Aruba’s colorful, colonial downtown area has seen a major rejuvenation the past few years, so we’re out to show you how to really discover it all – by day and by night! Discover Downtown Oranjestad Aruba.
Most visitors are instantly drawn to the waterfront flea markets for their vibrant offerings, but savvy shoppers know that the real deals on high-end goods and upscale designer fashions and jewelry are to be found in the Renaissance Mall area. But behind the mall, there’s a lot to discover too.
One way to actually get to know the entire downtown grid is to take the free trolley that begins at the cruise ship terminal. You can hop on and off anywhere you please, and the ride gives you an excellent overview of the area and its attractions. There’s great shopping all along the routes with big name brand designer clothing stores beside charming mom and pop shops and wonderful stores like Ecco for beautiful Dutch blue delftware or Maggy’s Perfumery for duty-free perfume and cosmetics.
But it also helps to know where to get off to enjoy some authentic local food and specialties during your retail therapy jaunts. Like the new Indoor Cunucu café right behind Maggy’s on Mainstreet that serves delicious daily sopas (soups) and light fare.
Then there’s Coffee Break and Djiespie’s Place – side by side around the corner from the last trolley stop before it heads back. Find Aruba’s only locally roasted coffee there and excellent snacks too. And at 6:30 each Friday night, a neighborhood musical street party breaks out in front where visitors are more than welcome to join the dancing.
There are more new café style spots that serve authentic comida local worth seeking out around downtown. Inside the magnificent 100-year-old yellow mansion converted into Cosecha, the absolute best place to buy Aruban-made authentic arts and crafts, the new Taste My Aruba serves up incredibly creative takes on regional favorites. And they band together with Cosecha the last Friday of every second month to hold the Local Art & Farmer’s Market “Under the Stars.”
Also look for the new Aruba Experience in a beautifully restored colonial house. It’s become the in spot for both healthy food and decadent pastries with a lively happy hour Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Seeking a sophisticated escape for some refreshment? How about high tea or even better “high wine” (glasses of wine to go with tapas) at the lovely garden terrace of Bistro de Suikertuin? They are now open for dinner, and you’ll find them just behind Fort Zoutman on Wilhelminastraat.
You can explore the nooks and crannies of Oranjestad on foot with Aruba Walking Tours. Your knowledgeable guide will enlighten you on all the interesting history and culture while you stroll. And you’ll sample local food and enjoy a cooking demo at Coco Plum, another popular place to enjoy Aruban cuisine.
Here’s another way to explore the Oranjestad region: the new ride-share program, Green Bike, has stations all over the island. If you grab a bike downtown, you can ride along the new linear park paved seaside trail to the station at Plaza Turismo and you can hop in for a refreshing dip at the new Surfside Beach Bar where they now rent umbrellas and lounges. Then, head to The West Deck for happy hour and the best perch to catch incredible sunsets while watching the big cruise ships come and go.
Always enchanted evenings
A perfect downtown day can easily morph into a magical tropical night in Oranjestad if you know where to go. A great way to get the lay of the land is to join the new Fusion of the World Food Tour also operated by Aruba Walking Tours. You’ll visit five different eateries scattered about the downtown area where you can sample bits of Jamaican, Cuban, Dutch, Italian, and typical Aruban food and drinks, all with specific ties to the island.
And though some well-established venues are easy to find like 7 West, Yemanja Woodfired Grill, Driftwood, and L.G. Smith’s Steak & Chop House, there are many hidden dining gems. Seek out places like Maroc for wine and tapas, or fine dining at Wilhelmina and their chef’s table, Carte Blanche, next door. Another chef’s table called Fred is located above colorful Que Pasa. Plus, you might run into an exciting downtown event like the annual Food Truck Festival or Korteweg, a pop-up local arts gala.
For rollicking revelry, you can’t miss the wild and crazy Eetcafé The Paddock on the marina; just look for the big red roof with the cow on top. For live music and alfresco fun, Renaissance Marketplace is chock full of best bets all in one place like Cuba’s Cookin’ for hot Latin bands nightly. And did you know the Dutch also enjoy pancakes for dinner? Stop into The Dutch Pancakehouse and try their savory flapjacks for something truly different for supper.
The atmosphere in the marina side marketplace is always electric, and live entertainment is guaranteed every night in the public square. Why not try your luck at the glitzy Seaport or Crystal Casino? You might be under lucky stars!
As you can see, there’s a whole lot to do downtown. So, rediscover Oranjestad this holiday, and you’ll not be disappointed day or night!
By Susan Campbell