Aruba  is a Caribbean island 15 miles north of the coast of Venezuela. The island is an autonomous dependency of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is 19.6 miles (30 kilometers) long and 6 miles (9 kilometers) across, at its widest point, with an area of approximately 70 square miles (184 square kilometers). This flat, riverless island is renowned for its white sand beaches. Its tropical climate is moderated by constant trade winds from the Atlantic Ocean. The temperature is almost constant at about 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit).
Aruba is divided into the northeast and southwest coasts. The southwest has the white sand beaches, turquoise seas, and warm waters. The northeast coast, exposed to the Atlantic, has a few white sand beaches, rough seas with treacherous currents and rocky coastline.
The climate is tropical marine, with little seasonal temperature variation. Because of its location south in the Caribbean there is very strong sun, but a constant light breeze keeps the temperature pleasant. (These persistent winds out of the east shape the island's distinctive, lop-sided divi-divi trees.) The weather is almost always dry, with most rain showers coming at night and lasting only a little while. It lies outside the zone usually affected by hurricanes.
The island is flat with a few hills, arid with mostly desert vegetation and negligible natural resources other than white sandy beaches. Highest point: Mount Jamanota (188 meters).
Discovered and claimed for Spain in 1499, Aruba was acquired by the Dutch in 1636. The island's economy has been dominated by three main industries. A 19th century gold rush was followed by prosperity brought on by the opening in 1924 of an oil refinery. The last decades of the 20th century saw a boom in the tourism industry. Aruba seceeded from the Netherlands Antilles (Bonaire and Curacao, the ABC-Islands)in 1986 and became a separate, autonomous member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Movement toward full independence was halted at Aruba's request in 1990.
Tourism is the mainstay of the small, open Aruban economy, with offshore banking and oil refining and storage also important. The rapid growth of the tourism sector over the last decade has resulted in a substantial expansion of other activities. Construction has boomed, with hotel capacity five times the 1985 level.
Officially 120V 60Hz, which is identical to the U.S. and Canadian standard. Outlets are North American grounded outlets, identical to standard U.S. and Canadian wall outlets. Occasionally non-grounded outlets may be found, which do not accept the third, round pin present on grounded plugs, and require an adapter. Older North American outlets may not be polarized (with one slot wider than the other). Otherwise, adapters are available which accept a polarized plug and adapt it for use with a non-polarized outlet.
Aruba no longer has a national airline. American Airlines is a popular carrier that schedules flights from the gateways of New York, Boston, Miami and San Juan. Other major carriers from the US include United (Chicago, Washington/Dulles), US Airways (BOS,Philadelphia, Charlotte), Continental(Newark,Houston), Delta(Atlanta) and JetBlue Airways (New York JFK, Boston).
First Choice Airways flies charter flights from the London and Manchester in the UK, and KLM flights to Amsterdam connect to most of the rest of Europe. Avianca and Aires connect Aruba to Colombia.
Daily connections to Venezuela include Caracas, Maracaibo, Las Piedras and Valencia, by Aeropostal, Aserca, Santa Barbara Airlines and Avior.
There is an office of the American Department of Homeland Security at the airport for those traveling to the United States.
Cabs are available at the airport and at hotels. You can also rent a car or jeep at the Queen Beatrix airport or through the hotel concierge. Additionally there is a bus system called "Arubus."
You can find city/island buses at a main station right downtown. Friendly drivers and some riders will help you choose routes and provide commentary on stops and sights. Fares are quite modest.
Because Aruba is small, consider not renting a car until you know what you want to do. Many activities are central to the resort area of the island and are within walking distance. Renting cars/jeeps are easy and many rental companies provide pickup service from area hotels.
Driving in Aruba
The most important thing to remember is that there are no turns on red. Also, there are several roundabouts, which can be frustrating to some drivers but are quickly gotten used to. Aruba uses international road signs, which generally have no words or obvious relation to their meaning. Happily tourist maps usually contain quick references to these road signs if you are unfamiliar.
