A short primer for Aruba rubes

I’ll admit it: I didn’t know precisely where Aruba was until I had already decided I’d spend a week there last month. What language did they speak in Aruba? I wasn’t quite sure of that either. Major cities? Um, Aruba City? Needless to say, I was a complete Aruba rube.

Because I fear many of you are equally in the dark about this Dutch Caribbean island, and to go along with my post, “5 things to do in Aruba other than working on your tan,” I thought I’d offer a very brief primer on Aruba. So here goes:

  • In a nutshell: Famous for its miles of white sandy beaches, top-notch hotels and restaurants, and a rocky, deserted national park in the north, Aruba is one of the Caribbean’s most-visited tourist destinations.
  • Location: In the southern Caribbean Sea, only 17 miles(!) north of Venezuela.
  • Size: About 21 miles long, four miles wide
  • Capital and largest city: Oranjestad
  • Principal towns: San Nicolas, Noord, Santa Cruz
  • Currency: The Aruban Florin (US dollars are accepted everywhere)
  • Population: 103,000
  • Languages: Dutch and Papiamento are the official languages. Papiamento is a creole language derived from Portuguese and influenced by Spanish, English, and African languages, among others. English is widely spoken in Aruba.
  • Neighbors: The islands of Bonaire and Curaçao, which together with Aruba make up the “ABC Islands.” (Get it?)
  • Wait, isn’t Aruba Dutch or something: Why, yes it is. The Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, and The Netherlands form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. This means Arubans have Dutch passports and Aruba, though an autonomous region, does not have its own military.
  • Finally, is there anything to do in Aruba? Oh yes, plenty. For five of the best things to do, check out this post.