The island of Aruba is divided into districts. While the visitor may not notice them, ask any local and they can pinpoint the exact district. Below are some of the larger districts on the island.
POINTS OF INTEREST
The district of Noord is home to the strip of high-rise hotels and casinos that line Palm Beach. The hotels and restaurants, ranging from haute cuisine to fast food, are densely packed into a few miles running along the beachfront. When other areas of Aruba are shutting down for the night, this area is guaranteed to still be buzzing with activity. Here you can also find the beautiful St. Ann’s Church, known for its ornate 19th-century altar. In this area, Aruban-style homes are scattered amid clusters of cacti.
Paradera is located in the northcentral part of the island, comprising the areas of Shiribana, Ayo, Bloemond, and Piedra Plat. The town is easily identifiable by the Filomena Church which sits high above a bluff. Nearby Casibari is a great place to visit. Climb to the top of the largest boulder for amazing panoramas. Afterward, relax with a cold brew and delicious food at the Casibari Music Cafe and Grill.
During the oil refinery heyday, San Nicolas, Aruba’s oldest village, was a bustling port; now its primary purpose is tourism. The major institution in town is Charlie’s Restaurant & Bar. Stop in for a drink and advice on what to see and do in this little town.
The new Carnival Village in San Nicolas has a workshop where you can see costumes made and a new Carnival Museum lets you retrace its history. That’s also where the sunrise jump-up at 4 am called Jouvert Morning begins.
It’s easy to locate the town of Santa Cruz by the distinctive cross at Ser’i Noka, built by my own grandfather Nadi Croes more than 50 years ago. Though not a tourist hot spot (by Aruba standards), this town in the center of the island offers a good taste of how the locals live. It’s not architecturally interesting, but there are many restaurants and local shops offering something a bit different from the usual tourist fare (and at reasonable prices). Santa Cruz is the hometown of Betico Croes, credited for liberating Aruba from the Netherlands Antilles.
The Dutch settled here after retaking the island in 1816, and it served as Aruba’s first capital. Today it’s a bustling fishing village with a 150-year-old cas di torto (mud hut), the oldest dwelling still standing on the island. Here you can watch local fishermen bring in the fresh catch of the day. They will fillet and cook it for you on the spot if you like at a small hut with cold beer and soft drinks. Many of the restaurants get their daily catch from these fishermen. Savaneta is also home to two gorgeous seaside-dining spots—the Old Man and the Sea and the Flying Fishbone, which are side by side.
Originally established as a community for American refinery workers, Seroe Colorado is also known for its intriguing 1939 chapel. Here, organ-pipe cacti form the backdrop for sedate whitewashed cottages. The best reason to come here is the natural bridge. Keep bearing east past the community, continuing uphill until you run out of road. You can then hike down to the cathedral-like formation. It’s not too strenuous, but watch your footing as you descend. Be sure to follow the white arrows painted on the rocks, as there are no other directional signs. Although this bridge isn’t as spectacular as its more celebrated sibling (which collapsed in 2005), the raw elemental power of the sea that created it, replete with hissing blowholes, certainly is.