Aruba

Aruba is one of the ABC islands in the southern Caribbean and a sovereign state of the Netherlands. Enjoy the Dutch hospitality, the sunny weather and especially some of the best beaches in the world. It is indeed “One Happy Island.”

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1 Seaport Marina Along Downtown Oranjestad, Aruba

If you are among the nearly 700,000 passengers who arrive at Aruba annually aboard one of over 300 cruise ships, this is your first view of the Seaport Marina and downtown Oranjestad. Although the island is small – 20 miles long by six miles wide – it is packed with entertaining alternatives. Even if you are the first to disembark at the nearby cruise terminal and the last one aboard, you will run out of time before you run out of options to enjoy this beautiful Dutch island.

Seaport Marina, Oranjestad, Aruba
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2 Introduction to Oranjestad and Aruba

Aruba is the “A” in the ABC Islands, three Caribbean islands in the Leeward Antilles sharing common roots with the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Oranjestad (which means Orange Town) is the capital city for Aruba’s population of just over 100,000. Most residents strive to make it “One Happy Island” for the droves of tourists who love its 80° sunshine, low rainfall and magnificent beaches. Their language is Papiamento and their currency is the Aruban florin. These do not stop them from welcoming visitors from around the world.

Seaport Village Marina, Lloyd G. Smith Blvd, Oranjestad, Aruba
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3 Druif Beach Near Oranjestad, Aruba

The closest slice of tropical heaven to downtown Oranjestad is Druif Beach. You will find plenty of space along the one mile of white sand to enjoy the sun. Plus the calm waters lapping into the crescent cove are excellent for swimming. This southern beach is not congested like many on the west coast. So it is perfect for those who prefer relative quiet versus crowds.

Divi Dutch Village, J.E. Irausquin Blvd #47, Oranjestad, Aruba
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4 Single Palm and Sailboat at Manchebo Beach Near Oranjestad, Aruba

How many winter days have you daydreamed of this idyllic scene? Sitting next to a single palm on a gorgeous beach during a perfect warm day. No phones. No emails. No reality. Just the joy of watching a sailboat floating peacefully along the Caribbean. Perfection!

Manchebo Beach, J.E. Irausquin Boulevard # 55, Aruba
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5 Palm Trees at Manchebo Beach Near Oranjestad, Aruba

Manchebo Beach is in the low-rise district of the west coast. People who appreciate smaller and more intimate accommodations select hotels in this area like the Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa. A few steps from their rooms are inviting groves of palm trees offering a swaying canopy from the sun plus a grand entrance to the beach.

Manchebo Beach, J.E. Irausquin Boulevard # 55, Aruba
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6 Couple Strolling Manchebo Beach Near Oranjestad, Aruba

The first beach on the southwest corner of the island is Manchebo. It is amazing! The pristine sand seems almost as wide as it is long. Inland it is soft and powdery yet at the shoreline it is hard for easy walking. So feel the water lapping at your toes while on a romantic stroll with your partner.

Manchebo Beach, J.E. Irausquin Boulevard # 55, Aruba
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7 Number 1 Rated Eagle Beach Near Oranjestad, Aruba

Today is your lucky day! You have arrived at the #1 beach in Aruba: Eagle Beach. It has also been rated as one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. What makes it so special? Spectacular sand – the widest on the island – plus calm, clear, aquamarine water. Sunbathers have plenty of space to relish the warmth. Active souls have plenty of water sport choices. And couples feel plenty of romance while walking hand-in-hand.

Eagle Beach, Aruba
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8 Empty Loungers at Eagle Beach Near Oranjestad, Aruba

You will be delighted to see there are empty loungers awaiting your arrival at Aruba’s favorite beach. Beneath that gorgeous white sand there is something else waiting to arrive: turtle eggs. Eagle Beach is the number one area on the island for nesting sea turtles. Four species are prevalent. They are the loggerhead and leatherback plus the lesser known hawksbill and the green. The nesting season is March through September and hatching happens from May through November.

J.E. Irausquin Blvd 250, Aruba
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9 Umbrellas and Cabanas Along Eagle Beach Near Oranjestad, Aruba

How do you prefer to be shaded from the sun during your day along the Caribbean Sea? You have plenty of options at Eagle Beach. You can arrange your chair beneath a pastel-colored umbrella, enjoy more privacy within a cabana or stretch out below the canopy of a divi-divi tree. Don’t you wish all of life’s problems were this easy?

