[wiki=7f366dfba82668478b61e2b3aad85eb4]Oranjestad[/wiki] - Capital
Aruba exists outside the right to abode laws of the [wiki=912d59cdf1d3f551fae21f6f0062258f#Get around]Schengen Area[/wiki] therefore Schengen E.U. freedom of movement laws don't apply to Aruba
Like most Caribbean islands, Aruba's transportation network consists primarily of two-lane paved roads.
Oranjestad is often jammed with traffic when Aruba is full of tourists, which means that if you are staying north of Oranjestad, you must budget at least an hour each way to transit through Oranjestad. A glance at the map will reveal several possibilities for going around the worst of the traffic by heading inland, but there aren't any really good shortcuts, just long detours where the time spent going out of your way to bypass Oranjestad is almost as long as the time it would have taken you to just sit through bumper-to-bumper traffic passing through it.
You can conveniently get around Aruba by car, bus, or by foot. As a tourist, it is not completely necessary to rent a car because many restaurants, beaches, and shopping areas are within walking distance. If something is not within walking distances, taxis are always available and the ride is never very long. There is also a bus line that can take you close to major tourist areas.
Languages spoken are Dutch (official), Papiamento, (also official) (a creole of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch origin), Spanish, and English (widely spoken).
Natural Pool (Conchi) - On the northern side of the island and only accessible via ATV or Trail Rated 4x4. This is a small pool of water hidden in natural rock formation that jut into the ocean, just off the shore of Aruba. This location makes for a great day trip - make sure your vehicle has a spare tire.
*California Lighthouse - On the northernmost tip of the island. Many scenic views and is also the location where you can access the dirt trails to travel down the northern shores of Aruba.
*Our Lady of Alto Visto Chapel - On the northern side of the island. The chapel is very picturesque and historic.
*Aruba Aloe Factory - You can take a short tour and learn some interesting facts about aloe farming, production and uses.
*Casibari Rock & Ayo Rock Formations - You can climb and explore these formations, the tops of which provide a great view of the countryside.
*Natural Bridge @ Boca Andicuri - There are 7 "Natural Bridges" in Aruba. The original (biggest and most famous bridge that people are referring to when they say Natural Bridge) collapsed in 2005 leaving a pile of rubble in the bay. There is a smaller bridge right next to the fallen bridge that still stands.
*Bushiribban Gold Mill / Smelting Station - The ruins of the smelting station are the way to the Natural Bridge. Climbing the ruins you can get great photos of the coastline.
*Aruba Ostrich Farm - The tour walks you around the ostrich pens and incubator. The Aruba farm is more for educating people, while the meat that is used for food in Aruba actually comes from the sister island of Curacao. (Ostrich is a red meat, which is high in protein and low in fat.)
*Boca Catalina and the Antilla Shipwreck - These are 2 of the many sites snorkel tours will take you. The Antillla Shipwreck is the remains of a scuttled 400-foot German cargo ship that was anchored off of Aruba during WW2. Antilla is the largest shipwreck in the Caribbean. It was thought that this ship was supplying German U-Boats in the [wiki=2c00d92b3645fe19894bf62050fadf47]Caribbean[/wiki] and after [wiki=a67d4cbdd1b59e0ffccc6bafc83eb033]The Netherlands[/wiki] was invaded in 1940, the captain was given notice to surrender the ship. Instead of surrendering the ship to the Dutch Marines the captain sunk the ship by blowing up the boilers. (The crew swam to shore, and were taken POW and shipped to [wiki=f8fb630761879fbed2ac608fd96d36bf]Bonaire[/wiki].) The joke you will hear is "They did not want to surrender the cargo and they also wanted to provide future tourists with a site to see." The remains are off of Malmok beach. After the war, the captain and his crew purchased their former POW camp and converted it into a hotel. Today the site is the Divi Flamingo resort. This shipwreck can be explored either by diving or by submarine.
*Arikok National Park - The park consists of lava formations, a quartz diorite formation and a limestone formation extending inward from the coastline. These formations have played a pivotal role in the history of Aruba.
*The Palm Island
*Hooiberg (Haystack Mountain) a.k.a simply "the Haystack" - Standing over 500 feet, the haystack is in the center of the country and provides a breathtaking view of Aruba. People suggest going on a cool & clear day because it will be easier to climb the 561 steps required to reach the top and you can see the coast of [wiki=e95294b730f61c8175550ec244bfcb50]Venezuela[/wiki] to the south!
*Butterfly Farm - set in a tropical atmosphere, tour guides at the Butterfly Farm will elucidate butterfly habits and metamorphosis.
*Bubali Bird Sanctuary - over 80 species of migratory birds reside in the sanctuary. Get the best view of the birds, by using the observation tower.
