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The capital city of Oranjestad is located on the beautiful south coast of Aruba, a picturesque and historical place with attractive architecture, the tall multicoloured Wilheminstraat buildings displaying their fine carved wooden doors, pastel painted and with Dutch traditional tiles. The palm-lined streets of the city are best explored on foot. The beaches in the area are the colour of cream and the warm Caribbean sea is a clear turquoise blue, making it an ideal place for water sports.
The cooling breeze from the trade winds is always welcome during these activities. Windsurfing, sailing, fishing, snorkelling, kite surfing, parasailing and wreck diving are all popular activities along the coast. Oranjestad has the largest port in the island and is popular throughout the year with cruise liner passengers who head for the shopping area of Lloyd G. Smith Boulevard or Main Street to enjoy the selection of luxury items and traditional Aruban handicrafts available.
Downtown and Seaport Village are the main shopping areas. At the wharf each morning merchants sell their fish and other fresh produce directly from their boats and this really is worth an early visit. Depending on the time of year you visit Aruba, there are several spectacular festivals that take place here including the Annual Carnival Celebration, Children's Grand Carnival Parade, Bon Bini Festival and Torch Parade.
Nightlife in Oranjestad focuses considerably on casinos where gaming takes place using US dollars. There are also dance clubs which do not open until after midnight, as well as cabaret shows and dinner party cruises available. There is a great deal to see and do on the island of Aruba. The Butterfly Farm is well worth a visit and houses hundreds of unusual butterflies in a 3000 square foot meshed garden with its own waterfall and fish ponds. The California Lighthouse, named after an English ship of the same name that ran aground in 1891, is a great place to view the western coastline and the area surrounding the lighthouse is a stretch of flat sand dunes that are popular with dune surfers. The Quadiriki Caves have some fine Arawak cave art and are set high in the wall of a limestone cliff.
The Historical Museum of Aruba is housed in the oldest building on the island at Fort Zoutman and Willem III Tower and includes Caiquetio artefacts as well as remnants of the island's Dutch colonial past. In the centre of the island lies Arikok National Park, surrounding Mount Arikok. Here the visitor can find some of the oldest Arawak drawings as well as a showcase trail which highlights the flora and fauna of the island, including rare cacti and exotic mammals, birds and flowers. The ruined remains of Bushiribana is the location of a gold smelter from the early 1800s and where an alleged three million pounds of gold was produced during its 90 years in operation.
Queen Beatrix International Airport is served by many international flight operators. Alternatively there are many cruises to the island. Getting around the island is easy as Aruba's bus service is regular and reliable. Taxis are not metered on the island so it is necessary to agree a fare before taking a journey by taxi. Car hire is available from the airport as well as throughout the island and offers the visitor the freedom to explore independently.