Although the western hotel area and the capital of Oranjestad – located along the southwestern shore – are Aruba's main tourist destinations, there are many small towns throughout the island that offer unique sightseeing opportunities. In the western half of the island, a short drive from both the western beaches and Oranjestad, tourists will find many unique communities that offer not only distinct sights and experiences, but easy access to many of the most spectacular sights and natural attractions in Aruba.
Noord is a short drive north of Oranjestad, and is home to some of Aruba's most popular historical monuments. In the heart of the city, visitors will find the Santa Anna Church – also known as St. Ann's Church – a wonderful home of worship known for its hand-carved altar in the nineteenth century. Although the church of Santa Anna was renovated throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the parish has been the focal point of daily life in Nord since 1776.
Just north of Santa Anna Church, which is located on a windward hill overlooking the north shore of Aruba, travelers will find the famous Alto Vista Church. Known for its distinctive yellow exterior and unparalleled views of the Caribbean Sea, Alto Vista Chapel is one of the most famous sights in Aruba. Noord also provides easy access to California Lighthouse, a popular scenic destination near the northwestern tip of the island.
The town of Noord can be reached from Oranjestad and the West Coast in a few minutes. Travelers visiting the city from Oranjestad can follow the Caya Francisco de Figueroa north from the heart of the city, while those staying near Palm Beach can reach Nord by way 3 east to the easily monitored Santa Anna Church.
A few miles southeast of Noord, travelers will find the comfortable city of Paradera. Although Paradera is one of the lesser known communities in Aruba, this area close to the center of the island is not without activities. Within just a minute's drive from the heart of Paradera, travelers can explore Casibari Rock Formations – a field of mysterious rocks with usual hiking trails. Visitors who get more of the largest rocks between Casibari rock formations will find great views of Paradera, Santa Cruz and Aruban countryside.
Paradera can be reached from Oranjestad, by way 6 towards the north shore, or from the western beach resorts by following road 4 or scenic route 3 through the town of Calpas.
In the center of the island, visitors will find Santa Cruz – a community essentially known for its proximity to a wide range of attractions and outdoor leisure opportunities. Tourists visiting Santa Cruz from the west coast often stop at the former home of the Natural Bridge – once one of the most picturesque natural attractions in Aruba. Although the natural bridge collapsed in 2005, the adjacent kid's bridge is now celebrated as equally charming.
Aruba's first leisure and outdoor leisure destination – Arikoc National Park – east of Santa Cruz. Within the park, adventurous tourists can explore everything from rugged desert landscapes, unique local plant fields, and volcanic peaks that offer views of the island and the Caribbean Sea to historic caves, including Fontein Cave and Guadirikiri Cave.
A short drive from Santa Cruz, travelers can also climb a 541-foot high known as Hooiberg. Since Hooiberg features steps and handrails all the way to the top, the mountain is a popular destination for walking for families and travelers looking for casual outdoor entertainment. From the top of Hooiberg, visitors will be able to enjoy the views across the island, on clear days, even to the mainland of South America.
The town of Santa Cruz and its entertainment destinations near Oranjestad can be reached via Route 6 or from the western beach areas by walking on Route 3 to Paradera, then follow Route 6 north towards Arik National Park.
While the beaches, resorts and the world capital of Oranjestad are definitely the largest in Europe, the smaller communities scattered in the western half of the island allow tourists to have a more complete picture of the island. And most of all, as the roads leading to many of the island's tourist destinations pass through cities like Noord and Santa Cruz, tourists are able to experience another relaxing side of Aruba easily and affordably.