Diving in Aruba
Aruba's one of those places in the world that ships come to sink. Planes, too. It's hard to ignore when you have a 400-foot WWII ship, the Antilla, headlining a fleet of wrecks that line your shore. There's more than wrecks, to be sure, but the wrecks are the big attraction here. Some, like the aforementioned Antilla, have become entire undersea ecosystems. This wreck was scuttled by its German captain in 1945 rather than surrender the ship to Dutch Marines. So, the ship sank virtually intact, and after 65-plus years underwater almost every surface is dripping with sponges and corals, and a variety of marinelife, from eels to blue tangs to battalions of sergeant majors. It's worth several dives, just by itself. And, at a maximum of 60 feet, you can explore this wreck with ease.
Also on the wreck trail here is the Pedernalis, which was torpedoed by a German submarine in WWII. Several large pieces are spread out over the seafloor. The remains contain a bounty of grouper, snapper and lots of angel fish. The Pedernalis makes for a great shallow night dive when the wreck ignites with cup corals and the stealth moves of night predators.
A favorite purpose sunk wreck is the Debbie II, a 120-foot barge that was sunk in 1992. It has become heavily encrusted and a favorite among local marinelife.
For big drama, you should include the big 300-foot Star Garren, a haven for sea life such as barracuda. The propeller has a particularly striking profile.
Also striking are the Airplane Wrecks, a DC-3 and an S-11. Both offer penetration and make unique photos.
Aruba's not just about wrecks, either. You'll find plenty of options for reef exploration. With something for everyone, the Sonesta Reef, which starts in only 15-feet, ripples with the movement of damsels, butterflyfish, wrasse, parrotfish and angelfish over a vibrantly color-packed reef. Skalahein Reef always tops divers list as a local favorite. This sloping reef, which starts in 20-feet and dips down to 140-feet offers a profusion of marinelife, and the best opportunities for encounters with manta rays and spotted eagle rays. Sea turtles frequent the site, too.
See Aruba's dive sites here.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: The U.S. Department of State requires that all travelers to and from the Caribbean have a passport valid for at least 6 months from the date of return from the destination. U.S. and Canadian citizens do not need a visa. For more info visit the USDoS website. EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All persons leaving Aruba pay a Government Departure Tax of approximately USD $37.50, which may be included in your ticket.
No immunizations are required for travelers from the U.S., Canada or Great Britian. Check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at CDC Aruba.
Culture and Customs
An interesting amalgam of cultures have left their mark on Aruba. The Dutch influence is prominently seen in much of the colorful, Dutch colonial architecture, especially in the capital of Oranjestad. Carnival on Aruba has also become a prominent expression of the mix of Caribbean and Christian cultures, and the Carnival, locally called Bacchanalia, on Aruba takes over the island from January through the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. With so many US visitors, American cultural staples such as Thanksgiving and Halloween are beginning to find their way into the social fabric. Aruba is also the only country in the world that celebrates Dia Di San Juan with singing and dancing. Aruban love music, and the local beat, called socarengue is accompanied with a sensual dance. The original island inhabitants, the Arawak Indians have left behind petroglyphs and cave paintings in Arikok National Park, and the vestiges of a few place names.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
Electricity in Aruba is 110 volts, 60 cycles (same as U.S.)
Aruba's country code is 297 and direct dial service is reliable. Check with your cell phone service provider for information on calling and data usage in Aruba. High speed internet service is readily available.
Desalinated, filtered tap water is safe to drink. Bottled water is readily available for sale.
Language & Currency
Dutch is the official language of Aruba. English and Spanish are widely spoken.
The local currency is the Aruban Florin (AFG). Most local businesses accept U.S. Dollars and major credit cards
Aruba is in the Atlantic Time Zone (AST) and does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Aruba is four hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT).
History, Art, and Culture
Aruba is a colorful mix of cultures. The Dutch influence is immediately apparent in the capital city of Oranjestad, which is famous for its brightly colored Dutch colonial architecture. Carnival season blends Christian traditions with Caribbean rhythms during Bacchanal, which takes place from January through the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday each year. Mexican, Spanish and South American influences are also prevalent, including the Dia de San Juan, the feast of St. John celebration, held every June 24. For this event, Arubans dress in red yellow and black costumes for lots of singing and dancing. Arubans love music and food. Socarengue is Aruba's own mash-up of global musical styles and beats.
Local cuisine borrows from many cultures. Dining options range from Caribbean to European to Continental.
Location, Size and Population
Aruba is 21 miles long and 6 miles wide, a total of about 75 square miles. Aruba is one of the Lesser Antilles located below the hurricane belt in the Southernmost end of the Caribbean roughly 18 miles off the coast of Venezuela. The population of Aruba is approximately 104,263 (2016).