Off the coast of Venezuela sits a tiny Dutch Caribbean island called Aruba. A multicultural island destination that attracts everyone from sport enthusiasts (a mecca for wind surfers, kayaking, snorkeling and horseback riding) to the most enthusiastic sun worshipers. English, Dutch and Spanish are spoken alongside the local tongue, Papiamento.

Aruba can be broken into three main zones: the old town, capital of Oranjestad, the adjacent beaches locally referred to as ‘the Resort Area’ and finally the Northwest coast at the island’s tip.

Aruba’s capital is a town that combines a mix of local commerce with the pursuit of visitor business. Oranjestad has appealing old Dutch architecture and new structures intermingled with shops, bars and restaurants. Venture away from the town and you’ll find the island’s Northwest coast is rugged, with windswept vistas and uncrowded beaches.

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Population

102,911

Airport & Transportation

Queen Beatrix International Airport, named after Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, the now retired Queen and former head of state of Aruba. The airport offers U.S. border pre-clearance facilities as well as a terminal for private aircraft. www.airportaruba.com

The new Oranjestad tram connects the cruise ship terminal with the center of town, passing through the entirety of Oranjestad’s main street, which has been remodeled into a pedestrian mall.

Currency & Tipping

Aruba officially operates on the Aruban florin (1 florin is .56 cents U.S.), however the U.S. dollar is widely accepted. Tipping: Taxis- Expected. / Restaurants & Bars- Customarily a 15% service charge is added.

Time of Year to Visit

The best time of year to visit? Year round! December to April is high season. High season for cruise ships runs October to April. Average temperature for Aruba is 82°F. Aruba usually misses the Caribbean hurricane season, though recently January rains have caused minor flooding.

Hotels & Meeting Spaces

The beachfront Ritz-Carlton Aruba tempts guests with a lively casino, on-site watersport facilities and its legendary concierge service. Guests can enjoy the relatively new 2013 hotel property with 24-hour front desk assistance, a business center, 320 guest rooms, 7 meeting rooms and 10,000 square feet of event space.

Featuring 40 acres of private island and beaches (the only private beach in Aruba!), the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino offers both adults-only and large group lodging. A full-service spa, casino, jogging trail and along with scuba diving and kayaking are offered. 22,000 square feet of flexible meeting and function space are available along with a unique Reservation Link and mobile check-in (Guests can check in before their stay, receive instant alerts when their room is ready and check out by skipping the front desk.)

According to the Aruba Convention Bureau, Oranjestad’s own town square, Plaza Daniel Leo, is a prime event space. Recently renovated, the Plaza offers picturesque Dutch Caribbean architecture as a backdrop. The space can accommodate up to 500 guests and boasts plenty of room for various types of private events.

Local Culture

The local culture is a melting pot of all the cultures that inhabit and influence the island- Caribbean cuisine, Latin American art and Dutch architecture.

Oranjestad’s’ streets are dotted with excursion options: international luxury retailers, diverse boutiques, and popular cocktail bars.

The most famous Aruban food, considered to be the ‘national dish’, is Keshi Yena. It is a spicy mixture of chicken with peppers, capers, olives and tomatoes traditionally baked in a Gouda cheese shell.

Adjacent to the Bubali Bird Sanctuary, Eagle Beach is a long stretch of soft white sand that regularly makes lists of the best beaches in the world. This is where people come to have a taste of the Aruban beach life. Portions of the beach have shade trees and you can obtain every service you need, from a beach lounger to a cold drink.

Historical Sights

California Lighthouse – Near Arashi Beach on the Northwest Coast, this tall sentinel is named for an old steamship wreck named California. The coastal views and natural rock formations are Instagram worthy and there’s an operating daytime cafe.

Located in the heart of downtown, the Aruba National Archaeological Museum, isa series of grand 1920’s colonial buildings. The museum is a merge of the past and present with engaging exhibits ranging from stone tools dating from 4000 BC to displays detailing Arawak life and the colonial era. The facility is ideal for cocktail receptions, and there is also an on-site auditorium perfect for presentations and seminars. (www.namaruba.org/ Free)

Ruins of Bushiribana – These coastal mill ruins are the remains of a gold smelter that was built of natural stone in 1825 and functioned for most of the 19th century. A colorful history of gold prospectors has shaped the island’s history. According to legend, one of these treasures was named “Oro Ruba,” which became “Aruba.” Translated the name means “red gold”.

Activities for Groups

Donkey Sanctuary Originally brought to Aruba by the Spaniards, many of the donkeys now live in the wild. The Bringamosa-based sanctuary welcomes guests, offering information and tours of the grounds to interested visitors. Guests of the Donkey Sanctuary can enjoy petting and feeding the animals, a cozy visitor center, or buy original donkey-themed gifts and souvenirs in the gift shop.

Arikok National Wildlife Park – Established in 2000, the arid and rugged Arikok National Wildlife Park comprises nearly 20% of Aruba and is the top non-beach natural attraction. The park has an impressive Visitors Center at the entrance. You’ll find displays on the park, a lava formation, Caquetío Indians rock paintings and many natural features (iguanas, donkeys and over 70 varieties of cactus.)

Festivals

Bon Bini Festival – Staged in the courtyard of Fort Zoutman by the tourism association, Bon Bini (“welcome” in the local Papiamento language) attracts top folkloric talent from around the island with local foods and handicrafts. Built in 1868, the fort once served as both a lighthouse and public clock tower, and now houses the Aruba Historical Museum. The festival occurs weekly, and would be a fitting locale for your group’s very own Bon Bini welcome party!

Carnival – Aruba’s Carnival is a month-long celebration every November with over-the-top parties, music, parades and more. Carnival was originally born in 1954, as a series of small street festivals. Since 1981, Tivoli, Aruba’s oldest social club, has produced the Lighting Parade, a twinkling nighttime extravaganza. Following the Lighting Parade are Children’s Parades, the Pajama Party, the Grand Carnival Parade in San Nicolas and the finale- the Grand Carnival Parade through Oranjestad. The midnight burning of King Momo, a life-size effigy, signals the burning of the Spirit of Carnival who will rise again when the next season begins.