*De Oude Molen/ Windmill First built in 1804 in Holland then shipped to Aruba in 1906.
*A home for many rescued donkeys, who roam wild on Aruba and are often killed by cars or dogs. Staffed by volunteers who offer information about the donkeys and the sanctuary program. For a small fee, you can feed the donkeys pellets or apples--petting them is free! All proceeds from the feeding program and the small but well-stocked gift shop are used to care for and rescue the donkeys.
Most stores open from 9 AM to noon or 1 PM and from 2 PM to 6:30 PM, although some remain open between noon and 2 PM. Shops are open from Monday to Saturday. Hotel stores have varying open hours so check at your hotel for these. Along Palm Beach hotel area the stores are open to 10 PM.
Above all, it appears that Arubans are very aware that their economy is completely dependent on tourism - so Arubans are polite to tourists, and even street vendors don't generally seek to rip off their customers (though as in all traveling, don't let advice like this lull you into a sense of complacency). This may be helped by the fact that Aruba is a relatively expensive place to visit, so it tends to attract the reasonably well-off.
American dollars are accepted virtually everywhere at a decent exchange rate. If you have U.S. dollars, there is no need to change money into the local currency, the Aruban florin. The current exchange rate (as of April 2014) given in shops is about 1.79 florins to the dollar. Because the island is a Dutch dependency, the Dutch currency (i.e., Euros) is easy to spend, and small change for purchases in dollars may be in florins. The island is actually not duty-free, but merchants respond well to competition on other islands, and duty free goods are offered by a few shops at the airport as visitors depart.
Oranjestad's waterfront features many vendors/stalls selling souvenirs. Ironically, many of these souvenirs are imported from the United States with island scenes/slogans, only to be purchased by Americans and brought back to America. Experienced Mexican and Caribbean tourists may recognize some souvenirs as bearing generic island-themed designs which are lightly customized for each major Mexican and Caribbean destination.
In Oranjestad, the Renaissance Mall contains various American and European major luxury brands of apparel and jewelry (i.e. Tommy Hilfiger, Polo Ralph Lauren, Gucci) at essentially the same prices as in the United States, which raises the obvious question of why they are in Aruba in the first place (since most American or European shoppers wealthy enough to buy such goods would simply buy them at home anyway). The reason is that they are catering to Aruba's large numbers of South American visitors. Most luxury brands have traditionally refrained from entering South America (or have entered and retreated) due to the political and economic instability of the region. Aruba is a good compromise location as it has a relatively stable, functioning government and is very close to South America.
If you are not looking to go to an indoor mall, Caya GF Betico, is an open shopping area. This is a popular street in Aruba that is filled with luxury stores, souviener shops, jewelers, boutiques, shoe stores, and much more. You can find almost anything you need here on this street. It is recommended that you come to these shops during the early morning or late afternoon, as many of the stores are closed around lunch time.
You'll find strip malls and grocers at modest (not easily walked) distances west of downtown and elsewhere. They offer almost everything a visitor or resident might need for short stays or living in Aruba. Groceries and other supplies are all imported, so prices tend to be very high. You can catch the bus from the hotel areas to the largest supermarket, Super Food, which is about 10 mins from Eagle and Palm Beaches.
With numerous cruise ships visiting, downtown stores offer buys in jewelry, etc., typical of that in other Caribbean cruise ports, some at "duty free" prices. For cheese lovers, mild Dutch Gouda, in boxes or wheels, is a popular buy in supermarkets, though not the great bargain it used to be. Do ensure the integrity of the package seal from the maker to avoid spoilage and difficulty at customs inspection.
If you've flown to the island, the airport duty-free store offers alcohol at one liter per person tax free. This is a significant savings over purchasing alcohol at the hotels or downtown.
Many chain restaurants, both fast food and upscale, from the United States are present in Aruba (i.e. Texas de Brazil, Wendy's, Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Hooters, Subway, Tony Romas). You'll find some downtown, and many near the large resort hotels.
The upscale restaurants near resorts vary in quality as there are a limited number of them and they have a steady stream of tourist customers, as they advertise in pamphlets available in the hotels. The fast food places are essentially no different than their American counterparts.
Gianni’s Group is a collection of five different resturants, Daniel’s Steak and Chop, Gianni’s Ristorante Italiano, Azzurro, Azia, and Amore Mio Pizzeria. These restaurants have mainly Italian food, but you can also get seafood, steak, pizza, sandwiches, and more. The restaurants range in prices. For a party of two at Amore Mio Pizzeria you can look to spend under $50 for an appetizer, beverages (non-alcoholic), and two meals. At Gianni’s Ristorante Italiano, for a party of two, you are looking to spend closer to $80.
