Oranjestad - Abbey Travel, Ireland



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Welcome to Oranjestad


Aruba's capital, Oranjestad, is the first stop for most visitors. Its small harbour, once reserved for schooners and fishing boats, now attracts cruise ships from all over the world, and the island's Queen Beatrix airport is located just south of the city. Despite the thousands of tourists that pour into the town it has managed to retain its traditional charm.

Oranjestad's downtown streets are lined with pastel-coloured Dutch colonial houses adorned with ornate gable roofs, and the average tourist will be unaware that many are recent imitations. The presence of many an orange coloured façade, too, not only points to the capital's name, but to the island's connection to the Netherlands and William of Orange, a Dutch monarch instrumental in the gaining of Dutch independence

A highlight in Oranjestad is the Archaeological Museum, with exhibits on Aruba's original Arawak inhabitants and, in the restored 18th-century Fort Zoutman, the Museo Arubano displays Aruba's pre-European and colonial eras. The Numismatic Museum has a large collection of coins from over 400 countries, many salvaged from shipwrecks in the surrounding area. The fort itself is one of Oranjestad's most popular attractions, and built in 1796, it played a pivotal role in battles between Curaçao and British troops in 1803. In the late 1800s, the Willem III tower (named after the Dutch king at the time) was added to act as a lighthouse.

Although shoppers will find central Oranjestad packed with boutiques, shopping complexes and glitzy 24-hour casinos, it is possible to escape this tourist zone and discover the more authentic town with its lively, if slightly run-down bars where one can enjoy a quiet beer and meet the locals.

Information & Facts


Oranjestad has a temperate climate with average daily highs reaching 82°F (28°C). The temperature never gets too high due to the cooling trade winds, but the best time to visit Oranjestad is in peak tourist season between mid-December and mid-April. Rainfall is infrequent, but likely to occur between October and January, if at all.

The official language in Aruba is Dutch but English and Spanish are taught in school and are also widely spoken. Some French is also understood. Most islanders also speak the native language Papiamento.

The official currency is the Aruban Florin (AWG), which is divided into 100 cents. The Florin is tied to the US Dollar. US currency is accepted everywhere and other major currencies can be exchanged at banks. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted and there are ATMs in Oranjestad. Travellers cheques are also widely accepted and it is best to have cheques in US dollars or Euros to avoid additional charges.

Local time in Aruba is GMT -4.

Arikok National Park encompasses a significant chunk of the interior and a long stretch of the northern coast. The park has miles of well-marked hiking trails and this, for most, is the best way to discover its attraction. Between the towering cacti and the contorted divi-divi trees can be found the best preserved Indian cave paintings on the island, deserted plantation houses, and the ruins of an old gold mine. Within the park is Mount Jamanota, which at 620ft (188m) is Aruba's biggest hill. From the top one can enjoy good views of the island and on a clear day one can see across to Venezuela. At the southern reaches of the park are the Guadirkiri Caves and the Tunnel of Love. Legend has it that the headstrong daughter of an Indian Chief was trapped here with an unsuitable suitor and left to perish but their love-boosted spirits shot through the roof of the cave and into heaven.

Just north of the capital, Aruba's best stretch of beaches extend four miles (7km) between Eagle Beach and Palm Beach. The endless fine, golden sand and the crystal-clear shallow waters have not surprisingly attracted the crowds and with them the high-rise, luxury hotel complexes that line the beach. There are no shortage of bars and restaurants to choose from and beachgoers are able to hire all sorts of toys including kayaks, windsurfers, snorkelling gear and catamarans. North of Palm Beach are some colourful reefs and shipwrecks to entice divers and snorkellers. Diving trips, windsurfing and sailing lessons can be arranged through most hotels. For those looking to take a break from the beach, distractions include the nearby Butterfly Farm and the Bubali Bird Sanctuary, a small marshland where visitors can view hundreds of species of migratory waterfowl including coots, cormorants, terns and herons. A favourite place to enjoy the sunset is at the restaurant by the California lighthouse on the northern tip of the island. The lighthouse was built after the British steamship, the California, ran aground here in 1891.

Also known as 'Conchi' or 'Cura di Tortuga', Aruba's Natural Pool is a must-see tourist attraction. Formed from a depression in the surrounding volcanic rock, and filled by the spray of the tide smashing into the deserted coastline below, the Natural Pool is a unique geological formation, and a tranquil place to spend the day swimming in communion with the natural world. The pool is situated in the heart of Aruba's most rugged terrain, and is inaccessible by car; however, visitors can hire or charter a Jeep to take them there, or hike there, or (most romantic of all) get there on horseback. The sense of discovery, in 'finding' the Natural Pool in the midst of the rocky, almost lunar landscape, is second-to-none. Visitors are strongly advised to get in touch with island legend Madi, who runs successful guided tours to Conchi from the comfort of her Jeep.

In 1955, Aruban resident Mario Odor - while digging in his garden - unearthed two rare 18th Century coins. So began a hobby that has transformed into a remarkable public display, of nearly 40,000 coins and bank notes from all over the world. Opened in 1981, Aruba's Numismatic Museum is a winning tourist attraction, and a fascinating insight into the history of modern civilisation. The expertly-organised, meticulously-ordered collections allow visitors to view currency used by the Roman and Byzantine empires, Chinese and Indian dynasties, Feudal Europe, and even 'special issues' used in Nazi concentration camps. Guided tours are also available, run by informed and enthusiastic numismatists. Although Mr. Odor has sadly passed away, his amazing collection lives on, leaving visitors to Aruba with a renewed appreciation of the world's economic history.

The industrial centre of Aruba, San Nicolas is the island's oldest and largest town. Until the late 19th century it was a small fishing village but all this changed with the mining of phosphate on the island, and more recently the discovery of oil off the coast of Venezuela. The town provides a glimpse of old British-Caribbean charm and contains a handful of restaurants and shops. There are a few popular beaches to the east of the town that offer good swimming and snorkelling opportunities and are suitable for families.

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