Oranjestad (or Orangetown) is the magnificent colonial Dutch capital of the stunning Caribbean isle of Aruba. Like many of the main towns in the Caribbean, Oranjestad is located on a huge natural deep water harbor that is protected from all types of extreme weather. For Caribbean cruise ships, this makes Oranjestad a great port of call, while for their passengers there is a wealth of things to see and do in the old town.
Not to be missed is Fort Zoutman, the original Dutch settlement that later grew to become the town we see today. Built in 1796, the battlements are now the focal point of the town’s historic and cultural activities, housing the informative Aruba Historical Museum, containing the iconic William III Tower and hosting the weekly Bon Bini folklore festival. The old colonial buildings around the town are particularly noticeable for their bright orange color, which makes them very photogenic. Orange was the color used to commemorate and symbolize William of Orange, one of the most famous figures in Dutch history.
The old harbor area is where most people do their shopping in Oranjestad, as the entire area is a duty-free zone. Local specialty items include jewelry, handcrafts and, of course, a stunning variety of Dutch cheeses! In this area you will also find other museums such as the delightful Oranjestad Numismatic Museum. There are plenty of other attractions in and around the town, such as the Aruba Ostrich Farm and Butterfly Farm, while Palm Beach and Eagle Beach are both great for swimming and sunbathing. Offshore there are heaps of magical dive sites, and, as always, there are plenty of sailing and motorboat options to choose from. Golf, horseback riding and kite surfing are among the other outdoor activities to be enjoyed.
Oranjestad has dozens of quality restaurants serving a wide variety of local and international cuisine. The dining options range from casual diners to quite expensive but excellent full service restaurants. For those wanting arguably the best dining experience on the island, try Gasparito Restaurant and Gallery which not only has the best local cuisine on the island, but also has a superb art gallery with many of the pieces for sale. After sating yourself, head to the downtown area for its surprising range of bars, clubs and discos. The themes here range from relaxing Latino terrace bars to thriving Top 40 dance bars. For a more romantic scene, try one of the many quiet, moody hotel bars near the waterfront.
As one of the Caribbean’s most historic and lively towns, Oranjestad offers visitors a fun time filled with great attractions, activities, dining, shopping and relaxing! Another great positive thing about the town is the friendliness and helpfulness of the local people, who are extremely kind and thoughtful to the tourists on which many of their livelihoods depend. You will forever remember your Oranjestad port-of-call!