Aruba Area Map
On the nearly 75-square-mile, foot-shaped island of Aruba, most vacationers stick to the sugary sand strips of the southwest shore. But a few miles east they'll find the capital city and shopping and nightlife hub Oranjestad. The southeast is home to natural attractions like the Arikok National Park.
Aruba's capital city, Oranjestad, is an urban area with numerous restaurants, nightclubs and casinos. Hotels in this region tend to be cheaper than some of the beachfront properties and many especially recommend Oranjestad if you want to be close to nighttime options or upscale shopping. Oranjestad is also home to Aruba's main harbor and cruise ship terminal and historic sites like the Fort Zoutman and Willem III Tower. To see Oranjestad in a short amount of time, consider hopping on one of the newly added streetcars, which offer free, looped transportation to and from the main street downtown area and the cruise ship terminal. If you'd rather stretch your legs, you can walk, jog or bike along Linear Park, a trail that stretches from the airport along the water to downtown Oranjestad. Along the way, you'll find plenty of refreshment stands and casual eateries.
Oranjestad also plays host to the weekly Bon Bini Festival. Held every Tuesday, the festival celebrates Aruban culture music, dance and food at Fort Zoutman.
Just north of Oranjestad, Aruba has a west coast highway called the L.G. Smith Boulevard that's littered with the island's major resorts. High-rise, marquee hotels like the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino or the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino have spreads directly on the sands of Aruba's Palm Beach, also known as "High-Rise area." The properties get lower to the ground as you go into Eagle Beach or "Low-Rise area." Accommodations are slightly cheaper here, and the views are spectacular – Eagle Beach is considered one of the best shorelines on the island. Many recommend diving just offshore of this area to the Pedernales Wreck.
Spend a few days exploring inland towns like Noord (located just east of Palm Beach) and ride the area's unpaved roads toward the California Lighthouse on Aruba's northernmost tip. Along the way, you should stop at the Butterfly Farm, the unusual rock formations at Casibari and Ayó or the gold mine ruins of Seroe Gerard.
The island's southeastern coast is dominated by the Arikok National Park, which is part of an ecotourism effort to preserve Aruba's resources. Just north of Arikok National Park in the area of Santa Cruz is one of Aruba's most popular landmarks, Donkey Sanctuary Aruba. To the south of Arikok, watch the surfers along a beach called Boca Grandi or take young kids to the calmer waters of Baby Beach.
Safety has become a concern for some tourists, particularly following the disappearance of Natalee Holloway in 2005. However, Aruba continues to be a safe destination to visit. Nevertheless, stay in well-lit areas – especially in the evening and around the nightlife activities – and stick close to a friend while exploring Aruba. However, because Aruba lies outside the hurricane belt, you're less likely to have a natural disaster ruin your trip.
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