Aruba is home to pristine beaches, outdoor adventure and lavish all-inclusive resorts, including the magnificent Barceló Aruba. But scratch beneath the surface of this gorgeous Caribbean island and you’ll find a wealth of revealing cultural experiences that will get you closer to the authentic Aruba, whether you’re traveling into the distant past or discovering the island’s burgeoning creative community.
National Archaeological Museum
Five thousand years of Aruba’s rich past is brought to life at the fascinating National Archaeological Museum, located in the heart of the island’s capital city of Oranjestad. The museum’s vast collection takes you deep into Aruba’s Amerindian heritage via a collection of more than 10,000 artifacts spanning the Pre-Ceramic, Ceramic, and Historic Cultural Periods. An interactive experience, state of the art technology here allows you to take an active role in discovering the past.
Alto Vista Chapel
Discover Aruba’s spiritual side on windswept cliff on the north shore of the island. Also known as “Pilgrims Church,” Alto Vista Chapel dates back to 1750 – it is believed to be the very first church in Aruba. Now restored to its former glory, the Catholic chapel is a must-visit for all, thanks to its spectacular views and classic design. Active travelers take note: Alto Vista is easily accessible by bike and several outfitters offer guided tours to the chapel.
Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins
Never mind California – Aruba experienced its own gold rush in the mid-19th century. Over the decades, more than three million pounds of the shiny stuff was discovered here. You can get a glimpse of this interesting period at Bushiribana on the island’s north coast. Built in 1872 by the Aruba Island Gold-Mining Company Ltd., the ruins of the gold mill are easily accessible and offer their own kind of ruggedly picturesque beauty. Fun fact: the mill was designed to look like a fortress to discourage pirates from pillaging the gold.
Aruba Aloe Museum & Factory
Gold isn’t Aruba’s most precious natural resource these days. It’s aloe. Founded in 1890, Aruba Aloe is the oldest aloe company in the world, bringing the restorative powers of this succulent plant to the world for more than a century. On a guided tour at the Aruba Aloe Museum & Factory, you’ll see exactly how aloe is “filleted” and learn the many benefits of Aloe Vera. Afterwards, take a walking tour the Factory itself, including the aloe cutting room and the testing lab.
San Nicolas Murals
In recent years, the town of San Nicolas (AKA “Sunrise City”) has experienced a street art explosion. As you walk the avenues here, you’ll find that virtually every other wall is covered with a vibrantly colorful – and perfectly Instagrammable – mural created by an Aruban artist. It adds another charming element to an already charming destination. After you’ve gone on a self-guided street art tour in San Nicolas, stop in at Charlie’s Bar, Aruba’s most famous watering hole, packed from floor to ceiling with international memorabilia.
- Good to Know: San Nicolas hosts the annual Aruba Art Fair every September, bringing together 150 artists & artisans for a weekend full of creativity and imagination.