The major road is LG Smith Blvd, on which people usually drive at about 40 mph, though that is a very rough guideline. Because the island is so small, everything of interest is close to everything else of interest, and it takes special talent to get lost - if you don't know where you're going, you can basically just keep driving, and statistically speaking you are likely to end up where you need to go eventually. It should be noted, however, that most of the roads are not identified by signage.
Languages spoken are Dutch (official), Papiamento, (a creole of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch origin), Spanish, and English (widely spoken).
Above all, it appears that Arubans are very aware that their economy is completely dependent on tourism - so Arubans are polite to tourists, and even street vendors don't generally seek to rip off their customers (though as in all traveling, don't let advice like this lull you into a sense of complacency). This may be helped by the fact that Aruba is a relatively expensive place to visit, so it tends to attract the reasonably well-off.
American dollars are accepted virtually everywhere at a decent exchange rate. If you have U.S. dollars, there is no need to change money into the local currency, the Aruban florin. The current exchange rate (as of April 2008) given in shops is about 1.79 florins to the dollar. Because the island is a Dutch dependency, Dutch currency is easy to spend, and small change for purchases in dollars may be in florins. The island is actually not duty-free, but merchants respond well to competition on other islands, and duty free goods are offered by a few shops at the airport as visitors depart.
Oranjestad's waterfront has many vendors/stalls selling souvenirs. Ironically, many of these souvenirs are imported from the United States with island scenes/slogans, only to be purchased by Americans and brought back to America.
In Oranjestad, the Renaissance Mall contains various American and European major apparel brands (i.e. Tommy Hilfiger, Polo Ralph Lauren, Gucci) at essentially the same prices as in the United States. The mall and the rest of the downtown area also hold numerous other types of stores catering to visitors.
With numerous cruise ships visiting, downtown and resort stores offer buys in jewelry, etc., typical of that in other Caribbean cruise ports, some at "duty free" prices. For cheese lovers, mild Dutch Gouda, in boxes or wheels, is a popular buy in super markets, though not the bargain it used to be.
Groceries and other supplies are all imported from elsewhere, so prices tend to be high.
Stoba di Bestia Chiquito - a hearty goat meat and vegetable stew
Keshi Yena - chicken or seafood with Dutch cheese
Many chain restaurants, both fast food and upscale, from the United States are present in Aruba (i.e. Texas de Brazil, Wendy's, Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Hooters, Subway, Tony Romas). The upscale restaurants vary in quality as there are a limited number of them and they have a steady stream of tourist customers, as they advertise in pamphlets available in the hotels. The fast food places are essentially no different than their American counterparts.
Full compiled list of restaurants on Aruba
Aquarius, L.G. Smith Boulevard 82, Oranjestad, +297-583-6000
Fishes and More, J.E. Irausquin Blvd 370, Palm Beach, +297-586-3659, 
Flying Fishbone, Savaneta # 344, Savaneta, +297-584-2506, +297-584-9018, 
L.G. Smith's Chop & Steakhouse, L.G. Smith Boulevard 82, Oranjestad, +297-583-6000, Ext: 6195, 
B55, Balashi 55, Balashi,+297 5852111, 5931476, 
