Aruba is 20 miles long and six miles wide and is only 15 miles from the Venezuelan coast.
Aruba was first settled by an Amerindian tribe called the Caiquetos, a branch of the Arawak people who crossed the narrow stretch of water between the island and the South American coast. Rock paintings and fragments of pottery dating from around A.D. 1,000 have been found at ancient sacred sites and Indian villages in different parts of the island.
The first European to visit Aruba was the Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda in 1499. He claimed it for the Spanish Crown although on later reconnaissance visits, the Spanish dubbed Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire, "las islas inutiles," the "useless islands" due to their barren soils, inhospitable appearance and the absence of minerals. They established a foothold on the island and enslaved the Indian inhabitants, shipping them to Santo Domingo to work in mines and on estates in 1515. The survivors returned 12 years later to serve a handful of Spanish colonists who had begun to settle the island.
In 1636, the Dutch seized Aruba and held it until 1805 when it briefly fell to the British during the Napoleonic Wars (it was returned to the Dutch in 1816). In 1754, the number of European settlers started to increase. They earned a living from horse, cattle and goat breeding, fishing and trade until the discovery of gold on the island in 1824 triggered a gold rush. The name Aruba is derived from the words "ore"and "ruba" or red gold.
The gold proved to be limited and the mines were exhausted by 1916. In an attempt to diversify the island economy, aloe vera plantations were established, phosphate deposits were mined and an oil refinery was opened in 1927 in San Nicolas. After the closure of the refinery in 1985, Aruba switched wholeheartedly to tourism.
In 1986, Aruba won its independence from The Netherlands Antilles and has status aparte or autonomy within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
You can catch a bus to Oranjestad from Eagle Beach. Ask at the Front Desk for the schedule
The most recent island census puts the population at 90,000, from 40 different nationalities.
While most people on Aruba speak English and some Spanish, the official island languages are Dutch and Papiamento, a Creole language which is a blend of Spanish, Portuguese, African, Dutch, French, English and even Amerindian words. Derived from the Portuguese verb "papear," which means "to speak," Papiamento originated during the slavery era as a pidgin lingo used by estate overseers to communicate with workers from different West African tribes with no shared language. Papiamento was first mentioned in historical documents describing life on Curaçao in the early 18th century.
The Aruban currency is the florin or guilder (Afl. or Awg.) with denominations of 10,25, 50, 100 and 500 in notes and silver coins or cents of 5, 10, 25, 50, 1.00 and 5.00. Dollars and Euros are widely accepted and there are ATMS throughout the island. Banks are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday to Friday. All major credit cards are accepted.
Aruba shops are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Saturday and some close for lunch from noon to 2 p.m. Mall opening hours are 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and some of the larger stores open on Sundays.
In keeping with other Caribbean nations, Carnival season is taken very seriously and the whole island celebrates in an outburst of music, dance and song. Don't miss the colorful parades and street parties.
The year-round temperature is 82 F, rainfall is limited and the island lies in the course of the northeasterly trade winds.
An Aruban landmark, the Divi Divi or Watapana is a native species of tree that is stunted and bent by the trade winds.
Aruba boasts the second largest desalination plant in the world and the water is completely safe to drink from the tap.