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Activities Title

Index

Alto Vista Chapel
Arikok National Park
Atlantis Submarine Ride
Bon Bini Festival
California Lighthouse
Casinos
Caves
Charlie's Bar
Colibri Helicopter Tours
Fort Zoutman
Gold Mines
Hooiberg
Horseback Riding
Museums
Natural Bridge
Natural Pool
Roadside Rock Piles
Rock Formations
Scuba Diving
Semi-Submarine Ride
Snorkeling
Snorkeling Cruises
Tierra del Sol Golf Course
Watapana Festival





Sunset at Manchebo Beach Resort


Alto Vista Chapel
This restored chapel, also known as the Pilgrim's Church, was built by Spanish missionary Domingo Antonio Silvestre and dates back to 1750. The chapel, found by following a winding road marked with crosses indicating the Stations of the Cross, is located on a high point in Aruba and has amazing views - a quiet picturesque spot.
Photos
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Arikok National Park
Arikok National Park's rock formations are a prime showcase of Aruban geology. The national park is part of a natural preserve that encompasses 25% of Aruba. It provides a natural habitat for indigenous plants and animals, including species found only in Aruba. Some of the island's best examples fo early Indian art and artifacts are preserved here, as well as Indian petrographs on its rocks. Visit the park's website at www.arubanationalparks.com
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Atlantis Submarine Ride
The Atlantis Submarine is a submarine ride that takes you down to the coral reefs. If you go sit on the right side facing the front. You get a much better view on the right side than on the left side because of the slant of the terrain. If you will be taking photos from the Atlantis Submarine, use a film speed of 400-1000, anything less won't turn out. Also, turn off your flash first so you don't get flash reflection in the window glass. For video, use manual focus. The ride will hold 46 passengers per dive and there are 13 portholes per side, along with an extra large front viewport. The submarine submerges to a depth of 150', and as you submerge the sea waters begin to fliter out colors of the spectrum. Red is the first color to break down, and is completely gone at 60 ft., while yellow begins to appear as green. At 90 ft., green begins to look blue...the dominant color at the deepest part of the dive. Total tour time is around two hours (1/2 hour catamaran cruise out to and back from the submarine loading area, plus a 1-hour dive to either the Barcadera reef, the Mi Dushi shipwreck or the Sonesta airplane wrecks).

The submarine operates on hourly dives 6 days a week (Tues. - Sun.) - cost is $69. You can book your reservations (and make them as soon as you arrive in Aruba) at your resort's activity desk, at the De Palm Pier next to the Aruba Grand, or at their shop and departure pier at the Seaport Marina.
For reservations, call (297) 836090 or 1-800-253-0493 (U.S.).
Websites: www.goatlantis.com or Aruba Online
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Bon Bini Festival
The Bon Bini Festival takes place every Tuesday evening year-round from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. It is held at Fort Zoutman downtown and consists of a few stands with locals selling various handicrafts and souvenir-type stuff, one food stand, one drink stand, a live band and a show of local dancers (ages 4 - 18ish) performing many ethnic-type dances, $3 admittance fee.
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California Lighthouse
The California Lighthouse is on the northwestern tip of the island, with stunning 360-degree views of the Malmok and Palm Beach areas. It also overlooks the Tierra del Sol golf course and the famous sand dunes.

The lighthouse was named after the ship, the California, that sank off its point. Many people believe this ship to be the infamous ship from the Titanic story - the nearby vessel which saw the Titanic's flares but did not respond. In reality, that vessel was the Californian which was sunk off the coast of Greece - Cape Matapan - during World War I. The California was the name of a steamship which was shipwrecked in the middle of the night on September 23th, 1891. This accident had a remarkable impact on the economy of Aruba, as all the merchandise aboard the California (clothing, provisions, furniture etc.) had to be thrown overboard to keep the ship afloat. This merchandise drifted ashore and was picked up by the Islanders and sold on the local market. The remaining cargo on board was picked up by the men of Jan Eman (a businessman) who got this from the insurance company. Only one man died, which was the engineer. That's why this northern part of Aruba is called California, the original name is Hudishibana.
(info from Sergio, ABB)

The ground around the lighthouse is very interesting - I believe it is pock-marked limestone with nubby grass growing on top of it. Watch your step as it is very easy to go over on your ankle in the depressions. The restaurant La Trattioria is located next to the lighthouse.
Photos
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Casinos
Aruba has many good casinos, most of which also have a lounge and/or showroom, and are located within the resorts. I am not much of a gambler, so I can only comment on the look of the casino, not its playing rules/payoffs/etc. I liked the Stellaris Casino the best; Royal Cabana next; the Alhambra the least - was very smoke-filled and crowded; the Crystal Casino was the most beautiful, closely followed by the Hyatt's Copacabana. The official gambling age is 18. P.S. Drinks at the casinos are free while you're gambling.

