Although the western hotel zone and the capital of Oranestad – located along the southwest coast – stand as Aruba's main tourist destinations, there are numerous small towns throughout the island that offer unique opportunities for sightseeing. In the western half of the island, just a short trip from both the western beaches and Oranestad, tourists will find several unique communities that offer not only distinctive sights and experiences, but also convenient access to many of the most valuable historical and natural landmarks to Aruba.
Just a short drive north of Oranestad, Noord is home to some of Aruba's most popular historical landmarks. In the heart of the city, visitors will discover the Church of Santa Anna – also known as St. Anna – a breathtaking worship house known for its 19th century hand-carved altar. Although the Church of Santa Anna was renovated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the parish has been a staple in Nordic daily life since 1776.
Just north of Santa Anna Church, perched on a windy hill overlooking Aruba's north shore, travelers will find the famous Alto Vista Chapel. Known for its distinctive yellow exterior and unparalleled views of the Caribbean, the Alto Vista Chapel has long been one of Aruba's most photographed landmarks. Noord also provides easy access to the California Lighthouse, another popular scenic destination near the northwestern part of the island.
The city of Noord can be reached from Oranestad and the west coast in just a few minutes. Travelers visiting the city from Oranestad can follow Caya Francisco D. Figaroa north of the heart of the city, while those staying near Palm Beach can reach the North by following Route 3 east to the easily spotted Santa Anna Church .
Just a few miles southeast of North, travelers will find the relaxing city of Paradera. Although Paradera is one of the lesser known communities of Aruba, this area near the center of the island is not a small activity. Just a short drive from the heart of Paradera, travelers can explore the rock formations of Kashibari, a field of mysteriously shaped stones with well-maintained hiking trails. Visitors who rock some of the largest stones among the rock formations of Casibari will enjoy excellent views of Paradera, Santa Cruz and Aruban province.
You can reach Paradera from Oranestad by following Route 6 to the north coast or resorts on the west beach, following Route 4 or scenic Route 3 through Kalbas.
In the center of the island, visitors will discover the city of Santa Cruz – a community known primarily for its proximity to a wide variety of outdoor attractions and recreational opportunities. Tourists visiting Santa Cruz from the west coast often stop at the former home of the Natural Bridge – once one of Aruba's most photographed natural landmarks. Although the Natural Bridge collapsed in 2005, the nearby Baby Bridge is now celebrated as an equally scenic destination.
Aruba's main recreational and eco-tourism destination – Arikok National Park – is located east of Santa Cruz. Within the park, adventure tourists can explore everything from rugged desert landscapes, fields of unique local flora, volcanic peaks that offer views of the island and the Caribbean, and even historic caves, including Fontaine Cave and Guadirikiri Cave.
Just a short drive from Santa Cruz, travelers can also scale the 541-foot peak known as the Hooiberg. As Hooiberg has steps and railings right up to the top, the mountain is a popular tourist destination for families and travelers looking for a casual outdoor getaway. From the tip of Huberg, visitors will be able to admire views stretching across the island, and on clear days even on the continent of South America.
The city of Santa Cruz and its nearby leisure destinations can be reached from Oranestad on Route 6 or from the western beach areas, taking Route 3 to Paradera, then following Route 6 north to Arricoc National Park.
While beaches, resorts and Oranestad's cosmopolitan capital are certainly Aruba's largest drawings, smaller communities scattered throughout the western half of the island allow tourists to take a more complete picture of the island. The best part is that the roads to many of the island's most famous destinations go through cities such as Noord and Santa Cruz, and tourists can experience the other side of Aruba conveniently and conveniently.