Take Your Pick
Arashi, Aruba
The Place to Watch the Sunset
California Lighthouse - Surrounded by cacti and sand dunes on the northwestern tip of Aruba is the impressive California Lighthouse standing guard over the island's rocky shore. The 98 ft beige stone tower was named for the wooden sailing ship California which sank just off the coast in 1892 (it also goes by the names Noordwestpunt and Hudishibana). Completed in 1916, it is accompanied by a light keeper's house that is currently an Italian Restaurant called La Trattoria that serves some great food. The best time to visit and the most popular is at sunset. Grab a glass of Italian wine from the restaurant and watch the sun extinguish itself in the cool gulf waters.
Dos Playa, Aruba
Goats, Caves and Hiking
Arikok National Park - Encompassing nearly 20% of Aruba's land mass, Arikok National Park is a sprawling oasis of natural beauty. The park is located along the island's rugged east coast and houses large rocky outcroppings, diverse wildlife (wild goats, equally wild donkeys, Aruban rattlesnakes and Aruban whiptail lizards), natural limestone caves, abandoned gold mines, sand dunes and plenty of hiking trails. There is easily enough to do here for an entire weekend. Oh, the park contains two of Aruba's highest mountains, Sero Arikok and Sero Jamanota (both over 600 feet high - and offer fantastic views), a natural pool for swimming and a very informative visitor's center. At the southern exit/entrance is a large wind farm which provides shade and a cool surface for hundreds of goats that call it home.
Noord, Aruba
Gold Rush in Aruba
Bushiribana Ruins - Hundreds of years before gold was discovered on the island, Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda named this island gem "Oro Ruba" meaning red gold. The name eventually changed from Oro Ruba to Aruba, probably because it is easier to say and sounds super-tropical. Then in 1824 gold was discovered in the Sero Plat hills near the northern coast and the Aruba Island Gold Mining Company built the Bushiribana smelter in 1825. The gold smelter operated for 90 years and produced nearly 3 million pounds of gold during that time. Today the crumbling natural stone walls are all that remain of the gold mill, but it makes for some really nice photos and there is usually a refreshment truck out front in case you're thirsty.
Noord, Aruba
Pirate Snorkeling
Diving and Snorkeling - The warm clear Caribbean waters that surround Aruba are a divers and snorkeler's paradise. Underneath the surface are natural reefs, shipwrecks and submerged aircraft teeming with critters from the deep. You can see turtles, barracuda, snapper, grouper, sponges, squirrelfish, eagle rays, brain coral, angelfish, eel, lobster, octopi, crabs, starfish, sea urchins, and more up close and personal. My favorite snorkeling company is the Jolly Pirates because they make it fun and you can jump off the side of a pirate ship. And my favorite snorkel spot is the sunken WWII Germans shipwreck Antilla. A 400 foot freighter that lies on its side with a portion of the hull and mast breaking the surface of the sea.
Noord, Aruba
Good News and Bad News
Natural Bridge - For thousands of years the pounding surf etched out two coral limestone archways along Aruba's east coast. The first was the slender Natural Bridge which spanned 100 feet (one of the longest in the Caribbean) and by its side was the 25 foot and chubbier Baby Bridge. The bad news is, on September 2, 2005 around 4:00 AM Natural Bridge collapsed. The good news is, Baby Bridge lives on. So come on out and encourage Baby Bridge to grow up big and strong. On location is a nice gift shop and small restaurant. I don't recommend the corndogs, but everything else is OK.
Noord, Aruba
Pilgrims Church
Alto Vista Chapel - The tiny brightly painted Catholic chapel of Alto Vista stands atop a small hill overlooking the island's beautiful northern coast. Originally built in 1750 by Venezuelan Priest Domingo Silvestre, the structure fell into disrepair in the 1800s and then was rebuilt by Francisca, an Aruban school teacher, in 1952. The structure is said to be the birthplace of Catholicism on the island and is sometimes referred to as the "Pilgrims Church". Today visitors follow a winding road dotted with crosses to reach the little chapel. It is open every day and if you'd like to attend Mass, it is held on Tuesdays at 5 PM.
