Aruba is known for its gorgeous coastlines, colonial history, indigenous heritage, and passionate vibrant culture reflected through the colorful festivals.
Aruba is a beautiful island nestled in the Caribbean Sea. It is part of a three-member group of islands known as the ABC islands, with the other two being Bonaire and Curaçao. There are many things Aruba is known for that make it a noteworthy country.
What Is Aruba Known For?
Aruba is famous for its stunning beaches, Fort Zoutman, Dutch colonial architecture, and the indigenous Arawak tribe. Despite its size, there are so many bustling festivals and attractions packed on this majestic island. Aruba is also known for its warm weather, luxury resorts, and picturesque landscapes.
While there are many beautiful islands in the Caribbean, this is one travel destination that is not to be overlooked.
History, Culture, And Traditions Aruba Is Known For
One of the most fascinating features Aruba is known for is its unique architecture which blends seamlessly with the island’s natural beauty.
Heavily influenced by the Dutch, you will find several colonial buildings with some distinctive features, such as Dutch gables and wooden shutters. The island’s capital, Oranjestad, is littered with such structures and is also home to the oldest building in Aruba.
Interestingly, Aruba’s architecture goes beyond colonial influences, as the island’s architects and designers now prioritize sustainable architecture and environmental preservation. This is reflected in the open-air designs, large windows, and outdoor living spaces that allow residents and visitors to connect with nature.
From colonial buildings to eco-friendly structures, Aruba’s architecture is a pleasant reflection of its history, culture, and natural surroundings. Whether you are interested in the old or the new, the island immerses you in a unique aesthetic of both. The architectural range and beauty are just stunning.
Bon Bini Festival
Bon Bini Festival is one of the most engaging cultural events Aruba is famous for. It is held every Tuesday evening in downtown Oranjestad, where people gather to experience the island’s authentic traditions and warm hospitality.
In Papiamento, the local language of Aruba, Bon Bini means “welcome”; and this serves as the essence of the whole festival as the locals use entertainment and so many other attractions to welcome visitors and showcase the vibrant heritage of the island.
Music is an essential aspect of the festival, featuring the rhythms and melodies of traditional folk music. It is an avenue for local musicians to display their talent.
Another interesting aspect of the festival is dancing. Dance is at the heart of Aruba’s culture, and the Bon Boni festival allows dancers to tell stories through traditional dances, such as Tumba and Seú, to captivate visitors. You can seize the moment to learn the steps and join in the dance.
Other highlights of the Bon Bini festival include storytelling, delicious Aruban food, and a walking tour of downtown Oranjestad.
The Bon Bini festival is a gateway into the heart and soul of Aruba, so you wouldn’t want to miss out on the countless fun experiences that this event offers to locals and visitors from all over the world.
Aruba’s history traces back thousands of years to the Arawak people, who were the first indigenous tribe to settle on the island. Also known as the Coquetio, the Arawaks were farmers and fishermen who thrived on the island, until the arrival of Spanish explorers in the late 15th century.
Following colonization, the Arawak way of life was drastically changed. Many were enslaved and others succumbed to widespread illnesses brought by the Europeans, which decimated their numbers.
Despite the devastating impact of colonization, the Arawak culture continued growing in influence. Today, you can find elements of Arawak culture in the language, food, music, and art of Aruba.
Most of the local crafts in Aruba, such as pottery and basket weaving, were first practiced by the Arawak people and have been passed down through generations.
The Archaeological Museum of Aruba is one of the institutions that help preserve the Arawak history by housing several artifacts relating to the Coquetio. Also, cultural events like the Dera Gai festival are celebrated in honor of the island’s indigenous roots.
The Arawak people’s resilience and enduring legacy serve as a beacon of hope and strength, which is recognized and celebrated by both locals and visitors alike.
Cities And Travel Destinations Aruba Is Famous For
Aruba’s capital, Oranjestad, is a tourism gem located on the western coast of the island. Home to historical sites, stunning architecture, and beaches, Oranjestad serves as the economic and cultural hub of Aruba.
On entering Oranjestad, one of the first things that grips you is its unique architectural style. Brightly colored buildings of Dutch colonial and Caribbean influences are scattered across the city. Oranjestad is also home to two of the most prominent landmarks Aruba is famous for, Fort Zoutman and the Historical Museum of Aruba.
The capital city is where the most trendy boutiques and stores are located. Shops on the bustling main street, Caya G.F. Betico Croes, and the Renaissance Mall welcome thousands of tourists seeking a shopping spree.
Oranjestad is also home to some of the best and most pristine beaches Aruba is famous for, including Eagle Beach and Palm Beach which offer crystal-clear waters, white sands, and beautiful sunsets.
Whether you are looking to tour the landmarks, explore the culinary scene, or bask in the sun, there is always something to do in Oranjestad, thanks to its rich blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.
Known as the “Sunrise City”, is a former industrial hub known for its vibrant art scene, rich cultural heritage, and natural beauty.
The city’s artistic charm is felt throughout its streets, dotted with buildings adorning colorful murals that showcase the immense talent of its local artists, as well as international artists who often visit to explore the art scene.
As the art center of Aruba, San Nicolas hosts the annual Aruba Art Fair, the biggest art event Aruba is known for. The event is a gathering place for artists, collectors, and enthusiasts from around the world. This gives visitors the opportunity to interact and network with notable artists and people in the world of art.
