17/05/2024

On The Way

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Aruba Beyond the Sun and Sand

Aruba Beyond the Sun and Sand

When someone mentions the Caribbean island of Aruba, the first things that come to mind are images of sun, white sand beaches and turquoise waters, or maybe excellent shopping in world-class boutiques, or perhaps the chance to try your luck at one of the island’s elegant casinos. But there is much more to this small island that bears a distinct mixture of Dutch, Latin American and native cultures than first meets the eye.

Only 18 miles off the coast of Venezuela, Aruba is positioned in a dry, hurricane-free zone, making it an ideal destination throughout the year. Combine its perfect, warm, breezy climate with its scenic wonders, friendly people, vibrant culture, delicious food, fine accommodations and a stimulating variety of activities and Aruba provides a guaranteed great vacation.

Aruba’s unique geography, language, music, art, cuisine, commerce and a host of other interesting features make it a great place to visit and an even better place to live.

The natural environment is one of Aruba’s most treasured assets and one that the Aruban people are dedicated to preserving. Beautiful sugar-white sand beaches and crystal clear aqua-colored water are important to Arubans and so a reef cleaning project began over a decade ago to preserve the marine environment for sunbathers, water sports enthusiasts and scuba divers alike.

The Aruba Department of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry also is involved in the preservation of the sea turtle, a species in danger of extinction.

The 3400 hectares of Arikok National Park, comprising about 17 percent of the island of Aruba, features a desert landscape with boulders, cactus, scurrying bright turquoise or green lizards, wild goats and other endangered species including the Aruban rattlesnake and parrot species. The National Park was designed in the first place for the Aruban people, to preserve the area for future generations but of course tourism has a great benefit from it as well with a visitor, hiking trails, beaches and caves where pre-Columbian glyphs can be seen.

While Arubans are working hard to preserve the natural environment they are equally dedicated to maintaining their cultural heritage. One effort is to support the language of Papiamento, a unique blending of Dutch, Spanish, English and other influences.

Aruban music has distinctive rhythms such as the walz, tumba, danza and mazurka and interesting instruments like the huiro and the tingilingi box. These can be experienced at hotels and restaurants where dancers and musicians perform as well as at the yearly Carnival celebrations and the weekly Bon Bini show at historic Fort Zoutmann in Oranjestad.

Only a short drive from Oranjestad is San Nicolas, Aruba’s second largest city, a community with its own special character. An oil refinery town which saw its heyday before the mid-1980s, San Nicolas underwent an aggressive development plan in recent years to create a better atmosphere not only for the 45 nationalities that live there, but for tourism as well. Amongst the newly renovated streets and buildings is an unusual San Nicolas treasure that alone makes the visit worthwhile, Charlie’s Bar. A family-run business for three generations its walls are plastered with license plates, artwork, sports memorabilia, marine paraphernalia, police crests, photographs of beauty contestants and virtually anything that visitors want displayed to record their visit.

Aruba boasts a variety of great restaurants. A few of them serve authentic Aruban specialties while others offer cuisine from around the world. Although Aruba is not blessed with much arable land, programs spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture have been designed to try to ensure that part of every plate that’s eaten on Aruba is grown naturally on Aruba, whether it is fruit, a goat dish, seafood or the herbs that are used to season it.

One crop that does grow well in Aruba’s dry, windy climate is the aloe vera plant. These plants are processed into two principal product lines, a hard gum for use in laxative medications and a gel which is used in various cosmetic and skin care products. A tour can be taken of an aloe vera facility to learn about the harvesting and manufacturing process.

In addition to agricultural products, another essential substance is provided to Arubans, thanks to a technological process that turns a plentiful resource into something that benefits native Arubans and tourists alike. A lack of natural fresh water requires the Arubans to obtain their drinking water through a desalination plant that converts sea water into tasty fresh water that comes out pure, right from the tap. It is not only safe to drink but has earned such rave reviews that a glass of Aruban water has been given the name Balashi Cocktail after the location of the water desalination facility.

A beautiful climate, both tropical and desert scenery, plenty of activities in and out of the water, fine food and clean, fresh drinking water are all great reasons why tourists return to Aruba again and again. To these you can add the warm Aruban people themselves whose love of their island and genuine friendliness cannot help but be expressed to visitors.