Aruba is known as "One Happy Island" for a reason, so it should come as no surprise that the Caribbean nation offers a veritable array of pleasure-inducing experiences for the tropical traveler. And though the nation's diverse geography contains a plethora of landscapes (and accompanying ambiances) for its visitors—from limestone caves to the Caribbean Sea, arid desert to natural pools—if it's a good time you're looking for, look no further than the nation's capital of Oranjestad. To that end, we rounded up the best activities to embark on during your next vacation in Oranjestad.
Stroll the City Streets
Aruba is known for its beautiful, colorful architecture, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the nation's capital. So our very first recommendation is to simply stroll outside, and peruse the gorgeous buildings and residences lining the city streets. The pastel architecture is distinct to Aruba; a reflection of its history and designation as a member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Opt for a guided tour via the Aruba Tourism Authority or just spend a morning exploring on your own.
Explore the National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum explores more than just the building styles and designs you'll find throughout Aruba (photogenic as they may be). The museum covers the history of the first humans to arrive in Aruba, which was as far back as 2500 B.C. There are artifacts from the first Amerindians from Central and South America, as well as pieces from the Caqueito habitation, which ended in 1515 when the island was conquered by Spain (and the Caqueito people enslaved.) There are colonial artifacts as well, and there is no more thorough way to learn the history of the entire island in a single afternoon.
Take a Day Trip to Arikok National Park
Speaking of learning all about Aruban history in an afternoon, head out on a full-day trip to witness living history (and remnants of the past) at Arikok National Park in Santa Cruz. Arikok is spectacular, functioning as a safe-haven for wildlife and the nation's indigenous flora and fauna (the park accounts for 20 percent of the entire island), but also as a means of preserving historic artwork and artifacts. Check out the drawings by early European settlers on the cave walls, and the artwork of Caquetio indigenous peoples before heading to the Natural Pools in the afternoon.
Attend a Bon Bini Festival at Fort Zoutman
The Fort Zoutman Historical Museum is set in Oranjestad's oldest standing building. The museum is also a welcoming point for visitors with its weekly Bon Bini Festival held every Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Visitors will get a chance to learn more about Aruba's past through its folklore and music, and also will have the opportunity to engage fully with the city's vibrant modern community. Bon Bini means "welcome," in the local Papiamento language and you will find the environment quite hospitable, indeed.
Visit a Butterfly Farm
The Butterfly Farm in Oranjestad is a beloved institution sure to delight visitors of all ages and temperaments. There is something so calming and soothing about seeing such delicate creatures up close, and you may find yourself learning a thing or two (or three) about their survival habits in the wild. The Butterfly Farm first opened in Aruba in 1999 and is home to hundreds of butterfly species from around the world.
Tour the Balashi Brewery
While we do believe it's a necessity to sample the local rum when visiting the Caribbean, there is more to the tropics—and Aruba in particular—than the sweet-but-deadly liquor. Case in point: Aruba's very own Balashi Brewery. While the hops are grown in the countryside, tastings take place in the nation's capital and are offered Monday to Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Don't let the early start time dissuade you. You're in the Caribbean (and on vacation), so it's not only 5 o'clock somewhere, it's 5 o'clock everywhere.
Hydrate with Aruban Aloe
While this may seem like a random suggestion, Aruban aloe is actually quite famous—and there is a factory and museum on-island nearby in Hato. But, if you're unwilling to dedicate an entire day to your skin's hydration (and what better means is there of self-preservation?), then check out the Aruba Aloe outpost on Caya Betico in Oranjestad and stock up on some island essentials. This is also the perfect gift shop for people looking for souvenirs to bring home to family and friends.
Eat Breakfast at the Dutch Pancakehouse
Before you leave the island, be sure to order Dutch pancakes, a signature Aruban treat, at the Dutch Pancakehouse in Renaissance Marketplace before your return home. This dish reflects the country's Dutch heritage with large, thin pancakes generously topped with fresh fruits like strawberries, brandy-soaked raisins, and bananas. There are also savory options such as bacon, leeks, or tuna salad as well as the option to create your own pancake.