Aruba

Overview

“Bonbini!” might be the greeting you hear when you step off the plane in friendly Aruba. That means “welcome” in Papiamento, Aruba's native language, and the people here are definitely ready to welcome you to their Caribbean paradise.

Aruba offers so much you could stay for weeks and never get bored. Are you a beach person? You have a world of choices on this “one happy island.” Visit the west coast for turquoise waters, brilliant sand beaches and a resort atmosphere complete with swimming, snorkeling, kite surfing, waterskiing and more. If you're looking for something more rugged, the east coast offers more secluded and undeveloped areas where you'll find limestone coves and craggy terrain that has been battered by the sea.

Airport served by: AUA

Destination basics

Is there such a thing as perfect weather? If so, Aruba's the place to find it, with clear skies, sunshine and cooling trade winds keeping residents and visitors happy year-round.

The average temperature is 28 C, with May through October being the hottest months and slightly cooler temperatures from December through March. Aruba gets very little precipitation – barely 400 mm per year (though even that small amount is welcomed by the area's tropical plants).

If you want to avoid that little bit of rain, plan to visit outside the wettest time of year, which is typically from October through January. The hurricane season goes from June through November, but Aruba's location on the southern edge of the hurricane belt means a direct hit isn't likely.

weather chart

Human activity on Aruba dates back at least 4,000 years. Colonization by the Caquetio people, originating in Venezuela, was established by 1000 AD. After Europeans arrived at the end of the 15th century, the island was held by Spain, then came under Dutch rule in 1636 as part of the Netherlands Antilles. Aruba claimed autonomy in 1986 and is now a separate entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Today Aruba is home to an ethnic rainbow, nearly 107,000 people of 96 nationalities from the Americas, Europe and Asia, along with native Arubans who claim Dutch, African, Spanish and Caquetio ancestry.

Aruba’s history is reflected in its tongues. Official languages are the native Papiamento, which, despite being used for 300 years, was not recognized as an official language until 2003. Dutch, English and Spanish are also widely spoken.

The story of Papiamento (the name literally means “to talk”) helps to define the island and its inhabitants. Spoken only in the ABC islands or the Lesser Antilles (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao), Papiamento has its roots in an Afro-Portuguese creole, a pidgin language born in the slave trade so people of different nationalities could communicate. Most words are variations of Portuguese and Spanish, with borrowings from Dutch, English and other languages.

The influence of these cultures is reflected in Aruba’s folk traditions and arts. Community celebrations, like the Feast of Saint John, Carnival and New Year’s, are a time of merriment with traditional music, dance and food that continues to evolve.

Music is influenced by Latin America and the Caribbean. Christmas season reverberates with Venezuelan-style Gaita Zuliana and Aguinaldo sounds. Carnival jumps to calypso, steel pan, brass band and tumba music.

The island’s old architecture also tells a tale. Social status was revealed by the style of one’s home; farmers in the utilitarian Cunucu or countryside house, the upper classes in the European-style manor house. This you can still see downtown Oranjestad; City Hall and the National Archeological Museum are fine examples.

It should be no surprise that Aruban cuisine is spiked with international influences. Seafood is the staple, with catch of the day jokingly referred to as the “national dish.” Barracuda, grouper and snapper are fished year-round, with jack, wahoo, mahi mahi, tuna and kingfish caught on seasonal runs.

Traditional dishes include keri-keri (shredded fish sautéed with chopped vegetables, spices and herbs), balchi di pisca (fish cakes) or Arubans’ favourite, fish with savoury Creole sauce. Meals are accompanied by rice, pan bati (corn bread pancake) or funchi (polenta), along with ice-cold local Balashi or new Balashi Chill beer.

Get a taste of Aruba’s culture at the weekly Bon Bini and Carubbian festivals.

Mother Nature reserved her crown jewels to adorn Aruba’s south and west coastlines and sparkle in the depths of the surrounding Caribbean Sea, endowing the tiny isle with some of the world’s best white-sand beaches and warm, translucent aquamarine water studded with colourful coral reefs in which to play.