  • Alhambra Casino & Alladin Theatre - located behind the Bucuti and Manchebo resorts.
  • Palace Casino/Jardin Brasilien/Les Palmas Ballroom - Allegro Beach Resort & Casino
  • Casablanca Casino/Music Hall - Wyndham Aruba Resort & Casino
  • Stellaris Casino - Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
  • The Palm Casino/The Oasis - Aruba Grand Resort & Casino
  • Crystal Casino/Desires Nightclub - Aruba Sonesta Resort & Casino
  • Seaport Casino - Aruba Sonesta Suites & Casino (Second Sonesta Casino)
  • Grand Holiday Casino/Players Club & Lounge - Holiday Inn Aruba Beach Resort & Casino
  • Copacabana Casino - Hyatt Regency Aruba Beach Resort and Casino
  • Royal Cabana Casino/Tropicana Showroom - La Cabana All-Suite Beach Resort & Casino
  • Casino Masquerade - Radisson Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino

The Alhambra Casino has a timeshare owners night on Thursdays and one of the gifts is your timeshare maintenance fee (up to $500) paid. Wednesday night is Ladies Night and they have champagne and give out several gifts (i.e., restaurant coupons, Mi Dushi coupons, gambling money, etc.). On Saturday evenings, they have rum/rumless punch, snacks (pastechis, breaded cheese, etc.). Back to Index

Caves
There are numerous Arawak Indian caves on the eastern side of the island. Admittance to these caves are free, and there are booths outside some of them selling sodas and renting flashlights and helmets. I have heard that these people also attempt to charge admission to the caves occassionally, but admission is completely free (although you may want to rent a flashlight).

Guadirikiri - this cave has two chambers with open ceilings to the sky, creating dramatic sun shafts to light up the caverns. There is also a 100-foot tunnel down to the "bat cave", home of hundreds of harmless bats. Guadirikiri is a very humid spot - you will be sweating bullets when you leave. The footing inside the dark cave is a little difficult for anyone whose step is not as light as it used to be, so be careful.

Fontein - this cave has Indian drawings on its ceiling, giving it a real sense of history.
Photos
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Charlie's Bar
Along with the wind, the one constant in Aruba since 1941 has been Charlie's Bar, a local hangout in the oil refinery town of San Nicolas that's decorated floor to ceiling with hats, license plates, and other memorabilia that hang on the walls and even dangle from lights. Charlie Sr. is gone, but Charlie Jr. still owns the place, and Charlie III tends bar as well. They'll regale you with tales of the old days over a plate of garlic shrimp and a beer.
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Colibri Helicopter Tours
Colibri Helicopters offers air-conditioned tours with narration and island music through individual headsets. There are 2 tours - the "Island Adventure" which is an 18 min. tour that takes you around the island, over the Natural Pool and Natural Bridge, and around the Palm Beach/Eagle Beach areas ($98); and the "Beach Safari" which is a 10 min. tour of the beach area to the California Lighthouse ($49). One of the two heliports is located at the Seaport Marina in Oranjestad, next to the Sonesta Suites Resort. The other heliport is located adjacent to the La Cabana Hotel and Amsterdam Manor Hotel at Eagle Beach. Hours of operation are 9 am - 5 pm Tuesday through Sunday. The manager is Patricia Vander Post, whose husband is the General Manager for the Manchebo Beach Resort.
Phone #: (297) 931832 for information.
Website: www.arubatourism.com/colibri/colibri.html
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Fort Zoutman
Fort Zoutman, erected in 1796, is the oldest builing in Oranjestad, and marked the beginning of Oranjestad as a settlement. It was named for a Dutch Admiral who had outwitted a British convoy on the North Sea during the 4th British War. The Fort is situated on what was then the shoreline and was armed with four cannons to protect commercial traffic. A tower, called the King Willem III Tower, was added to the Fort around 1868. This served as a lighthouse with a lamp in the spire which was first lit on King Willem III's birthday in 1869, and has Aruba's first public clock on it. In 1810-1911 it sheltered the government offices. The Fort was restored in 1974 and the tower in 1980-83. The Fort is now a museum which contains items showing the island's history and geology, with fossils, shells, tools, furniture and products, and it also hosts the weekly Bon Bini Festival. Museum hours are 10 am to 12 pm and 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm, Monday to Saturday. Address: Zoutmanstraat, T 826099, entrance US $1.15.
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Gold Mines
Bushiribana - The 19th century saw a gold rush in Aruba, resulting in the building of gold mines. Several gold mine ruins can still be seen on the northeastern coast. The ruins of an old pirate castle are located nearby, and some say it dates back to 1499, the year that Alonso de Ojeda landed there.

