Cruising to Oranjestad, Aruba: One Happy Island
Oranjestad, Aruba, known for its gorgeous beaches and turquoise coast, is often referred to as “one happy island”. It is one of the most beautiful Caribbean destinations I have been to and home to some of the best beaches in the world. Palm Beach, with its white talc sand, is bustling with luxury resorts and water sports, namely windsurfers.
Aruba’s beauty is still unsurpassed by most other islands, although a bit “Americanized” for my taste. In the northern part of the island, coves cut out of limestone stagger the coastline because the water is terribly rough. I was once on a deep-sea fishing trip in Aruba, but because of the massive waves and turbulent ride, asked the captain to turn the boat and cancel our excursion.
Aruba’s Main Tourist Attractions
The first shopping complex you will see upon exiting the cruise terminal in Oranjestad, Aruba will be the Port of Call Marketplace, and there are several more throughout town. Running along the downtown waterfront, L.G. Smith Boulevard welcomes you with hundreds of shops and restaurants.
Popular souvenirs to purchase are Delft porcelain, Dutch cheeses, and the exquisite Alexandrite jewel. You can find Alexandrite at the cruise recommended Columbian Emeralds or Diamonds International stores. Do not be expecting to find deep pocket discounts on anything in Aruba, prices are the same as in the United States.
If you are looking to do the cheesy Caribbean island touristy things, include a visit to Señor Frogs on Eagle Beach or Carlos & Charlie’s, which features live entertainment daily. The overpriced food is mediocre at best and the drinks watered down, but you are sure to have fun. Both establishments offer cool t-shirts to take home as souvenirs.
On Eagle Beach, you can spot the famous divi-divi tree with its twisted and puzzling branches. A famous Aruba landmark, the California Lighthouse, is named after a ship that sank in the year 1910. The lighthouse is located near Arashi Beach where La Trattoria el Faro Blanco Restaurant overlooks the beach and lighthouse, offering a delicious lunch stop. A favorite local dish is pastiches, which are Antillian meat turnovers with dried fruits and spices.
Ostriches in Aruba?
On one trip to Aruba, my friend, Julie, and I opted for the Aruba Ostrich Farm excursion offered by the cruise ship. At the ostrich farm, we had a twenty minute guided tour that included a chance to feed the ostriches with help from the guides. Julie did this and it looked horribly scary because the ostriches were very strong and reckless when food was involved.
The farm has baby ostriches, and they were just darling. We had a bit of time to explore on our own, grab a drink or snack from the restaurant (serving drinks and ostrich meat-themed dishes), or visit the African artifacts gift shop. If you are doing the tour on your own and not with the cruise line, admission is quite affordable
Fun fact: The ostrich is the largest and heaviest bird in the world and can run up to 70 MPH.
Aruba’s Natural Beauty
Our tour’s next stop was to the naturally formed limestone bridge. This one hardly compared to the original natural bridge, four times its size, that collapsed in 2005. Stack a rock on the rock towers near the beach and make a wish while you are there. Pay toilets are available for $1 per person.
Along the way, we saw many wild donkeys roaming the streets. The tour was just mediocre. I would rather have enjoyed the beautiful Aruba beaches for much cheaper.
A Brief History Lesson
Aruba was settled as early as 1000 AD, by the Arawak Indian tribe. The first European to discover Aruba was Alonso de Djeda, who colonized the island for Spain in 1499. The Dutch later took over. In 1986, Aruba seceded from the northern Antilles and became an independent member, one of the four that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
These four constituent counties all share the Dutch nationality. They form the group referred to as the ABC islands, together with Bonaire and Curacao.
FYI: Aruba’s flag has a Union Jack red star with white outline and 2 parallel yellow stripes along the bottom of the blue flag.
Oranjestad, Aruba Photo Gallery:
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