You will almost certainly be staying in likeable, laid-back Oranjestad if you stop overnight on Statia. If you are just here on a day-trip, it's well worth spending at least a couple of hours to have a good look around, and there are several places where you can get a splendid lunch.
Upper Town is where most of the (leisurely) action is, and makes for a pleasant place to wander and visit the island's museum and main colonial buildings, some of which have been beautifully restored. Linked by a footpath to Upper Town, Lower Town is the area of the old port, now home to the best local beach and further ruins of the island's once-great past.
Aruba is a Caribbean island nation modest in size but rich in natural beauty and cultural activity. Following is a city-by-city look at everything lovely about this unique tropical paradise.
Oranjestad is Aruba's glittering cultural center, replete with all manner of can't-miss attractions. You'll find illuminating museum experiences thanks to organizations such as the Aruba Historical Museum and the Aruba Numismatic Museum . One-of-a-kind oddities like the Aruba Ostrich Farm will keep kids of all ages entertained for hours on end, during which time adults of all ages can revel in theatrical spectacle at the Crystal Theater . Shoppers have a number of options to choose from, including high-end shopping complexes like Royal Plaza and Seaport Village , vibrant local marketplaces like the Tourists Go Flea Market and quaint little shops such as Artistic Boutique and Caperucita Roja . With so much to do, it can be helpful to enlist the services of local guides in seeing the whole of the island in as efficient a way as possible. Guided tours on land (courtesy of Banana Bus or Tours ABC ) or at sea (aboard one of Aruba Kayak Adventure 's trusty vessels or have an adventure with Jolly Pirates ) are fun and enlightening. After so much activity, hunger will most certainly strike. Luckily, dining in Oranjestad is a treat. Enjoy casual dining with a dash of island flare at Rumba Bar & Grill , or go upscale at French bistro Chez Mathilde .
Palm Beach is home to many of Aruba's resorts, providing tourists with calm waters and white beaches ripe for frolicking. The nearby restaurants are not to be missed and serve an array of cuisines. For Brazilian fare, head to either Amazonia Churrascaria or to Texas de Brazil Churrascaria . For quality seafood, hunker down to some grub at the Aqua Grill or at Fishes & More . Those partial to Italian should opt for a meal at Casa Tua . Get really festive with your feet in the sand at Simply Fish , where you dine right on the beach.
Just south of Palm Beach lies the coveted Eagle Beach. Though smaller in size and density, Eagle Beach nevertheless takes pride in being touted as one of Aruba's best beaches, carrying a charm all its own. It gets crowded on the weekends, but its restaurants are still a hoot. For those who prefer some French flair in their dining fare, Manchebo French Steakhouse hits the spot.
Noord is home to the northernmost area of Aruba, with the landmark California Lighthouse at the tip. Just a mite south of the lighthouse lies the green stretches of Tiera Del Sol Golf Course , with championship links. After hard drivin, golfers eat hearty at Ventanas del Mar located on the golf grounds themselves. Noord's Papiamento offers hungry patrons a wealth of international cuisine piled high on its buffet tables, from Aruban to European to Indonesian and more. Hankering for a frolic at the nearby beach? Ocean Drive provides for all of your sunbathing necessities, carrying sunglasses, sunscreen, hats, designer beachwear, the works.
San Nicolas is Aruba's second largest township. As such, it is home to everything a good "second city" should have. First and foremost among these amenities is a series of world-class sporting events. Marathonners from around the world flock to the island for the annual International Aruba Half Marathon , a run that offers challenging terrain and undeniably amazing vistas. Another kind of racing is popular here in San Nicolas, but you might say it requires a bit more octane. Hotly anticipated drag-racing events such as One Cool Summer International and the Boss Drag War Super Series are held right here in town. Time your visit right, so that you can revel in the competitive atmosphere. Whether you're here for the running or the dragging, so much excitement is bound to leave you hungry. Brisas del Mar and Charlie's are two tip-top choices for casual island fare.
Santa Cruz, near the island's center point, is home to a pair of attractions sure to impress upon every visitor the true scope of nature's wonder. The Natural Bridge , one of Aruba's most famous landmarks, today lies in ruins after an epoch of stoic steadfastness. It is a marvelous sight nonetheless. Donkey Sanctuary Aruba offers a look at a somewhat different aspect of nature's wonder, the humble donkey. Bring the kids and get close to a creature that is eminently emblematic of this part of the world.
National Park Arikok
Just a ways past Santa Cruz is Aruba's grand Arikok National Park, land of unspoiled countryside and invaluable historic sites. Bushiribana Ruins are located on the premises, and they provide a peerless view into the island's past. Quadiriki Cave delves back in time even further. Count on Rancho del Campo to provide the tour guides and vehicular conveyances that will ensure that time at the park is time well spent.
Oranjestad, being the most populous of Aruba's regions, is home to a wide variety of dining options, drawing on cuisines from all over the world.