J.E. Irausquin Blvd 250, Aruba
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10 Iconic Divi-divi Tree at Eagle Beach Near Oranjestad, Aruba

When you Google Aruba you will immediately see numerous photos of this twisted, windswept tree. The locals call it divi-divi, the Arawak name is watapana, the scientific classification is caesalpinia coriaria and the island considers it their national tree. This iconic symbol of Aruba is bent towards the Caribbean Sea along the beautiful Eagle Beach. Don’t miss it!

Divi Tree, Eagle Beach, Aruba
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11 Tree Nymph Butterfly at Butterfly Farm in Palm Beach District, Aruba

Imagine being surrounded by countless butterflies dancing through the air on paper-thin wings in a rainbow of colors. This wonderful experience has been offered by The Butterfly Farm since 1999. A guide will walk you through their plush garden for 15-20 minutes while pointing out some of their countless species from around the world. Then stay as long as you wish to savor these delicate beauties like this tree nymph from Southeast Asia. You will soon see why it is nicknamed the paper kite.

J.E. Irausquin Blvd, Oranjestad, Aruba
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12 Hotel Riu Palace in Palm Beach District, Aruba

The high-rise area of Aruba is Palm Beach. It is a sliver along the western coast lined with about 30 hotels and resorts so at least one is right for you. At the luxury end is the Ritz-Carlton. This is the top-rated Hotel Riu Palace, an all-inclusive, adult-only property. With 18 floors it is the third largest building on the island. Other facilities cater to families or tourists who want to enjoy the sand and sun on a budget.

Hotel Riu Palace, J.E. Irausquin Blvd 79, Oranjestad, Aruba
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13 Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort in Palm Beach District, Aruba

Over one million visitors a year vacation in Aruba and that number is growing considerably. Most of those tourists stay in Palm Beach. As a result, this area is booming with name-brand hotels. They frequently acquire and upgrade existing properties like the new Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino. Or they are building or planning new mega-resorts.

Hilton Aruba, J.E. Irausquin Blvd 81, Noord, Aruba
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14 Chief Eating Grapes Statue in Palm Beach District, Aruba

This statue of a man wearing a toque (chef’s hat), a theater mask and eating grapes symbolizes the plethora of restaurant options available in Palm Beach. The cuisine and price ranges can accommodate any palate and budget. Entertainment selections are equally varied, from quiet bars to rocking clubs and ten casinos. The two best retail experiences are the Palm Beach Plaza, an enormous mall, and the Paseo Herencia, a more casual shopping environment.

Palm Beach 55, South Beach Building Loc. 33, Noord, Aruba
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15 Old Dutch Windmill in Palm Beach District, Aruba

Starting in the 15th century, windmills were used to keep Holland safe from succumbing to damaging floods. By the 19th century, the Netherlands had over 9,000 of them. The Hollandse Molen was built in 1804 in Friesland, a northern district where my ancestors lived. It was repurposed after 1878 to mill grain and then abandoned after being damaged in a 1929 storm. In 1961 it was reassembled in Palm Beach, Aruba. It now serves as a restaurant and museum.

Old Dutch Windmill, J.E. Irausquin Blvd 370, Noord, Aruba
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16 Playa Linda Beach in Palm Beach District, Aruba

The exquisite sand at the Palm Beach district stretches for two miles. People distinguish the sections by the hotel it faces. So, for example, this is the Playa Linda Beach named after the resort. The good news is the entire pristine coastline is open to the public. You are free to get your golden tan or scarlet sunburn anywhere your decide to plant your lounger.

Playa Linda Beach Resort, J.E. Irausquin Blvd 87, Noord, Aruba
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17 Playa Linda Beach Resort Pool in Palm Beach District, Aruba

In the dead of winter, your daydream of lying on a tropical beach and swimming in the Caribbean sounds idyllic. When your dream comes true, however, sometimes the waves are rough and sand creeps into all the wrong places. Rest assured all of the Palm Beach resorts have one or more delightful swimming pools. Typically they are reserved for hotel guests. A few offer a day package including other amenities and adult beverages.

Playa Linda Beach Resort, J.E. Irausquin Blvd 87, Noord, Aruba
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18 Pelican Pier at Palm Beach District, Aruba

Between the Playa Linda Resort and the Holiday Inn at Palm Beach is the Pelican Pier. Beneath those thatched roofs is the Pelican Nest, a restaurant noted for its fresh seafood plus a bar offering refreshing drinks and beautiful sunsets. Docked alongside is a catamaran available for short sightseeing and snorkeling cruises.