Ambianz, L.G. Smith Boulevard 1, +297 583 9420
Pam Pam, Boegoeroei 11 Z (located at Perle d'or), +297 587 7710
Marandi, Bucutiweg 50, Bucuti, +297 582 0157, +297 582 0166
Gambero Rosso, Weststraat 2 (Marina Azul Mall), Oranjestad, +297 582 3007, +297 585 3727
Rumba Bar & Grill, Havenstraat 4 (Aventura Mall, behind the Renaissance Hotel), Oranjestad, +297 5887900, [http:/www.rumba-aruba.com/]
Sushi - Ya, Renaissance Marketplace - Oranjestad & PLaya Linda Resort - Highrise, +297 583 9982, +297 585 1680
Chalet Suisse Restaurant, J.E. Irausquin Blvd 246 (Eagle Beach), +297 587 5054, +297 587 0349
Alfredo's, Sasakiweg z/n (Adventure Golf Complex), Oranjestad, +297-5876625, +297-5876645, 
Amazônia Churrascaria, J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 374, Palm Beach, +297-5864444, +297-5864600, 
Aqua Grill, J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 374, Palm Beach, +297-5865900, +297-5865901, 
Bella Luna, Palm Beach 21-A, Palm Beach, +297-5860644, +297-5860220, 
Benihana, Sasakiweg z.n. P.O. Box 695, Palm Beach, +297-5866789, +297-5826794, 
Buccaneer, Gasparito 11-C, Noord, +297-5866172, +297-5831077, 
Café & Restaurant bingo, Palm Beach 6D, +297-5862818, +297-5862817
Café The Paddock, L.G. Smith Boulevard 13, Oranjestad, +297-5832334, 
Café The Plaza, L.G. Smith Boulervard 9, Oranjestad, +297-5838826, +297-5820842, 
Café Twister, Dominicanessenstraat 10, +297-5839077
Canton Tea House, Bushiri 23, +297-5826688
Captain's Corner, Palm Beach 6-D, +297-5861991, +297-5863376
Captain's Table, La Cabana Resort, +297-5879000, +297-5877208
Carlos 'n Charlie's, Weststraat 3A, Oranjestad, +297-5820355, +297-5820275
Casa Tua, J. E. Irausquin Blvd.(Arawak Gardens), Palm Beach, +297-586 8470,+297, 
Chalet Suisse, J. E. Irausquin Boulevard 246, +297-5875054, +297-5870349
Charlie's Bar & Restaurant, B. v/d V. Zeppenfeldstraat 56, San Nicolas, +297-5845086
Matilde, Havenstraat 23, Oranjestad, +297-5839200, +297-5835500, 
Cleo's Sports Grill (Alhambra Bazaar), J. E. Irausquin Boulevard 47, +297-5835000, +297-5834230
Costariba, St. Cristoffelbergweg 9, +297-5844088, +297-5845828
Cuba's Cookin', Wilhelminastraat 27, Oranjestad, +297-5880627, +297-5824940, 
Driftwood, Klipstraat 12, Oranjestad, +297-5832515, +297-5872321
El Chalan, Caya Betico Croes 152, +297-5827591, +297-5827591
El Gaucho, Wilhelminastraat 80, Oranjestad, +297-5823677, +297-5830123, 
El Fogón, San Barbola 5, +297-5825224
Flamboyant, Bushiri Beach Resort, +297-5825216
Frangipani Coffee Shop, Costa Linda Beach Resort, +297-5838000
French Steakhouse, J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 55 (Manchebo Beach Resort), Eagle, +297-5823444, +297-5833667, 
Gasparito, Gasparito 3, +297-5867044, +297-5867144
Hooters, J E Irausquin Blvd 370 A, Palm Beach, +297-5868060, +297-5846885, 
Hostaria da Vittorio, L.G. Smith Blvd. 380, Palm Beach, +297-5863838, +297-5866338, 
Iguana Joe's Caribbean Bar & Grill, Royal Plaza Mall/L.G. Smith Boulevard 101/102, +297-5839373
Kowloon, Emmastraat 11, +297-5824950, +297-5834023
La Dolce Vita Ristorante Italiano, Sasakiweg 46, Eagle, +297-5885592, +297-5885593, 
La Nueva Marina Pirata, Balashi Z/N, +297-5857150, +297-5836078
La Trattoria El Faro Blanco, Westpunt (The California Lighthouse), +297-5860786, +297-5860788
La Vista, Aruba Marriott Resort, +297-5869000, +297-5860649
Le Dôme, Irausquin Blvd. 224, Eagle, +297-5871517, +297-5874822, 
Le Petit Cafe, JE Irausquin Boulevard Z/N, +297-5874620, +297-5826577, 
Mido, Dwarsstraat 5, +297-5822134
Oriental Bar & Restaurant, Zoutmanstraat 5, +297-5821008
Papiamento, Washington 61, +297-5864544, +297-5861505