Another major event the city hosts is the Caribbean Festival, which celebrates Caribbean culture, featuring traditional music, dance performance, and tasty local cuisine. This is a fun experience that you should definitely participate in.
Beyond the art and culture, San Nicolas is also known for its natural beauty, including a stunning coastline. One of its best beaches, Baby Beach is noted for calm, shallow waters that make it an ideal destination for families and snorkelers.
If you are not basking in the sun at the bay, you can explore the charming neighborhoods of San Nicolas, packed with quaint, fancy cafes, and local shops that display unique Aruban craftworks and products.
Fort Zoutman, built in 1798, is the oldest building in Aruba, serving as a major tourist attraction and a symbol of the island’s rich history.
The historic landmark was originally built as a dense forest to protect the island from potential invasions and was named after Dutch Rear Admiral Johan Arnold Zoutman.
Today, Fort Zoutman is a beautiful landmark that houses the Historical Museum of Aruba, which exhibits a diverse collection of artifacts, documents, and artworks that showcase the history, culture, and heritage of Aruba.
Another significant feature in Fort Zoutman is the iconic Willem III Tower, which was added to the fort in 1868, making it the second oldest structure on the island. Be sure to climb to the top of the tower for a panoramic view of the capital city, Oranjestad, and its surrounding landscapes.
Over the years, Fort Zoutman has served as a vibrant cultural hub. Some major events Aruba is famous for are hosted here, including the weekly Bon Bini Festival.
If you are looking for a gateway to Aruba’s rich history and vibrant culture, Fort Zoutman is the destination for you.
Another iconic landmark Aruba is known for is the California Lighthouse located northwest of the island. Standing at 98 feet, it is the tallest structure in Aruba and one of the tallest lighthouses in the Caribbean.
Also known as Faro, the California Lighthouse was named after the steamship California which sank off the shores of Aruba in 1891. This was before the construction of the lighthouse began in 1914, close to the site of the steamship’s demise.
The lighthouse is a popular destination among tourists and locals particularly because of its beautiful gardens and pathways. The top of the structure offers panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea, as well as the picturesque Aruban landscape.
There is a small museum on-site where you can learn about the history of the lighthouse and maritime activities in Aruba.
Due to its proximity to the coastline, you can also seize the opportunity for some adventure! Head to the nearby dunes and rocky coastlines for hiking or horseback riding.
From the elegant views to the history ride and the outdoor adventures, the California Lighthouse offers plenty of opportunities to create some memorable experiences.
Famous People From Aruba
Baseball star Xander Bogaerts’ success in Major League Baseball makes him one of the most famous people from Aruba. He is arguably the most famous of the five Arubans to reach the major leagues.
Born in San Nicolas, Aruba, Xander is a shortstop for the San Diego Padres, where he joined after spending nine seasons with the Boston Red Sox.
The highlight of Xander’s career was when he was a shortstop for the Red Sox from 2013 to 2022, during which he helped them to clinch two World Championships.
Additionally, he made it to the MLB All-Star team four times, entered the 2019 All-MLB First Team, and won five Silver Slugger Awards. In the international scene, plays for the Netherlands national baseball team, and has a Baseball World Cup with them.
After hitting a home run in the MLB Mexico City Series in 2023, Bogaerts’ made history as the first player in MLB to hit four home runs in four different countries.
Xander’s incredible exploits are also recognized back home in Aruba, where he was honored with an induction into the Order of Orange-Nassau by the Governor of Aruba.
One of the most iconic entertainers to come out of Aruba is Bobby Farrell. Bobby Farrell was a dancer and singer, known for being a member of the 1970s disco group Boney M.
Bobby was born and raised in Aruba until he finished school at 15 and left to become a sailor. Two years after sailing, he moved to Norway. His nursing interest in the music scene made him pursue a DJ career in the Netherlands before moving to Germany to find better opportunities.
It was in Germany that Bobby got discovered by Frank Farian, founder of Boney M. He became the sole male singer in Boney M’s original group, helping them gain global acclaim and performing on international stages.
Farrell’s legacy is celebrated in Aruba and he is one of several Arubans whose fame has helped put the island on the map.
Food Aruba Is Famous For
Keshi Yena is one of the popular traditional dishes Aruba is known for.
The name Keshi Yena means “cheese filled” in Papiamento, the official language of Aruba. The dish is thought to have originated in the 17th century when the Dutch ruled Aruba. They brought their love of cheese to Aruba, making Keshi Yena a fusion of Dutch and Aruban cuisine.
Keshi Yena dish is made with stewed meat, rice, and cheese. The meat is typically beef, pork, or chicken, and it is stewed with onions, peppers, tomatoes, and spices. The rice is cooked separately and then layered with the meat mixture and cheese.
It is then baked until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Keshi Yena is typically served with a side of salad or vegetables. The dish is often served on special occasions, such as Christmas and New Year’s.
Discovering More Things Aruba Is Known For
Although Aruba is a relatively small country, it is packed with many travel destinations that would fill your itinerary. Something to note, however, is that most of the things Aruba is famous for are found in the cities. So, it’s best to take your time and explore each city one after another. And, of course, take a tour guide if you can.