10 Best Fun Facts That Will Blow Your Mind About Aruba – Caribbean’s A of the ABC Islands
Port of Oranjestad, Aruba
Right at the heart of the world’s commercial route is Aruba which makes the Port of Oranjestad a vital trading center with links to North and South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Aside from being a busy port, it is also home to Valero Aruba Oil Refining Company, one of Caribbean‘s biggest oil refineries. Port of Oranjestad is located along the edge of the bay (at Oranjestad, capital of Aruba) which offers an attractive sight to ships entering the harbor as seen in the above photo of the said port.
Open for 24 hours a day, it processes imports for the residents of Aruba serving containerized and transshipment cargo. It also handles roll-on/roll-off, breakbulk, gas, fuel and aggregates vessels. The Port of Oranjestad has 5 berths for cruise ships and 3 cruise terminals welcoming thousands of tourists each year.
Brief Background on Aruba:
When the Spanish explorer Alfonso de Ojeda discovered Aruba in 1499, he encountered what he thought were “giants” but actually Caquetio Indian (who were a little bit taller than their explorers) settlers that inhabited the island for centuries. The conquistadors considered their new discovery as “isla inutil” (useless island) because of its relatively low rainfall climate and was not a good place for plantations. However, Spain controlled Aruba for 137 years until the Dutch saw this tiny island in 1636 and considered it as a good strategic location for their salt supply from the South American mainland.
The Dutch recruited the Caquetios to build and raise cattle for meat and shipment to other islands. But during the Napoleonic Wars, the British took control of Aruba eventually The Netherlands seize it back in 1816 and the island officially became a part of the Netherlands Antilles in 1845. It became that way until 1986 when the country became a separate self-governing territory and was fully independent in 1995.
Though it’s now a free country, Aruba remains a constituent nation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Its foreign affairs and national defense are still under the jurisdiction of the Dutch monarchy but its internal affairs is controlled by their national government. Along with Curacao and Bonaire who were also once parts of the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba is one of the commonly referred as the ABC group of islands in the Caribbean Sea with a burgeoning economy based mainly on tourism.
It was December 1992 aboard M/T Knock Allan when we docked at Oranjestad Port for oil build up at Valero Aruba Oil Refinery while this island-nation was still under the Netherlands Antilles control. Famous for its talcum powder-like beaches and temperate climate, I was lucky enough to spend 5 days which gave me the chance to get some “scoop” of what makes this tiny but amazing island tick to tourists. With a deep Dutch heritage and culture especially in its architecture, here are 10 best fun facts that will blow your mind about this incredible A of the Caribbean’s ABC Islands.
1. Arubans are quadrilingual, they speak 4 languages.
Yes, every Aruban can speak 4 languages – English, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamento, a best fun fact that will blow your mind when you are in this island. Dutch and Papiamento are the official languages although in schools, kids have their lessons almost in Dutch except in Papiamento language class. This is a blend of Portuguese-Dutch-African influences which originated from a language used in the trading of slaves. And of course, Arubans are Dutch nationals, using EU passports. Pasa un bon dia!
2. They have a rare currency, the Aruban florin.
A best fun fact that will blow your mind in Aruba is its rare currency called Aruban florin. Though it is peddled at 1.77 Awg at US $ 1.00 you need to find a specialized exchange rate provider to buy it, but the good news is, you can use the US dollar as it is accepted everywhere in the island.
3. It is NOT a tropical paradise but an arid and windy island.
Contrary to what you think, Aruba is a dry and arid island, a best fun fact that will blow your mind on this paradise. It is more like a desert but windy and you will be in for a surprise as it is still a beautiful land with 25 knots of wind in a normal day. “Blow me down” as Popeye the sailor said but it makes the heat more controllable.
4. You can actually walk barefoot even at high noon on its beaches without burning your feet.
Another best fun fact that will blow your mind but walking barefoot along the beaches in Aruba without your flip-flops is okay and relaxing. The unique mix of coral and shells keep the white, powdery sands cool all day long.
5. Gambling here is tax-free.
Hopi bon, the winner takes it all literally and indeed because this country doesn’t tax gambling windfalls, a best fun fact that will blow your mind about Aruba. You can enjoy playing at its dozen casinos without having to worry of taxes in your winnings as gambling here is legal. If you have that lucky hand and want to bring home some money, then go for it.
6. Eagle Beach in Aruba is famous for its slanted Fofoti trees.
If you’ve already seen a postcard from Aruba, it depicts a white sand, the blue sea and a leaning Fofoti tree along the beach. That is Eagle Beach with the trees slanted towards the southwest direction due to the trade winds that pass along the island. Fofoti trees are noted as natural compass in Aruba, a best fun fact that will blow your mind since they are pointing southwest, even if you venture far and seems to have been lost, just look at the direction these leaning trees are pointing to and you will always find your way back to the town.
7. It is world famous for windsurfing.
A best fun fact that will blow your mind, Aruba offers the most spot for windsurfing in the world and it hosts the yearly Hi-Winds Windsurfing Pro-Am Grand Prix World Cup in summer. In fact the best windsurfers on the planet are from Aruba. The women here, specifically are exemplary in this field like Sarah-Quita Offringa, 11 times winner of the Freestyle Windsurfing World Cup Sylt and the youngest woman to become world champion in this sport.
8. An island of culinary wonders.
There are at least 90 different nationalities living in Aruba thus it is a hub of culinary wonders, a best fun fact that will blow your mind where you can choose from the hundreds of restaurants spread out in the island. You can have a catch-of-the-day Caribbean-style seafood of keri-keri (sauteed barracuda) to Indonesian nasi goreng ayam (chicken fried rice) or the Italianized funchi(polenta). Keshi Yena, one of Aruba’s most popular cuisine is a traditional dish baked in Edam cheese with spiced meat, prunes and chestnuts stuffing.
9. Iguana meat is considered a delicacy here.
Believed to have a high protein and low fat content in its meat, a best fun fact that will blow your mind, the iguana (featured in the 100 Aruban florin banknote) is a delicacy in Aruba. Regarded as “chicken of the trees”, they are also alleged to taste like the chicken when cooked and locals here say it can cure ailments like common colds and increases libido (or sex drive) as well.
10. Hop-on, hop-off at a trolley for a free tour around Oranjestad.
To get the best view on the sights of Oranjestad hop on board a trolley, one of the best fun facts that will blow your mind about this city and it’s entirely free. This is a streetcar that will take you around the top attractions in the capital especially the pastel-hued buildings that jostle along the city’s impeccable streets. If you are lucky , sometimes the driver lets passenger take the controls for a quick selfie.
“One Happy Island.” This is the slogan of Aruba and I tell you its residents live up to it. They love their nation and you need to see the place one day to believe it. There is a lot of island pride and for a good reason. Bonbini!