Capital | Oranjestad
Population | 104,589
Area | 193 SQ KM
Holidays | Flag Day, 18 March (1976)
Currency | Aruban guilders/florins (AWG)
Time Zone | UMT -4
*note: information below reflects information for both Aruba and Netherlands Antilles, both part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Official Language | Dutch
Best Time to Visit | Year-round
Connecting with the Culture | Exploring the strange volcanic Hooiberg (haystack) on Aruba – the parched scrub and cacti landscape are classic Spaghetti Western country. Hiking to the top of Mt. Scenery, for a close-up view of an elfin forest with its lush growth of ferns, tropical flowers and mahogany trees, and a panoramic view of Saba and neighboring islands. Diving in Bonaire with hawksbill, turtles, peacock flounders, stingrays and seahorses. Relaxing in Saint Eustatius, a tranquil little Dutch outpost where islanders strike up conversation and stray chickens and goats mosey in the streets. Wandering the Willemstad on Curacao – the maze of streets and lanes wiggling back from the waterfront lined with houses that are charming and pastel colored to crumbling and spooky.
Read | Nights in Aruba by Andrew Holleran, which tells the story of a gay man who spends his early years on Aruba before heading the USA.
Listen | to lyric-heavy calypso, beat-based soca or reggae
Eat | cornmeal johnnycakes and yambo (green soup of okra, salt pork, onions, celery and sometimes fish)
Drink | Saba Spice (a rum-based liqueur spiced with a ‘secret concoction’)
In a Word | Bon bini (welcome in Papiamento)
Characteristics | palm-fringed white-sand beaches; tourism; diving; Dutch colonialism
Surprises | Only about 20% of all residents were born in Sint Maarten; the town of Willemstad on Curacao is one of a select number of urban areas on Unesco’s World Heritage List