Oranjestad : The Capital City of Aruba

Oranjestad is the capital of Aruba, a Dutch island in the Caribbean Sea. It is located on the south coast area near the west end of the island country. The town came into being after Fort Zoutman was built in 1796 and is named after King Wiliam I of Netherlands. Due to its numerous beaches, it is a popular destination for water sports. The town has so much to offer for the entire family, from shopping sprees, dining, cultural activities, and park picnics. Let’s explore places in this beautiful town that are a must stop by while in Aruba.

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Oranjestad : The Capital City of Aruba:table of contents

1. Fort Zoutman

Photo by Roger W

This is Aruba’s oldest building and dates back to 1798 when it was built by the Dutch army to protect the city from pirates. In 1868, the Willem III Tower was added to its west side whose purpose was to house the town bell, purposed to be rung every hour. Both the fort and the tower were later restored and officially reopened in 1983 as the Aruba Historical Museum. The Museum is now open to the public with exhibits covering the early history and development of Aruba. Every Tuesday, it hosts the Boni Bini festival, a year-round folkloric celebration that showcases the Aruban Culture. Guests get to enjoy local cuisine, art, and dance.

2. Hooiberg (The Haystack)

Photo by David Stanley

Hooiberg is a volcanic formation standing 165m high at the center of Aruba Island which makes it easy to sight from anywhere on the island. Its name literally translates to Haystack in Dutch as it is said to resemble a haystack. It is covered with divi-divi trees, cacti and the kibrahacha trees that flourish during the rainy season and decorate the mountain with yellow flower. A discovery by geologists reveals that the mountain is composed of a variety an igneous rock known as quartz diorite, found only in Aruba. This distinctive rock variety was named Hooibergiet, after the mountain.While there, take the staircase with approximately 587 concrete steps leading to the top of the mountain and enjoy panoramic views of the island. Midway the steps is a gazebo that acts as a relaxation spot as you ascend the mountain. A depiction of the mountain is available on the Aruban Coat of Arms.

3. National Archaeological Museum Aruba

Photo by commons.wikimedia.org

The Archaeological Museum of Aruba was opened in 1981 then later moved to a new location and reopened as the National Archeological Museum Aruba in 2009. It has collections covering 2500 BCE all the way to the 19th century the give visitors an insight into the origin and culture of the first people to inhabit the island through archeological objects. It also hosts lectures, workshops, educational projects, and tours.

4. Palm Island

This is a small private island, 5-minute ferry ride away from the mainland. It has a small beautiful beach and a water park. The most amazing thing about this place is that you can take the Sea Trek underwater helmet walk. This allows you to experience sea life through a walkway placed below the surface, feed the fish and see the man-made reef.Palm Island is a unique coral island offering boundless activities to visitors of all kinds be it a family vacation or romantic getaway you will not want to leave once there.

5. SS Antilla

Launched in 1939, SS Antilla was a cargo ship on the America Hamburg line built to facilitate trade between the Caribbean and Germany. It took its maiden voyage on July 15th, 1939. During the World War II, Germany invaded Netherlands straining relations between the two countries. The Antilla at this time was anchored at the coast of Aruba, a part of the Netherlands Kingdom. The captain of the ship upon orders by the Dutch to surrender the ship decided to scuttle it in the year 1940. The entire wreckage is 400 feet long and covered by coral formations, tropical fish, lobsters, shrimps and other marine life. Currently the largest shipwreck dive in the Caribbean, it’s eerie and awe-inspiring, to say the least!

6. Aloe Museum

Founded in 1890 by Cornelis Eman, it is the oldest Aloe Company in the world and one of the first companies to formulate and produce aloe-based skin and hair products. The Aloe Museum in Aruba has a 160-year history in the cultivation of aloe. Inside the museum is a factory that provides insight into the production process of Aruba Aloe. The factory holds guided tours every 15 minutes through the testing lab, cutting and filling rooms, packing, and storage areas. Aruba Aloe Balm N.V. opened up its first retail location in 2000 which is located on the premises of Aruba Aloe's vast aloe fields in Hato. Its collection of stores has now grown to 16 stores throughout Aruba. A presentation in audiovisual that is 11 minutes long takes you down memory lane on how the Aloe Brand of Aruba came into being. Archived artifacts, Aloe products and processes involved in the production of aloe-based skin care are also showcased.

7. Alhambra Casino

A few steps away from the magnificent beauty of Eagle Beach's white sands is Alhambra Casino, a standard casino featuring table games and slot machines. It has existed for over 20yrs and has over 460 states of the art slot machines making it Aruba’s hottest gaming destination. Adjacent to the casino is various restaurants and shopping stores where visitors can indulge in shopping sprees and dining.

8. Cas Di Cultura

Cas Di Cultura is Aruba’s national theater since 1958. Managed by the Stichting Schouwburg Aruba (SSA), a non-profit organization, it was built to safeguard the community’s promotion and continuation of development of its cultural life. The contemporary building known as “Cultureel Centrum” in Dutch was formally opened on 15th November 1958. It later changed its name to Cas di Cultura. Local festivals take place here with local and international artists performing in the theater throughout the year.

9. Casibari Rock Formations

Photo by Fotos593/

Just north of the Hooiberg lies the Casibari rock formations which are enormous rock clusters which rise from the desert soil to create peculiar forms and weigh several tons. Aruba’s government has seen the creation of beautiful trails and steps around the rocks where hikers can walk to reach the highest point and enjoy stunning views of the island beneath. The scenic views are worth the climb.

10. Mopa Mopa

This is an Art gallery in Oranjestad, Aruba that produces handmade wooden goods. Each piece of Mopa Mopa is unique and produced through a complex process that is a natural barrier to any duplication or counterfeiting. The historical background that adorns each masterpiece makes them exceptional and one of a kind. The buds of the mopa mopa tree are boiled until they become a resin that is stretched, cut and inlaid in wood to create beautiful designs. These unique mopa mopa art pieces include boxes, trays, and masks. The Mopa Mopa store got its name from the principal component in the Barniz de Pasto procedure that produces the ancient art/crafts and has since been visited by tourists from all over the world. The art embodies centuries-old decorative hand crafted art that originated in the Amazon. Mopa Mopa handmade art works are a unique souvenir to take home to loved ones and will be treasured additions to your home. The prices are extremely reasonable for the uniqueness and quality of the items.

◎ Closing

Oranjestad holds historical evidence of Aruba’s resilient past and is developing rapidly. It blends the old and the new into a unique distinctive charm dotted with fascinating refurbished landmark buildings, restaurants, cafes, clubs, casinos, parks and fashion stores.
Its nightlife is as good as is the day and worth your every penny!

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