Pelican Pier Bar, Palm Beach, Aruba
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19 Water Toys at Holiday Inn Beach in Palm Beach District, Aruba

Several sections of the Palm Beach district are frankly a bit crowded. It can be hard to find a place to sit among all the people walking by, the giant inflatable water toys, the banners advertising for water sports and the vendors selling their wares beneath the palapas (thatched roofs). Obviously, some folks relish all of the commotion while others prefer a solitary vacation.

Holiday Inn Beach, J.E. Irausquin Blvd 230, Palm Beach, Aruba
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20 Party Schooner Along Malmok Beach in Noord District, Aruba

If you are young and want a swashbuckling good time, then don your bathing suit and climb aboard a pirate schooner for a half day of sailing, eating, limitless drinks and snorkeling. Based on the yelps of delight from the passengers swinging off the ship near Malmok Beach, the highlight of the Jolly Pirates adventure is plunging into the tranquil blue Caribbean Sea. Arrrggg!

Malmok Beach, Aruba
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21 Snorkeling Sites in Noord District, Aruba

The northwest corner of Aruba, especially along Malmok, Boca Catalina and Arashi, are ideal for swimming, snorkeling and diving. The water is calm, shallow and alive with schools of colorful fish, beautiful marine life and coral reefs. There are also several wrecks to explore. The most fascinating is Antilla, a 400 foot German freighter sunk during World War II. You can charter a catamaran to take you to the best locations or just walk into the water and enjoy.

Malmok Beach, Aruba
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22 Kadushi Cactus in Noord District, Aruba

Aruba has a semi-arid climate with lots of heat, little rain and consistent trade winds that rapidly evaporate moisture. So the predominate flora is cactus, especially along the north where few people live and only the adventurous tourist visits. Three species are most common. The tallest of the columnar or candle cacti is the kadushi. Its branches can reach 20 feet. Historically it was used for medicinal purposes and for making shampoo.

Alto Vista Chapel, Noord, Aruba
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23 Station of the Cross Near Noord, Aruba

Thirteen white crosses mark the dusty, winding road leading up to the final cross at Alto Vista Chapel. Local Catholics often walk this path while praying at each of the Stations of the Cross. This tradition has earned the tiny church the nickname “Pilgrims Church.” This is the Fourth Station: Jesus meets his mother.

Alto Vista Chapel, Noord, Aruba
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24 Alto Vista Chapel Near Noord, Aruba

In 1750, a Venezuelan Indian and missionary named Domingo Silvestre built Aruba’s first Catholic church on a peak overlooking the island’s northern coastline. Its name was Our Lady of Alto Vista meaning “high view.” This bright yellow church with an orange roof was rebuilt in 1953 on the same site. The interior of the Alto Vista Chapel is humble but the views from the exterior are spectacular.

Alto Vista Chapel, Noord, Aruba
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25 Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins in Santa Cruz District, Aruba

Gold fever is a treacherous condition in which many men dream but few get rich. Aruba experienced this malady beginning in the early 19th century. Early prospectors were local men with shovels and picks. Starting in 1854, the rights to mine went to a successive list of professional companies who tried and usually failed to be profitable. One of them, the Aruba Island Gold Mining Company, built their elaborate mill on the northern coast in 1874 along with roads and a pier. The English company abandoned the smelting operation in 1881. By 1916, the gold rush was over. These ruins along the coastline are fun to explore for a few minutes.

Bushiribana Ruins, Aruba
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26 Ostrich Close Up at Ostrich Farm in Santa Cruz District, Aruba

At first it is surprising to find an ostrich farm in Arbua. However, this native of Africa is perfectly at home in the hot, semi-arid climate of the Noord District where the average temperature is in the high 80° Fahrenheit. The world’s largest (9 feet tall) and fastest (up to 40 mph) birds will delight you during the guided tour. You will get the chance to feed these curious and always hungry creatures. You will also enjoy the emus and the ostrich hatchery.

Aruba Ostrich Farm, Matividiri 57, Paradera, Aruba
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27 Cactus Fence Line in Noord District, Aruba

Aruba has a twist on the saying, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Here they will tell you a row of cactus with lots of needles make great fences. The favored species for this common application is the yatu cactus. Its scientific name is stenocereus griseus.

Andicuri & 6, Aruba
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28 Ayo Rock Formation in Santa Cruz District, Aruba

The north side of Aruba is mostly barren except for cactus and scrubby vegetation. So it is fascinating to visit the Ayo Rock Formation in the Santa Cruz district where you will find an enormous pile of monolithic boulders. The Arawak Indians considered this geological phenomenon to be sacred ground. Although it is visited by tourists, you might be lucky enough to only share the walking paths with this pair of skittish wild goats. A similar site north of Hooiberg is called the Casibari Rock Formation.