Inland, however, the 30-kilometre by nine-kilometre island is a rocky desert, with only about 450 millimetres of annual rainfall and steady east trade winds.

Nonetheless, Aruba's semi-arid climate supports a variety of vegetation including mesquite, sea grapes, aloe vera, several species of cacti and the island’s famous watapana (or divi-divi) tree, which, buffeted by constant winds, grows at a sharp southwest angle.

The hill-studded topography and geological formations offer sightseeing and activities different from most other Caribbean destinations: giant rock piles, wave-carved natural bridges, ancient painted bat caves, rolling sand dunes and gold-mining ruins.

It is possible to trace the volcanic island’s geological origins with the naked eye, one of the few places in the world where you can do so. The best place to see the island’s three geologic formations is Arikok National Park. Here, on the hike to Cunucu Arikok, you will come across massive grey boulders called tonalites, formed 80 million years ago when magma penetrated the earth’s crust and solidified. The other geologic formations—limestone plateaus of fossilized coral and the Aruba lava formation, the oldest—can also be seen in the rolling hills running from the park entrance to the sea and along the windward coast.

To get to and from Queen Beatrix International Airport:

There is no shuttle service provided by hotels. De Palm offers luxury bus transportation from the airport, stopping at all major hotels. Total transfer time ranges from 20 to 40 minutes. Cost is US$20.40 round trip, book online. De Palm also arranges private transfers.

Taxi fares are fixed by the government and must be on display in the vehicle. Expect a range of US$16 to US$30, depending on location (to Palm Beach is US$25). Tipping is not mandatory, but 10 to 15 per cent is appreciated. There are no unlicensed cabs in Aruba.

All major car rental agencies are here, directly across the road from arrivals. The minimum age of 21 to 25, and maximum of 65 to 70, varies by company.

There is an Arubus public bus stop on the highway across the road from the airport. It runs to the main terminal in Oranjestad, where you transfer to another bus to the hotel area (#10 or #10A to Palm Beach). Ask the driver to indicate your stop in front of the resort.

With its Dutch heritage and Latin flair, Aruba, in the Lesser Antilles just off the coast of Venezuela, is known for its poster-perfect sugary-white beaches, some of the Caribbean’s top wreck diving and, thanks to near-constant trade winds, world-class windsurfing and kite-boarding.

“Bon bini!” It means “welcome” in Papiamento, Aruba's native language, although English, Dutch and Spanish are widely spoken. Whatever your language, friendly, hospitable Arubans are eager to welcome you to their safe island home, a real blend of the South American, Caribbean and European, particularly Dutch. Pastel-painted houses and roofs make for a cheery landscape, and lots of traffic circles (“roundabouts”) remind one of Britain.

 

Aruba is one of the Caribbean’s most cosmopolitan islands. It has vibrant casinos, exclusive shops and boutiques selling international brands, outstanding international cuisine and world-class beaches, all of which are public. And almost one-fifth of the island’s area is devoted to the natural and geological wonders of Arikok National Park.

Aruba offers visitors two completely different kinds of accommodation options, most along the west coast. There’s the low-rise hotel area, with small, quiet properties fronting pristine, uncrowded beaches. Then there are the big, luxurious highrise hotels with full services and amenities sitting chock-a-block along famed Palm Beach. Whether you’re looking for action and buzz in the resort area or quiet relaxation in more natural settings, Aruba has it.

In the 2012 Travelers’ Choice awards, TripAdvisor readers voted adjoining Palm and Eagle beaches number two of 181 top worldwide beaches. This year, Aruba was also named one of the best destinations in the Caribbean by smartertravel.com, which also recognized the island for integrating culture into tourism through the weekly Carubbian Festival (see Calendar). The island also bolstered its reputation as the most fashion-forward Caribbean island with its new Aruba in Style fashion event. Fusion cuisine naturally thrives here, blending the best of Europe, the Americas and Asia with Caribbean and Aruban in more than 100 international restaurants. Best of all, you get pure drinking water straight from the tap.

It’s no wonder why over 60 per cent of visitors return to Aruba more than any other Caribbean destination.

Departing from:

ˆTotal price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions. *Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

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