Colonised by the Dutch in 1636 and forming part of the West India Company, its European roots are mixed with hearty Caribbean flavour. Its colonial influence is still very much present; candy pink, yellow and blue buildings line the front street of its small capital Oranjestad, with the bygone days of piracy lingering in the hidden corners of town. Here are the top 3 reasons why you need to visit this hidden treasure:
Aruba certainly has an air of exclusivity; it’s not until very recently that UK package providers have offered holidays here with few people having even heard of it. The main tourist areas are split into two resorts – Palm and Eagle Beach, both situated on the same 11 kilometre stretch that won third place on TripAdvisor’s world’s best beaches in 2017.
If the 5* lifestyle is for you, Palm Beach will be your paradise. With a strong American influence, plush high-rise hotels and ritzy casinos pepper the white sandy beachfront with views onto crystal clear waters. Impressive yachts sail past while luxury watch and handbag outlets line the upmarket streets; the place just oozes glamour. Steak and lobster restaurants coupled with fancy cocktail bars are the ‘go to’ for an evening on the town.
Further down the coast nestles Eagle Beach – low rise hotels are few and far between but offer sophistication with a traditional laid-back Aruban twist. The architecture is more representative of the colonial days; magnificent facias and Dutch style balconies, wooden shutters and thatched parasols. The pace is slower, the vibe more chilled; beach shacks sell amazing arrays of ice cream and fresh fruit with local oceanfront bars serving up ‘Aruba Ariba’, the island’s famous cocktail (not for the faint hearted).
With a bit of luck, two extraordinary wildlife experiences you won’t miss out on are the nesting sea turtles and the baby turtles hatching then making their first voyage to the ocean. Nesting takes place between March and September, with eggs hatching from May to November.
The famous flamingos are synonymous with Aruba. Having been present on the island for years, it’s only recently that they have become native to the Renaissance Private Island. The Renaissance Aruba Resort is a lavish hotel found smack bang in the middle of Oranjestad. Guests of this fine establishment have free access to the island, but you can buy a day pass for $100 and visit the island as a non-guest.
One animal you will see a lot of is the wild iguana. Ranging from 5cm up to 2 feet, they can be found all over the island and have a tendency to scurry around hotel pool areas searching for scraps of food. Completely harmless, some are extremely tame and even allow you to stroke them!
Like most Caribbean islands after the demise of slavery, Aruba is a vibrant melting pot of languages, religions and culture. Arubans use their native Papiamento tongue as they haggle at the local flea market and as you walk through Oranjestad locals sing and dance outside their shop fronts, encouraging you to join in. Friendly, jubilant and slightly extravagant; think carnival mixed with reggae, and you have the Aruban people summed up perfectly!