Of all the major Caribbean islands, Aruba is closest to mainland South America. In light of that fact, a number of South American regional cuisines have gained popularity in Aruba. At El Gaucho , Argentine culinary artistry is the name of the game.
Mexico is not too far away either, so Mexican food is easy to find in Aruba.
Of course, Aruba is an island so stunningly beautiful that proximity and convenience have little to do with folks' reasons for coming here. Europeans make that great trek across the Atlantic regularly, to frolic on the island's sunny shores. Similarly, European cuisine has made the trip here as well. Chez Mathilde is a prime example of this phenomenon, providing its patrons with a mouth-watering taste of French tradition.
While Europeans might feel at home at Chez Mathilde, Americans might fit right in at Scandals , a rustic bistro-style restaurant that recalls the Mediterranean influenced contemporary menus of California and New York.
If so much highfalutin globe hopping is more than you bargained for, Oranjestad is also populated by plenty of island-style casual-dining spots, full of happy people, exotic cocktails and familiar (but sometimes Aruba-fied) pub grub. Moomba Beach Bar & Restaurant is a great place to sip drinks and scarf food outdoors in view of beautiful people and beautiful sunsets. Iguana Joe's Caribbean Bar & Grill offers a similar experience, this time indoors.
Beyond the Oranjestad city limits, lots more possibilities await:
The Aruban fixation on the steakhouses of Argentina and Brazil is in full force in Palm Beach, Amazonia Churrascaria and Texas de Brazil Churrascaria being the leaders of the pack.
Continuing the international theme of dining in Aruba, Palm Beach is also home to Casa Tua , an inviting Italian joint trafficking in pizza, pasta and a host of traditional specialties not necessarily familiar to the average joe.
Also pushing the boundaries of familiarity is Aqua Grill , an internationally renowned contemporary seafood kitchen where you can order Asian-influenced dishes right alongside those of New England and Central America.
Like Oranjestad, Palm Beach has no shortage of less formal establishments–places where you can guzzle your beverage and cut loose. Fishes & More won't let you down (the "more" referring perhaps to their intoxicatingly lengthy menu of innovative cocktails). The Tortuga Bar & Grill is even looser, affording diners and drinkers the opportunity to eat and drink right on the beach, under the sun or the stars, watching the waves crash or the sun set.
The lingering remnants of European colonialism are still in evidence in Eagle Beach - in the best way possible. As was made clear, there are steakhouses aplenty in Aruba, but Manchebo is one that adheres strictly to French tradition.
This area is home to a trio of establishments that speaks to the astonishingly wide variety of clientele present on the island. Papiamento , located in an actual Aruban manor, will surely appeal to visitors seeking an authentic island experience. The cuisine at Ventanas del Mar is first rate, but the place is located on a golf course, so it clearly caters to a specific demographic.
In San Nicolas, the culinary emphasis seems to be on leisure. Meals are not overwrought and fancy. Concepts are barely there. What you can count on is dependability and comfort. Breezy Brisas del Mar and the friendly Charlie's , are just a handful of perfectly pleasant cantinas.
Whether it's by land, sea, or air, there are plenty of fun and adventurous ways to experience this desert isle.
A trip to Aruba would not be complete without a visit to California Lighthouse , one of the Island's most famous landmarks. Located on the northern tip of Aruba, the site can be reached by car, horse or bike and is included in many of the guided tours offered on the island. Close by is Alto Vista Chapel , another popular tour stop situated on the hills just north of the town of Noord. Bushiribana Ruins are all that is left of the Aruba Island Gold Mining Company, and although its smelting days are long gone, visitors still enjoy exploring its crumbling remains. For those interested in history, the Aruba Historical Museum offers an interesting and informative look into the political past and establishment of the island, while the impressive coin collection of the Aruba Numismatic Museum tells the history of Arubia (and the rest of the world) from a different perspective. Another great museum is the Archaeological Museum of Aruba which features exhibits that highlight Aruba's interesting history.
Natural Bridge was one of the Caribbean's most famous and treasured landmarks until its collapse in 2005. Although no longer standing, it remains one of Aruba's most visited sites. Arikok National Park hosts a number of natural wonders including Quadiriki Caves , where visitors venture down dark passageways and chambers full of bats, cave paintings, and interesting coral formations. The Natural Pool , also known as the "Cura di Tortuga," is a beautiful and secluded pool and rock cliffs. Enjoy nature and go for a swim, with perhaps an adventurous dive into the pool.
Although the birds are not native to the island, Aruba Ostrich Farm offers an entertaining look at (and taste of) these prehistoric creatures. Take a short guided tour then stay and sample the best of Ostrich cuisine at their Savannah style cookout. Another non-native animal, the Donkey, now roams freely on the island although it once played a key role in Arubian society. Donkey Sanctuary Aruba rehabilitates sick and injured donkeys, giving visitors the opportunity to interact with and learn about the animals. The Butterfly Farm is fun for young and old, offering informative 20-30 minute tours and housing dozens of species from all over the world.