The island paradise of Aruba is located in the Southern Caribbean near Venezuela and is one of the three “ABC” islands (together with Bonaire and Curacao) that boast endless white sand beaches and water activities from sailing to snorkelling and scuba-diving.
But Aruba also boasts the most repeat visitors in the Caribbean through its renown as a unique cultural destination. The former Dutch colony has a population of 100,000 derived from 40 distinct nationalities, along with a mix of native Arubans who claim Dutch, African, Spanish and Caquetio Indian ancestry.
Oranjestad, located on Aruba’s picturesque southern coast, is the historical Dutch capital city where the tall multi-coloured houses of Wilheminastraat combine carved wooden doors and traditional Dutch tiles with airy open galleries and sloping Aruba-style roofs. Along the wharf, merchants sell fresh sh and produce directly from the boats. All of Aruba’s government buildings and main building are located in the capital city.
With more than 90 nationalities on island, Aruba is a cultural melting pot, offering Amerindian, Latin and European influences found in every aspect of life – on the faces of people, in names of streets and attractions, in the four languages (Papiamento, English, Spanish and Dutch) that are spoken daily, on restaurant menus, in architectural details, in local art and music, in medicinal remedies and during holidays and celebrations.
While visitors in March can enjoy the inimitable Carnival in Aruba filled with the beat of steel drums, brass bands, calypso- inspired tunes, drum-driven tumba and road marches, year- round tourists can attend the weekly Carnival-style Carubbian Festival in downtown San Nicolas every Thursday from 6 to 10pm. Here festival-goers can enjoy live entertainment, authentic local cuisine, marketplace-style shopping and the chance to dance down the streets alongside Carnival performers donning festive face masks.
No wonder the destination is promoting itself as One Happy Island!