Aruba – The Tiny Kingdom of Romantic Dreams

Although a parliamentary democracy, Aruba most certainly is a kingdom, in the sense that it acknowledges Queen Beaxtrix of Netherlands as its historic patron and ruler. The beautiful, quaint island only has a total volume of 69 square miles, but it is home to over a hundred thousand residents who make a decent living off a thriving tourism trade. It is located just off the coast of Venezuela, making it one of the most Southerly destinations in the Caribbean.

This makes it a bit hotter, since it is closer to the equator. The climate is dry and the natural landscape is strewn with cacti and drought-hardy plants. This might sound like a discouragement, but in fact tourists prefer the weather. The ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) are warm and sunny year-round, and are located outside the hurricane belt.

For the sightseer, Aruba is splashed with history. Spanish settlement dates to the 1500s. Until the modern tourism trade began, it was a major oil refinery, and in this capacity played a role in World War II. American and British troops stationed on the island, and enjoyed it so much it was almost like a paid vacation. It was possibly this exposure that began the resort trade in the ABC islands. Its status and population truly exploded in the 1990s with the dramatic rise in living standards. With a low unemployment rate, Aruba resort towns are safe to walk around at night.

In spite of its small size and population density, Aruba still provides plenty of beautiful natural scenery, such as stone land bridges produced by the surf. The western and southern sides of the island are protected from the ocean current, and enjoy white sandy beaches and gentle waves. Most of the resort development has been along this stretch. The opposite side is battered by the waves and weather, and is left natural and untouched. The entire island enjoys a near constant temperature of 82 degrees, moderated by the trade winds. Combined with a lack of humidity and near constant sunshine, conditions on the island are almost always pleasant and balmy.

Because there little rainfall, there is scarce agriculture. Two-thirds of the economy is tourism, and almost all the staple goods are imported. This basically means that gift shops and restaurants are a bit more expensive. Although the population is dependent on serving foreigners, they prosper from it, and it shows in the beauty and wealth of their towns. They are experienced at serving vacationers, and fellow travelers from the United States will find themselves in familiar company. It also means the manmade opportunities on the island are as plentiful as the preserved geography. To make things easier, the Aruban florin is pegged to the US dollar, and it as easy to find and exchange dollars on the island as the native currency.

Mary J. Gibson

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