Balashi - Balashi is the location of the ruins of an old gold smelting plant used during gold rush.
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Hooiberg
Hooiberg, or "the Haystack" as it is otherwise known, is the third largest mountain on Aruba (after Mt. Jamanota and Mt. Arakok), with an elevation of 521 feet, but it is the most easily accessible mountain in Aruba. You can climb to the top of Hooiberg by hiking up its 600+ steps and on a clear day you might be able to see across to Venezuela. I would advise leaving this until the end of your trip, so aching muscles don't put a damper on your trip. Also, do the trek up Hooiberg either in the early morning or at the end of the afternoon, so you don't get a case of heatstroke. The best time to climb Hooiberg would be about 1 hour before sunset. The sun goes down on the side of the hill that doesn't have the stairs, so there is some shade. Bring lots of bottled water with you. Directions to the stairs: drive through Oranjestad's main street (Caya Gilberto F.Croes) towards Hooiberg, keep going straight ahead until you're almost there, then turn left towards Hooiberg and you'll se the stairs.
Photos
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Horseback Riding
Several ranches offer horseback tours:
Rancho Dalmari - trips to the Natural Pool (Ph: (297) 860239)
Rancho Del Campo - trips to the Aruban countryside and the Natural Pool (Ph: (297) 820290, Sombre 22E)
Rancho El Paso - trips to the Aruban countryside and along the coastline (Ph: (297) 873310, Washington 44)

De Palm Tours offers a horseback riding tour through Rancho Del Campo for $45, 2 1/2 hour tour through the National Park to the Natural Pool, leaves at 9 am and 3 pm daily. Round-trip transportation, swimming, snorkeling, cold drinks and snacks are included. Wear long pants/jeans and a hat, wear lots of sunscreen, and bring a towel and your camera. If you are not an experienced rider, I would advise you to leave the horseback riding until the end of your trip so that stiff muscles and/or saddle sores do not put a damper on your fun.
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Museums
Archaeological Museum: Zoutmanstraat 1, Oranjestad, across from the bus stop. Exhibits and artifacts at the five-room museum from the island's prehistoric period include giant earthen jars that contain the remains of some of Aruba's original inhabitants. Open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Phone (297) 828979.

Historical Museum: Fort Zoutman/Willem III Tower, Oranjestad. Exhibits and artifacts from the early Spanish and Dutch periods. Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. There is an entrance fee of U.S. $1.15. Phone (297) 826099. (See description further above for more details)

Numismatic Museum: Located in the Instituto de Cultura building, adjacent to St. Francis Church, Zuidstraat 27, Oranjestad. Exhibits include more than 30,000 different coins and currencies, dating back as far as the 5th century B.C. The museum, which began as (and still is) one Aruban's hobby, was later granted this permanent home by the government. The staff of the family-run museum will gladly regale you with colorful stories about the history of each piece in the collection, which includes coins that circulated in the Roman Empire, the ancient Chinese dynasties and the Byzantine Empire. Open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Phone (297) 828831.
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Natural Bridge
Aruba's most famous natural wonder - the Natural Bridge is a 25-foot high, 100-foot long land bridge (the highest in the Caribbean) cut out of the coral rock by the intense wave action on the northern side of the island. Many tours (bus, jeep, horse) stop at this location. There is a snackbar and washroom facility here also.
Photos
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Natural Pool
The Natural Pool (known in Papiamento as the "Conchi") is a swimming hole cradled between lava rock formations also shaped by the intense wave action on the northern side. Its unique allure is the experience of swimming in a calm, turquoise pool with waves thundering around you.

There is no paved road or easy-to-follow signage to the Natural Pool. The road from the Natural Bridge to the Natural Pool is impassable! Don't even try it unless you have one of those lunar excursion modules. If you want to get to the pool from the bridge you have to go back toward the rock formations. Rental companies will tell you not to take rental cars to the pool because it is too dangerous. There is a woman named Mardy who lives in a house just outside the National Park who will take people up there in her 4 wheeler. To get to her place take the Mira Lamar Pass to Shete. About halfway there you turn left where there is a sign that says Natural Pool - Reach It. Follow the signs. At the next major intersection she has a sign that you can't see easily so always be looking behind you too. Mardy speaks English, Spanish, Dutch and the native Papiamento, and is very friendly. She charges $10 per person. This way you don't have to take the risk of driving. If you want to go to the Natural Pool but are too nervous about the rough driving, have Mardy take you. If you are brave and have great driving skills, try a jeep tour to the pool or go by horseback tour.
Photos
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Roadside Rock Piles
If you keep a sharp eye out while driving around the gold mines on the east side of the island, you may see a number of mysterious small stacks of rocks. A number of explanations have been put forth for these: they are markers for construction; they were put there by a local artist; they are piled there by tourists following an Indian custom - you must stack 3 rocks on top of one another. Each rock has its own name (love, wealth, and health). When you stack them, make a wish, if the rocks are blown over by the waves, your wish will be granted.