Oranjestad, Aruba
All Beaches are Public!!
Beaches - Surrounded by the warm turquoise waters of the Caribbean that reach out and caress the island's sugary white sands, Aruba is a snowbird's dream come true. In addition to sunbathing and swimming, there are tons of water activities including waterskiing, parasailing, kite surfing and jet skiing. The west side of the island is perfect for people-watching and calm waters (the best is Palm Beach - around the high-rise district), while the east side is the place to get away from the crowds and watch the surf roll in. And the best thing about Aruba's beaches is that they are all public - so you can throw a blanket down anywhere and enjoy.
Oranjestad, Aruba
Shop Till You Drop
Shopping - If shopping is your thing, you've come to the right island. Aruba has a huge selection of brand name international products priced a little below those in the USA. The best place for shopping is in downtown Oranjestad, which is perfect for cruise ship passengers. Check out the Renaissance Mall, Royal Plaza and the main street of Aruba - Caya Betico Croes. Another great place for Cuban cigars, high end jewelry and trendy fashion is in the High Rise District. Now if you just need some groceries, Super Food is the best place to go. They just built a brand new store in November of 2012 and it has everything.
Oranjestad, Aruba
Capitol Building of Aruba
Government of Aruba - Aruba is a former colony of the Netherlands and was part of a six island federation with Bonaire, Curacao, St Maarten, Saba and St Eustatius. Then in 1986 it began operating as a separate entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands which includes Holland, Aruba and the five aforementioned islands. Aruba has its own constitution with a mixture of Dutch and Western influences and the Queen of the Netherlands appoints a Governor every 6 years. And I actually met the Governor - he rode the same airplane as me to Curacao one morning. On the flight they gave away, to one lucky passenger, a free round trip flight and guess who won? Yes the governor. But I know it's not rigged because yours truly won on the way back.
Oranjestad, Aruba
Oldest Building in Oranjestad
Willem III Tower - Built by the Dutch Army in 1798, Fort Zoutman is a former military fortification and the oldest building in Oranjestad. The fort was located on the shoreline of Aruba, and had four large cannons pointing out to sea. The Willem III Tower was added in 1868 and served as a lighthouse until 1963, and then did time as a clock tower, watchtower and police station. Today the fort functions as the Historical Museum of Aruba with hundreds of exhibits pertaining to the early settlement of Aruba, including architecture, farming, currency, ceramics, dolls and more.
Piedra Plat, Aruba
Fun Climbing Hill
Casibari Rock - Rising up from Aruba's desert soil are several monolithic rock formations. The largest and easiest to get to is the Casibari formation near the town of Hooiberg. This reddish-tan pile of wind-carved tanalite boulders is a perfect hill to take the family for an hour or two of exploring and rock climbing. At the top of Casibari visitors can drink in a 360 degree panoramic view of the island and on a clear day, see the coast of Venezuela. The formation is surrounded by a desert landscape that includes cacti and an assortment of lizards. And the best thing is that it's free. Then after you're done climbing, head across the street to the snack bar and souvenir shop to drink in something cold and refreshing.
Santa Cruz, Aruba
Bring Apples and Carrots
Donkey Sanctuary - To see some cute and sweet, floppy-eared donkeys, be sure to drop by the Donkey Sanctuary. With nearly 100 of these crazy beasts of burden in the sanctuary, you'll be sure to find a lot of friends. For over 500 years the donkey has roamed Aruba. The animals were brought here as the primary mode of transportation, but have since been replaced by cars and trucks. As their population declined because of disease and lack of care, the Donkey Sanctuary was created has been a great success. Access to the facility is free of charge (donations are accepted) and if you come, bring a bag or two of apples and carrots and you will be mobbed by donkeys. Good times.