Andicuri & 6, Aruba
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29 Bear Shaped Boulder at Ayo Rock Formation in Santa Cruz District, Aruba

You can visit the Ayo Rock Formation on your own. The walking is easy and the paths are well defined. But a knowledgeable guide will provide interesting history plus point out unique shapes in the diorite boulders such as this large bear.

Andicuri & 6, Aruba
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30 Petroglyph at Ayo Rock Formation in Santa Cruz District, Aruba

Archeologists estimate the Caquetio people, Arawakan natives from northern Venezuela, were the first inhabitants of Aruba around 1,000 AD. The Caquetíos lived in primitive isolation until discovered by the Spaniards about 500 years later. Little remains of their culture. That is why it is delightful to view their petroglyphs at the Ayo Rock Formation. This is one of two cave drawings protected by a steel gate.

Andicuri & 6, Aruba
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31 Waves Pounding Into Northern Coast in Santa Cruz District, Aruba

The western shore of Aruba is lined with sandy beaches and mega resorts while the northern coast is the direct opposite. It is barren, uninhabited and lined with reddish dust and volcanic rock. So why would you visit there? One reason is the windward side has huge waves relentlessly crashing into pools and cliffs. The result is a mesmerizing display of splashing, spraying and swirling water in gorgeous shades of blue and white. The perpetual motion is spectacular to watch!

Natural Bridge, Aruba
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32 Baby Bridge in Santa Cruz District, Aruba

The most famous tourist attraction along Aruba’s north shore was the Natural Bridge. It was a limestone arch measuring 23 feet high and 100 feet long. But the pounding Caribbean Sea finally collapsed the rock formation in 2005. Yet visitors still flock to see this smaller version called the Baby Bridge. Recently a well-appointed visitors’ center has been built at the site. Rumors also suggest a new glass structure will be constructed simulating the former arch.

Natural Bridge, Aruba
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33 Rock Towers in Santa Cruz District, Aruba

Dotting the northern coast are countless rock towers consisting of stones precariously placed one atop the other. These cairns seem destined to collapse during the next wind gust. Most are small but some are huge like this one. They are sparse in some areas and numerous in places like the Rock Wish Garden. You immediately assume they are part of a religious ceremony or cult following. Instead, they are created by tourists who want to leave their personalized mark on the island.

Natural Bridge, Aruba
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34 Batwing Coral Crab in Santa Cruz District, Aruba

This bright red, spotted critter is the batwing coral crab. It is an abundant species in the Caribbean Sea. Measuring up to six inches in width also makes it the largest. It is frequently spotted by scuba divers along coral reefs in shallow waters. Tourists rarely see them except on a plate because they crawl along the shore only at night. But this carpilius corallinus died on the rocks before returning home.

Natural Bridge, Aruba
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35 Jeep Caravan Excursion Along North Shore in Santa Cruz District, Aruba

There are plenty of ways to tour the rugged north shore of Aruba. The traditional ones include hiring a taxi, renting a car or motorcycle or taking a sightseeing bus. But the people having the most fun were part of a half-day Jeep excursion. From the smiles on their faces it was clear they enjoyed off-roading in their caravan more than arriving at the tourist sites.

Natural Bridge, Aruba
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36 Shopping Tips in Downtown Oranjestad, Aruba

Here are some shopping tips when visiting downtown Oranjestad. Unlike many Caribbean islands, Aruba is not duty-free so don’t expect to find amazing bargains. Their currency is the Aruban florin. However, retailers are happy to take the US dollar or any major credit card. Just be aware you won’t get the best currency exchange rate. Finally, most stores close for an hour at lunchtime. So get to a restaurant early because they fill up fast starting at noon.

Lloyd G. Smith Blvd 94, Oranjestad, Aruba
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37 Explore Specialty Shops in Oranjestad, Aruba

Downtown offers numerous shopping alternatives from traditional malls to retailers inside of hotels. But for the true Aruban experience, also explore the smaller stores and flea markets nestled along two parallel streets. You will find souvenirs, local crafts and specialty items such as Dutch gouda cheese. The shopping district is within walking distance of the cruise terminal or hop onto one of two streetcars right at the port. The double-decker trolley provides the best visual tour of the area.

Holland Aruba Mall, Havenstraat 6, Oranjestad, Aruba
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38 Dutch Colonial Architecture in Oranjestad, Aruba

As a direct reflection of its Netherland roots, you will be delighted to find many of the downtown buildings designed in a Dutch Colonial Revival style using gambrel roofs and second story balconies. They are also ornately decorated and painted in bright, often pastel colors. It creates a charming and welcoming environment.