The true story on these rock piles is that originally they were made by an Aruban artist expressing his art with rocks. There was an article in the Aruba Today newspaper about these very famous rock piles along the coast of Aruba. The Indian custom myth is the most romantic and contagious one, however, and it's the one I like best.

Rock Formations
Another interesting feature of Aruba is its puzzling diorite and granite rock formations at Ayo and Casibari. Geologists are uncertain about their origins, but think that a collision of the teutonic plates forced the massive slabs to the surface. The limestone steps surrounding them are signs of the changing water levels of the Caribbean throught the ages.


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Scuba Diving

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Semi-Submarine Ride
The Sea World semi-submarine explores the Arashi Reef and the wreck of the Antilla. View marine life from 5' below the water line in their air-conditioned, underwater observatory. Tour is 1 1/2 hours, is $33, and leaves at 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, and 3:30 pm. Children 2-12 $19, under 2 free. Departs from the Holiday Inn Pelican Pier.
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Snorkeling
The snorkeling at De Palm Island is great. Lots of fish, especially big, blue parrot fish. They have a nice set up. Reasonable prices. If you pick up an Aruba Activity book at the Airport, there is a coupon for a free ferry transfer to the island. If not, the prices are $8.00 (includes 1 drink), and $12.00 (includes a BBQ lunch). The ferry starts running at 10:00 am, and every 1/2 hour after. You can definitely spend the day, as there are restaurant, restroom, rental, and lounging facilities at your disposal. You can't bring any of your own food or drink, however. It's a great day, don't miss it. To get to De Palm Island, go past the airport to the next traffic light and follow the signs.

Snorkeling is good at Baby Beach - take a bag of bread or frozen peas and the fish will eat right out of your hand (just make sure you bring the bag back out of the water!), they also love spray-cheese-in-a-can. If you don't have a rental car, you should know that the bus does not go to Baby Beach, but one of the bus tours does (however, it only stays at Baby Beach for 1/2 an hour).
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Snorkeling Cruises
As snorkeling is one of the most popular watersports in Aruba, the choices of cruises are many - the three most popular choices are the Mi Dushi, Tattoo, and the Octopus.

The Octopus - On the morning snorkeling cruise ($37.50 pp), you get mimosas and fresh homemade baked goodies, open bar (with rum punches), fresh-made salad, deli meats and gouda cheese to make your own sandwiches on french rolls for lunch. They usually snorkel at Arashi and Malmok. If you want to snorkel on the Antilla, you have to let them know when you call so they can make arrangements. They leave a little earlier when they go there. The boat is a trimaran, and I believe they only take up to 12 people.

Mi Dushi - The daytime cruise on the Mi Dushi is $48 pp. This includes the snorkel equipment, a quite tasty lunch of chicken, corn on the cob, bread, cole slaw, three snorkel stops and an open bar.

Tattoo - It costs about $49 US per person which includes dinner (barbecue chicken) and drinks are $1 - $3. After you get out into the ocean, the boat parks and you can jump in on a cool rope swing. You can buy liquor chips when you pay for the cruise (the bars don't take money, they take chips - you can buy them before the boat takes off or on ship, I recommend you avoid a long line and buy them first).
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Tierra del Sol Golf Course
Tierra del Sol is an 18-hole, par 71 professsional golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. This golf course is the only place in Aruba where you will find wide expanses of grass, as water is at a premium in this arid climate.
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Watapana Festival
The Watapana Food & Art Festival is part of the One Cool Summer program. It's held during the summer months (May-September) every Wednesday from 6 - 8:30 pm. The venue is the Red Sail Sports service alley, between the Hyatt and Allegro. It is a nice little street festival with about 8 - 10 restaurants that sell small portions of some of their dishes for $3 - $6 each (through the purchase of tickets). This is a great way to sample food and cuisine from a good variety of the restaurants. They also have live entertainment and local arts and crafts vendors. The last one is held the last Wednesday of September.
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This site went online 1999.
Photos by Patti MacK copyrighted 1999 and may not be used without permission.

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