Pega Pega, Manchebo Beach Resort, +297-5823444
Peking (San Nicolas), Caya Jose Geerman 78, +297-5841900
Peking, Santa Cruz 324, +297-5851372
Que Pasa?, Wilhelminastraat 18, +297-5834888, +297-5834443
Salt & Pepper, J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 370, Palm Beach, +297-5863280, +297-5862941, 
Sbarro, Seaport Market/L.G. Smith Blvd. 9, Oranjestad, +297-5836055, +297-5836044
Scandals, L. G. Smith Blvd. 9, P. O. Box 1124, Oranjestad, +297-5834488, +297-5832941, 
Sole Mare, Palm Beach 23, +297-5860077, +297-5826988
Sun Club, Costa Linda Beach Resort, +297-5838000, +297-5836040
Tango, J.E. Irausquin Boulevard 370 (opp. Allegro Resort), Palm Beach, +297-5868600, +297-5868644
Texas de Brazil, J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 382, Palm Beach, +297-5864686, +297-5863685, 
The Grill House, Zoutmanstraat 31, +297-5831611, +297-5830508
The Mill, Irausquin Blvd. 330, +297-5861746, +297-5867700
The Old Cunucu House, Palm Beach 150, Palm Beach, +297-5861666, +297-5827753, 
The Pirate's Nest, Bucuti Beach Resort/L.G. Smith Blvd, Punta Brabo, +297-5831100, +297-5825272, 
The Red Parrot, J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 47 (Divi Hotel), +297-5823300, +297-5822626
The Turtle's Nest, Costa Linda Resort, Eagle, +297-5838000, +297-5836040, 
The Waterfront Crabhouse, L.G. Smith Blvd. 9 Renaissance Marketplace, Oranjestad, +297-5835858, +297-5826787, 
Tony Roma's, J.E. Irausquin Boulevard #230 A, Palm Beach, +297-5867427, +297-5860860
Tortuga Bar & Grill, L.G. Smith Boulevard 51/53, Eagle, +297-5823000, +297-5838191, 
Ventanas del Mar, Tierra del Sol, Westpunt, +297-5867800
Villa Martha Bar & Restaurant, Golfweg 67, +297-5845656
By the glass, sixpack or case, imported dutch beers are relatively good buys. Balashi Beer - Aruba's National Beer...a must-drink beverage, perfect after spending all day at the beach. Founded in 1996, the name Balashi is derived from the words Bala Bala and Balana and means "near the sea." It is the only beer brewed on the island of Aruba. Daily tours of the brewery are available with an open-aired bar and restaurant on the premises. Balashi Brewery / Tel. 592-2544 / 523-6544. Balashi Gardens open from 6:30 am - 4:00 pm. Tours Monday - Friday. There is also a Balashi logo store, with mostly t-shirts, and a few other things located on L.G. Smith Boulevard, right before the Harley shop and after the Caribbean Mercantile Bank. Very easy to miss but worth a trip if you enjoyed the Balashi! There is also a drive-thru beverage store next door that is nifty.
There are two private but IMED approved medical schools on the island that prepare students for practice in the United States. These are All Saints University of Medicine and Javier Xavier School of Medicine.
Aruba is generally a very safe place at any time of day or night. Contrary to the sensational media circus surrounding the disappearance of Natalee Holloway in 2005, that was an isolated incident and completely unrepresentative of the island; it could have happened anywhere.
However, it would probably be wise to stay away from the area surrounding the Valero refinery on the southeast part of the island at night (in the words of a Valero employee, "you will get some undesirables down there at night"). There is generally no reason for a tourist to go there at all anyway, so this likely will not be an issue.
The running water in Aruba is absolutely safe to drink; the island's desalination plant is the second largest in the world.
Nature is very cherished by the Aruban people. 18% of their island is dedicated to the Arikok National Park .