Enchanting Oranjestad

Discover things to do in Oranjestad, the capital city of Aruba! What to do, and where to go: 

Spending the day in Aruba’s colorful capital is a must while on holiday here, no matter where you are staying. There’s so much to explore in this compact historical city, and the enchanting offerings are always evolving!

Walk the Walk…

Captivating trails await throughout the maze of candy-colored colonial buildings. Punctuated by historical monuments, museums, outdoor art, and the refreshing green spaces of Oranjestad. And it’s a breeze to explore on foot. In fact, it’s one of the most pedestrian-friendly capitals in the Caribbean. If you are staying in the Palm Beach or Eagle Beach region, downtown is easily accessible by car, taxi, or even public bus. Aruba’s transit system is fast, safe, and reliable. Buses stop at almost every major resort and beach all along the coast. The main terminal is right in the middle of downtown where you can begin your walking explorations.

There are also colorful streetcar-like electric trams that depart from the cruise terminal and loop around downtown. And they are not just for cruise passengers. Anyone is welcome to hop on and off as they please, and best of all, they are free! But if you really want to dig deep into the culture and history of downtown Oranjestad, book a fun and informative outing with Aruba Walking Tours. You’ll learn so many interesting facts on this tour guided by locals.

Like why you keep seeing life-sized blue ceramic horses popping up all around downtown. Or why historic Fort Zoutman seems to be located so far from the sea! You will also be able to climb the historic Willem III Tower there for unequalled panoramic views. (This is where the Bon Bini Festival weekly cultural festival is held Tuesday nights.) They also make a stop at the National Archaeological Museum housed in the historic Ecury family home that has an interesting backstory about Boy Ecury, a World War II hero. You are also welcome to visit this museum on your own; it’s open to the public and admission is free.

Helpful Tip: If you’d rather discover downtown on foot when it’s not as congested with the throngs of eager explorers from the cruise ships, check the Aruba Ports Authority website to see how many ships are in port on any given day. www.arubaports.com

Shop Until You Drop…

One of the biggest draws to downtown is the vast and eclectic array of shopping options. This is where you’ll find great deals on everything from high-end designer fashions to upscale jewelry, gems, and brand-name timepieces, electronics, cosmetics, perfumes, and, of course, souvenirs! You’ll find the usual suspects of Caribbean-style souvenirs along the marina stalls, but it’s worth it to make the extra effort to sleuth out more unique keepsakes. Look for Dutch Delft Blue pottery or made-in-Aruba handcrafted treasures to take home in the backstreets and tucked away in mini- malls. There is also a fabulous local arts and crafts fair in the Renaissance Marketplace every Friday night.

Also, in the Renaissance Marketplace, you’ll find a colorful collection of one-of-a-kind resin art sculptures and art pieces at Designs of Color by Dariana. Locally made fine-quality spirits like the award-winning Bodegas Papiamento Aruba Reserve Rum also make divine souvenirs. And anything made from Aruba’s world-class local aloe is always an ideal purchase for your time on the island and to take home as well.

Sip, Snack, and Play!

Oranjestad outings can become hot, but thankfully, there are plenty of fabulous spots to relax, refuel, and rejuvenate in shaded spots and air-conditioned comfort all throughout downtown. One of the best bets for cooling off is to stop by one of the glitzy casinos that are open during the day where you can also try your luck at the same time. Who knows? Maybe you will win big and increase your retail therapy budget for some more shopping later! You’ll find the Wind Creek Crystal Casino above the Renaissance Mall and the Wind Creek Seaport Casino across from the Renaissance Marketplace on the marina.

It’s the only waterfront casino on the island. The entire island comes out to play downtown during carnival season. Though some events are held in other regions like San Nicolas, the Grand Parade that finalizes the colorful celebration is always held in Oranjestad. If you are here during carnival time, check the calendar of events so you don’t miss the parades and pageants here: www.myarubaguide.com/blogs/event-calendar

But whenever you’re on holiday here, do plan an incredible downtown day in Oranjestad. It’s the vibrant heartbeat of this island. •

Eat, Shop and Enjoy!