Also good are some of the local fare restaurants. While obviously relying on tourist income, good food can be had. Nos Cunucu is a good example of such. With meals like the traditional baked cheese and some more interesting items such as Iguana soup. Don't be afraid to eat at random bars and such along the road, (with normal caution of course). Good food can be had for relatively low cost. These pander to locals.
Due to the proximity of ostrich farms, foods such as ostrich burgers are widely available. There are also numerous seafood restaurants which serve locally caught seafood.
For those staying near Eagle and Palm Beach the new Super Food grocery store offers excellent food choices for those that do not want to eat out every night. They sell both American and European fare, with certain US specific foods being more expensive. You can get an excellent selection of beef and chicken as well as pork products. They also sell beer, hard liquor as well as beauty products (sunscreen). With cab fare ranging from $9 to $12 (from Eagle and Palm Beach Hotels) this can be an excellent choice. [http://www.superfoodaruba.com][http://www.wakawakaaruba.com]
By the glass, sixpack or case, imported dutch beers are relatively good buys. Balashi Beer - Aruba's National Beer...a must-drink beverage, perfect after spending all day at the beach. Don't, however, confuse it with a "Balashi Cocktail", which is a local term for the equally enjoyable Aruban water. Founded in 1996, the name Balashi is derived from the words Bala Bala and Balana and means "near the sea." It is the only beer brewed on the island of Aruba. Daily tours of the brewery are available with an open-aired bar and restaurant on the premises. Balashi Brewery / Tel. 592-2544 / 523-6544. Balashi Gardens open from 6:30AM - 4:00PM. Tours Monday - Friday. There is also a Balashi logo store, with mostly t-shirts, and a few other things located on L.G. Smith Boulevard, right before the Harley shop and after the Caribbean Mercantile Bank. Very easy to miss but worth a trip if you enjoyed the Balashi! There is also a drive-thru beverage store next door that is nifty.
Gusto is a nightclub in the Palm Beach area of Aruba. This is a nightclub for people of all ages. They have a DJ every night and they make both classic and original drinks, with happy hour (half off drinks) between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Senor Frogs is located right across the street from Gusto Nightclub. Senor Frogs tailors more for a younger crowd. They also have a full food menu and are open all day long.
There are an array of resorts located all over the island. See the individual city articles for listings.
Aruba offers many options for sleeping arrangements. There are both hotels in downtown as well as on the beach. Some of the Hotels include; a Holiday Inn, Marriot, as well as some small local places. There is a Holiday Inn located next to the Marriot in which they share the same beach (Palm Beach). However, the Marriot is the only resort that offers a timeshare within their premise. There are two timeshare "clubs" apart of the Marriot. One is the Ocean Club which has been around for quite some time. The second is the Surf Club which was built in more recent years. The Marriot includes three swim up bars and a lazy river as well as two gyms and a casino.[http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/auaao-marriotts-aruba-ocean-club/]
The Divi Resorts in Aruba consist of three individual resorts. The Divi Aruba Phoenix, which is located in the Palm Beach area closer to nightlife and shopping. The Divi Village Golf and Beach Resort is located right across from Eagle Beach and around a golf course. The Divi Village has luxury suites and private villas available for stay. The Divi Dutch Village is right on Eagle Beach with an all-inclusive option available. Every room is equipped with a kitchen and living room; many rooms even have balconies with garden views. Together, Divi has 10+ pools, full beach access, access to pool games, golf, tennis, spas, 12 restaurants, and 11 bars. [http://www.diviresorts.com]
There are two private, but IMED approved, medical schools on the island that prepare students for practice in the United States. These are Aureus University School of Medicine and Xavier University School of Medicine (XUSOM).
A working permit is required to work in Aruba.
Aruba is generally a very safe place at any time of day or night. However, it would probably be wise to stay away from the area surrounding the Valero refinery on the southeast part of the island at night (in the words of a Valero employee, "you will get some undesirables down there at night"). There is generally no reason for a tourist to go there at all anyway, so this likely will not be an issue.
While rarely enforced, all drug abuse - including cannabis - is illegal.
Also be aware tourists have been targeted, and there have been many stolen cars recently. In the Malmok beach area, just beyond the high rise 5 rental cars were stolen in 1 night.
The running water in Aruba is absolutely safe to drink.
It is referred to as "Sweet Water" because it is very good.
The main 280-bed hospital is well-equipped both as regards staff and equipment. Oxygen tanks and hemodialysis services are available. Hotels have doctors and dentists on call and appointments can also be arranged through your hotel. Several other medical clinics also exist on the island.
Nature is very cherished by the Aruban people. 18% of their island is dedicated to the Arikok National Park.
After your stay in Aruba, you may never want to leave. All vacations must come to an end so when it does, your way out of Aruba is the same way you came in, by plane or boat. Don't forget you passport and other travel documents!