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Beyond the beach in Aruba
Top land-based sightseeing attractions on this dry, desert-like Caribbean island
On the small Southern Caribbean island of Aruba, activity centers around its gorgeous, long stretches of golden sand, particularly on the northwest side of the island, where most of the Aruba resorts are located. Indeed, that relaxed oceanfront vibe – plus thatched palapas, frothy drinks, and stellar sunsets – are hard to resist. In other words, days spent toes in the sand are perfectly acceptable here. Still, this craggy, desert-like isle in the Southern Caribbean deserves at least one day’s exploration beyond the beach. On your Aruba vacation, consider peeling yourself off the chaise lounge to check out these natural and historic sights.
Located in Arikok National Park, Aruba’s Natural Pool is a popular attraction even though it’s a bit of a trek to get there: it requires a 4×4 vehicle over rocky, nail-biting terrain. The pool itself is a relative calm oasis of turquoise ocean water, contrasted with the pounding surf on the dark rocks that form the pool’s walls. Bring a pair of sturdy waterproof shoes, perhaps your snorkel gear, and a sense of adventure!
Alto Vista chapel and desert cactus
Alto Vista Chapel
On the northeast coast of Aruba, this tiny, yellow, red-roofed chapel sits atop a hill surrounded by sand and cactus – at the end of a road lined with crosses symbolizing the stations of the cross. A Roman Catholic church has been located at this exact site – which enjoys views of both sunrise and sunset – since 1750. The current incarnation was built in 1953. It’s a serene spot, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and worth a visit if you’re looking for a bit of quiet repose.
Viewfinder Tip: You can visit several of Aruba’s key sites on an off-road adventure with De Palm Tours; bring your driver’s license to get behind the wheel of a UTV along a remote, rugged stretch of coastline.
Balashi beer is brewed on the island, with native water, Scottish malt, and German hops. Take a tour of the ultra-modern brewery and bottling plant; wear closed-toe shoes and plan on sticking around afterwards for an included glass of the refreshing pilsner-esque brew. If you’re hungry, check out the chalkboard menu in the ultra-casual, open-air beer garden, and settle in for some bami (a local bread) and rice with steak, chicken, or fish.
Collapsed Natural Bridge still attracts visitors
Though this natural limestone arch on Aruba’s east coast collapsed in 2005, it remains (interestingly!) a tourist attraction. Though I wouldn’t characterize it a true “must-see” on Aruba, if you’re making the drive along the eastern coast, you might stop to admire the wonder that once was! (Oh yes, I did; and I snapped a photo – see left.)
This is another one of Aruba’s attractions that would be a lot cooler if it still existed like it did back in the day – i.e. you could still climb to the top of the soaring, early 20th-century landmark named after the S.S. California that had wrecked nearby. Alas, a suicide that took place in the 1980s put the kibosh on that (so the story goes), so you can only snap photos of the views from the base – or eat at the Italian restaurant located in what was once the old lighthouse keeper’s house. Still, its looming location near the northwest tip does provide great 360-degree views of the island, as well as the deep-blue ocean below.
What do you like to do on land on Caribbean islands?
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