro Ruba
Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, adventurers traveled throughout the Caribbean in search of wealth and treasures. One of the most precious sites of that era was the island of Oro Ruba or red gold. Today, the island of Aruba retains traces of this colorful history, courtesy of remains from the Bushiribana and Balashi gold mining operations and longstanding pirate lore.
Caves Of Aruba
The caves of Aruba are commonly cited by locals as former pirate hideouts, though each site is visually fascinating enough to warrant a visit. The Guadirikiri Cave is famous for its dual sunlit chambers that create a picture-perfect backdrop. The Fontein Cave is the most popular of the caves being one of the most accessible sites with Arawak Indian drawings. The Huliba Cave, known as the Tunnel of Love, features a heart-shaped opening and an expansive 300-foot long passage. One of Aruba’s most photographed sites, the California Lighthouse is named for the famous wreck off these same shorelines. Located at the northwestern tip of the island, the terrain surrounding the lighthouse features both dramatic rock shorelines and rolling sand dunes.
The bizarre rock formations are another worthwhile site as they are truly unlike anything you can find at home. The area surrounding the Casibari Boulders has several trails, offering some of the best views of the island from atop the stones. The Ayo Rock Formations are often compared to the fictional town of Bedrock from “The Flinstones.” Once an ancient settlement, petroglyphs are visible on many of the boulders.
Government of Aruba
The Government of Aruba has dedicated approximately 18% of the island to the Arikok National Park. With miles of walking trails, this public park is the centerpiece of its environmental preservation efforts. To learn more about the park and its unique wildlife, it is worthwhile to schedule a guided tour as part of your vacation package. Prepare yourself for everything from exotic cacti, flowers, divi-divi trees, and massive aloe plants to rare birds and photogenic iguanas. Also, this is the best location for those panoramic Caribbean views, as Aruba’s highest peaks lie within the park.
Of course, there is more to Aruba than natural splendor. In addition to excellent shopping opportunities, Aruba’s capital of Oranjestad features a number of distinctive museums. The Historical Museum, situated in the oldest building in Aruba, displays a fascinating collection ranging from indigenous artifacts to Spanish and Dutch colonial items. To learn more about Aruba’s past, visit the Archaeological Museum, an organization dedicated exclusively to the display and preservation of ancient pottery, tools, and art from Aruba’s indigenous cultures. Also in central Oranjestad, the Numismatic Museum displays over 30,000 historic coins from around the world.
The second-largest city in Aruba, San Nicolas, is a great stop for the “alternative” tourist.
For decades, Charlie’s Bar has been one of the city’s primary destinations, owing to its fame as a makeshift museum of underwater discoveries. Since the 1940s, scuba divers have hung anything and everything on Charlie’s walls. The diversity of Charlie’s strange collection has only added to San Nicolas’s relaxed, offbeat reputation. Just a short drive from San Nicolas you’ll find the Lourdes Grotto, an enchanting Catholic shrine built directly into a black rock hillside.
For the fan of such religious architecture, Aruba has several other unique sites to offer. The picturesque Chapel of Alto Vista, constructed by the Spanish as Aruba’s first, exudes tranquility from its spectacular setting above the ocean. Church of Noord, constructed between 1914 and 1919, is a fine example of neo-Gothic architecture. It is even possible to be married in one of Aruba’s churches as part of your vacation package.
For a little privacy after your exploring, try escaping to one of the smaller islands surrounding Aruba. Renaissance Island is a private hideaway for guests of the Renaissance Hotel. This unique beach resort lies just offshore and features all the amenities one might need for a day in the sun. Also just a 5-minute ferry ride from the mainland, De Palm Island is a favorite of snorkelers and scuba divers in search of that perfect reef.