Bubali Bird Sanctuary - a former wastewater treatment facility - is a vast wetland with rich ecosystems that nurture a great variety of resident and migratory bird species. Herons, egrets, cormorants, ducks and fish eagles are just a couple of celebrities to spot while visiting the (locally known as) Bubali Plas. Conveniently located near Aruba's high rise area in Noord, active and non-active birders can easily access this expansive habitat by vehicle or on foot. There's a small dirt road across from The Mill Resort leading to the main entrance and observation tower. And the best part: all this gorgeous plumage is free and available twenty-four-seven!
At a mere 541 feet, this is not Aruba's highest peak, but Hooiberg is the most accessible climb on the island with its five hundred and sixty two steps (count them). Save this climb for a clear day since you will be able to see all the way to the coast of Venezuela. Hooiberg means "haystack" in Dutch, but its the Hooibergite rock found on this volcanic formation that gave this hill its name. From Oranjestad take highway 7-A toward Santa Cruz, or take a cab drive or island tour in case you're not up for an adventurous hill hunt. Whatever the plan, the Hooiberg is a worthwhile discovery.
This museum, factory and store in one, is a must-visit for everyone interested in Aruba's history as world's largest exporter of the aloe vera plant. By taking a fifteen minute tour, visitors will learn about the island's aloe industry past and present, the production process of this natural remedy and the many health benefits that can be achieved by using aloe vera preparations, both orally or topically. Find out everything there is to know about Aruba's aloe background, tour guides are available in English, Dutch, Spanish and native language Papiamento. Dig deeper into the island's soil and feel the heal.
In the mid-19th century, Aruba experienced a gold rush and small mines were built throughout the countryside. The gold smelter ruins at Bushiribana is still visible and serves as a reminder of Aruba's golden years that started in 1824 with a golden nugget found by a local boy called Willem Rasmijn. The gold smelter at Bushiribana was built in 1825 by Aruba Island Gold Mining Company and is still admired till this day for its ancient construction techniques where natural stones were skillfully carved and stacked without the use of mortar to bind them. The impressive backdrop of the northeast coastline is yet another draw, attracting passers-by, photographers, all kinds of sightseers.
Years of pounding waves carved amazing natural formations out of the coral limestone, along Aruba's wild northern coastline. The first and most popular Natural Bridge was 25 feet high and 100 feet long, attracting and inspiring a multitude of sightseers from all over the world. Although it collapsed in 2005, this is still an all time favorite spot for many visitors, especially because of the newest member of one of nature's miracles nearby: the Baby Bridge. There's a small cafe selling local snacks for impromptu picnics, and a souvenir shop offering reasonably priced mementos of your visit. Nevertheless, one of the biggest draws here are the impressive ocean cliff views.
Ayo Rock Formations is located to the northeast of Hooiberg and just a couple of minutes away from Aruba's Donkey Sanctuary and Casibari â" another popular but more crowded spot to explore the island's unique collection of massive diorite boulders. What makes Ayo a unique location is the tranquility of its surroundings, that create a sense of awe and an understanding of why the area was once considered a sacred site by the island's original inhabitants. This natural preserve features some of the oldest Indian drawings and modern pathways have been constructed in order to help visitors better explore this ancient site, while strolling through towering rocks and Aruba's unique variety of flora and fauna.
Two of Aruba's most exciting sites are the Quadirikiri and Fontein caves. Both are part of the island's National Park Arikok, but only the Quadirikiri caves are free to access without park entrance fees, because of its separate location (outside the official Arikok Park boundaries). And while Fontein cave is exceptional for its broad collection of ancient indian paintings, Quadirikiri provides wonderful opportunities for unique photos, thanks to its two chambers that allow filtered sunlight to enter. Travel along the 100 foot tunnel if you are adventurous, but do it peacefully â" hundreds of (harmless) bats make their home here.
"Travel + Leisure" magazine named this stretch of powdery soft white sand, one of the "10 Best Beaches in the World." This public beach offers plenty of parking, shady picnic areas and palapa huts. Swimming is wonderful here and local hotels can set you up with equipment for water sports or other beach activities. There are also facilities right on the beach, if you want to book a skiing trip, a jet ski or banana boat ride on the spot. If you prefer a more peaceful and secluded area to spend your day on this beach, pick one of the seagrape trees on the far end of Eagle Beach and decorate it with well-packed beach bags, towels and a cool box full of ice cold beer.
Established more than 250 years ago by the Indians and the Spanish, Alto Vista is often called the Pilgrim's Church, but is known officially as Our Lady of Alto Vista. The chapel was the island's first Roman Catholic Church, built in 1750 and reconstructed in 1953. As the name Alto (High) Vista (View) suggests, the chapel is set on a cliff looking out across the moving Caribbean Sea. A small, winding road leads to the chapel â" the white crosses along the way mark the Stations of the Cross. For locals especially, Alto Vista is a sacred place for peace and contemplation. For a meditative walk, visit the Peace Labyrinth behind the chapel.
A great way to explore the capital of Aruba is by tramcar (or streetcar). These hydrogen-powered vehicles depart at the cruise ship terminal to take visitors and locals for a free and scenic inner city loop. No matter where passengers hop on and off or take a seat, - on top of an open-roof double-decker or in the shade of a single-deck - street running in Oranjestad has never been this relaxing. Make a stop at the newly renovated Caya G.F. Betico Croes (main street) and shop at the oldest and newest stores in town. Visit the archeological and historical museum of Aruba, or sit back and enjoy the railway ride until you've made up your mind.