Havenstraat 1, Oranjestad, Aruba
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39 Blue Horse Sculpture in Oranjestad, Aruba

You may discover all eight blue horse sculptures while exploring downtown. The outdoor art project began in 2015 as a Tribute to Paarden Baai. In English, this means Horses Bay. This was the city’s original name in the 17th century when selling horses to Europeans became a major contributor to the economy. However, by the end of the 18th century, this trade suffered a significant decline at the hands of the French and English. Each horse represents a different strength. This mare, by artist Osaira Muyale, is named Sinforosa. She is called the martyr of the herd.

Havenstraat 1, Oranjestad, Aruba
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40 New Protestant Church Bell Tower in Oranjestad, Aruba

Although over 80% of Arubans are Catholic, this exquisite tower serves less than 3% of the population: Protestants. The congregation was formed in 1822. In 1846 they purchased the Arends’ family home and converted it into their church. It is now the island’s oldest and a National Monument. 104 years later, this New Protestant Church was built next door.

Protestant Church, Wilhelminastraat 1, Oranjestad, Aruba
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41 Renaissance Mall in Oranjestad, Aruba

If your shopping urge craves high-end, luxury brands, then you will be ecstatic at the Renaissance Mall in downtown Oranjestad. Your credit card will face plenty of temptation at over 60 stores including several premier names in fashion, jewelry and accessories. Your taste buds will be equally tempted at some of the best restaurants on the island.

Lloyd G. Smith Blvd 82, Oranjestad, Aruba
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42 I Love Aruba Sign in Oranjestad, Aruba

Aruba welcomes over one million tourists annually to their “One Happy Island.” That is an extraordinary number considering it is less than 70 square miles. The Aruban Ministry of Tourism hopes you agree with their “I Love Aruba” sign located near the House of Parliament. But perhaps it should read, “Arubans Love Tourists.” They contribute over $2.2 billion USD or 85% of the GDP and create over 42,000 jobs.

Lloyd G. Smith Blvd 76, Oranjestad, Aruba
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43 Fishing Charter Boats Docked at Seaport Marina in Oranjestad, Aruba

If deep sea fishing sounds like a lot more fun than tanning on a beach or shopping, then head towards the Seaport Marina facing downtown Oranjestad. You will find a fleet of boats available for either a half or full-day charter. The shallow waters near shore are best for grouper and snapper. A few miles offshore can produce trophy blue marlin, barracuda, sailfish and even shark. You will soon be sharing selfies of your catch and telling tales about the ones that got away.

Seaport Village Marina, Lloyd G. Smith Blvd, Oranjestad, Aruba
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44 Willem III Tower at Fort Zoutman in Oranjestad, Aruba

Oranjestad’s oldest building was constructed in 1798 as a Dutch fortress. At its base are two of the original canons. The Willem III Tower, named after the King of the Netherlands (1849-1890), was added to Fort Zoutman in 1868. It functioned as a lighthouse for almost 100 years. After an extensive renovation, the old citadel became the Historical Museum of Aruba in 1984.

Fort Zoutman, Zoutmanstraat 6, Oranjestad, Aruba
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45 Henny Eman Statue in Oranjestad, Aruba

Jan Erman spearheaded an effort for Aruba to acquire a political voice if not separation from the Netherlands in the early 1920’s. In 1948, a delegation led by his son, Shon A. Eman, presented a petition for autonomy. However, the “Status Aparte” diplomatic process continued until 1985 when a constitution was approved. The following January 1, his son, Jan Hendrik Eman, became the first Prime Minister of Aruba until 1989. Henny held the office again from 1994 through 2001. Today, Aruba is a sovereign state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Henny Eman Monument, Lloyd G. Smith Blvd, Oranjestad, Aruba
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46 Renaissance Marketplace in Oranjestad, Aruba

The Renaissance Marketplace specializes in less expensive stores, restaurants and entertainment options for tourists who want to shop, eat and/or sample some nightlife without blowing their travel budget. Plus its open and airy design lets you enjoy the tropical weather with great views of the Seaport Harbor and the Caribbean Sea.

Renaissance Marketplace, Lloyd G. Smith Blvd 9, Oranjestad, Aruba
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Cruise Ship Sailing Away At Sunset Near Aruba

All good things must come to an end, including your visit to Aruba. But if you are on a cruise ship, hopefully you are sailing towards Bonaire or Curaçao, the two other Dutch ABC Islands off the northern coast of Venezuela. Bon Voyage!

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