Aruba is a 33-kilometer-long (20 mi) island of the Lesser Antilles, located 27 kilometers (17 miles) north of Venezuela. It is flat riverless island with a few hills, and an arid cactus-strewn landscape. The highest point is Mount Jamanota, at 188 meters (620 feet). Aruba has a long history as a transshipment point for oil from Venezuela. In 2012, Valero Energy Corporation announced it would suspend refining operations and downgrade its Valero Refining Company-Aruba to a terminalling operation.
Aruba has no Biosphere Reserves, nor IUCN members. The main provision for wildlife conservation in Aruba is Parke Nacional Arikok (administered by the Fundacion Parke Nacional Arikok), covering Mount Jamanota. A number of other “protected areas” exist, such as the “Spanish Lagoon” (Het Spaans Lagoen) Ramsar site and the Bubali Bird Sanctuary. Aruba Birdlife Conservation has been involved with a number of successful conservation efforts in Aruba. Birds of Aruba is a website for Aruba-bound birders. The Donkey Sanctuary Aruba is an ever popular attraction, by donation, and provides opportunities for volunteers. Begun as a private rescue operation, Philips Animal Garden Aruba has grown into a collection of more than 52 different species. Animal Rights Aruba is a local NGO that aims to protect all fauna, flora and marine life on and around the island.
The Hooiberg, or “haystack” mountain, provides a popular day hike. Makuaku Hiking Tours Aruba guided birding tours and nature walks around the island. Horseback riding is available from Rancho Notorious, home of Aruba’s “happy horses”. Segway Tours Aruba offers another way to explore the island’s best places. On the water, there is Aruba Kayak Adventure, as well as Aruba Surf School, ArubaKite kitesurfing school, and Stand Up Paddle Aruba for paddle surfing lessons and rentals. Mi Dushi is a 24 meter (80 foot) wooden sailing ship built in 1925 offering barefoot adventures.
Palm Island is something like an underwater theme park, featuring the Sea Trek underwater cafe. Snuba, a portmanteau of “snorkel” and “scuba”, is a form of surface-supplied diving, and available from De Palm Tours Aruba and Unique Sports of Aruba. Aruba Bob Snorkeling offers Bladefish Seajet underwater scooters. Island dive shops include Aruba Dive Center, Aruba Red Sail Sports, JADS Dive Center and Mermaid Dive Center. The WWII era MS Antilla and SS Pedernales are popular wreck diving sites.
Aruba was discovered and claimed for Spain in 1499, but ultimately acquired by the Dutch in 1636. The island’s economy has been dominated by a 19th century gold rush, followed by prosperity brought on by the opening in 1924 of an oil refinery, and a boom in the tourism industry during the last decades of the 20th century. In 1986, Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles and became a separate, autonomous member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. A movement towards full independence was halted at Aruba’s request in 1990.
In addition to oil, Aruba has been known as a transshipment point for illegal drugs going to Europe. There have been two high profile reports of American women missing in Aruba, Natalee Holloway in May 2005 and Robyn Gardner in August 2011. Holloway’s father co-authored the 2006 book, Aruba: The Tragic Untold Story of Natalee Holloway and Corruption in Paradise. In 2012, the novel Dark Currents appeared, inspired by the story of Robyn Gardner. The main lessons that can be taken from these cases are that drinks should be watched closely when out partying, and proceed with caution in unknown seas. The Dutch Antilles are also known for the only officially regulated sex industry in the Caribbean, though mainly in Curaçao and Sint Maarten, and concomitant human trafficking. Aruba is known as a gay friendly cruise port, since same-sex sexual activity is legal.
Papiamento is the most widely spoken language on the ABC islands, and has official status on Aruba. It is a creole language, derived from African languages and either Portuguese or Spanish, with influences from Amerindian languages, English, and Dutch. There are a number of caves in the Arikok National Park; but, the Quadiriki Caves are especially rich with Amerindian petroglyphs. Although Aruba has no official World Heritage sites, nor ICCROM members, it does have the National Archaeological Museum Aruba. Historical sites include Alto Vista Chapel, Bushiribana and Balashi, and Fort Zoutman. There is also the Aruba Aloe factory and musem, since 1890.
There are a good number of festivals in Aruba year round. These include the Soul Beach Music Festival, Aruba International Film Festival, and even sporting events such as the annual Aruba Hi-Winds windsurfing competition. Chanita ta di Fiesta is an award winning tourism development program of the University of Aruba, linking the island’s food services industry with local food production. Kukoo Kunuku is an original dinner and barhopping tour in whimsical, hand painted buses.
There are no regularly scheduled ferry services in the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao). Tiara Air and Dutch Antilles Express are the two primary airlines that fly the 30-minute, 64 nautical mile trip between Aruba and Curaçao. Departure tax will be charged on each island, regardless of flying round trip or not. The departure tax for Aruba is US $33.50 for all destinations other than the United States (which is US $36.75 and usually built into the ticket price).
- An Exploratory Study of Global Issues Impacting the Future of Tourism in Aruba by KS Murphy, 2011
- Lessons of Tourism Development in Aruba for Sustainable Tourism Development in Tobago-Study Commissioned by the UNDP by DA Pantin, 2011
- Sustainable Tourism in Aruba: To what Extent Has Sustainable Tourism Been Implemented by Hotels in Aruba? by MJ Browne by M Scantlebury, 2010
- Effect of Natalee Holloway’s Disappearance on Aruba Tourism: A Content Analysis of Four Years of Global Newspaper Coverage by BL Parks & JM King, 2009
- Natalee Holloway’s Impact on the Tourism Demand of Aruba: An Unfortunate Incident by M Kock, 2009
- Tourism for a Sustainable Caribbean Economy: A Role for the Academic Community in Caribbean Heritage and Cultural Tourism, A Case Study From Aruba, Dutch Caribbean by M Scantlebury, 2009
- Aruba: Beyond Sun, Sea and Sand: Cultural Heritage in the Reinvention of Tourism on the Island of Aruba by S Sield, 2008
- The impact of tourism on the economy and population of small islands: The case of Aruba by RH Croes, 2007
- Cruise Tourism in Aruba: A Research on the Rising of Cruise Tourism in Aruba Until Present-day by J Dirksz, 2006
- Privatization of Aruba tourism authorities: or not? by ML Kelly, 2005
- A framework for sustainable tourism in Aruba by S Cole & V Razak, 2004
- Growth, development and tourism in a small economy: evidence from Aruba by RR Croes, 2003
- Anatomy of demand in international tourism: The case of Aruba by RR Croes, 2000
- Direct and indirect impacts of tourism on the population of Aruba by E Latham, 1984
- The economic impact of a major entertainment event upon tourism of Aruba by E Hogesteeger, 1981
- A study to analyze the economic and the social impact of the growth of international tourism on Aruba and its future role in the Aruban society by RF Giel, 1979