On the Right Track - Aruba's Trolleys

Have you hopped aboard the new eco-trolley in downtown Oranjestad yet? If not, why not? It’s free! And here’s what you’re missing…

Begin at the new Paardenbaai Plaza welcome center where you’ll find an information booth and new kiosks with shops, food, and rest spots. It’s right outside of the cruise terminal entrance, and right beside a parking lot too! This is where the trolleys begin their loop throughout the downtown core, and you can hop on and hop off at any of the nine stops whenever you like.

There are four trolleys in all; whimsical retro designs in bright colors, and all have shaded seats. Two are double-deckers so can you have a panoramic view of what you’re passing. Great for photos!

Except for the cheery clanging of the bell and the excited chatter of the passengers, you’ll travel quietly along a mile-and-a-half of dedicated track. The trolleys are outfitted with eco-friendly rechargeable batteries, which means no noisy engines or polluting exhaust. But sometimes the conductor also plays taped music, which gives the entire experience a more carnival-ride type of vibe, and the sound makes people along the sidewalks stop and wave. So much fun!

If you haven’t been to downtown Oranjestad in a while, then you’re in for a big surprise. The past few years have seen the old grande dame capital transform from a fading, tired region to a totally rejuvenated and inviting grid. Fresh coats of colorful paint make the heritage colonial buildings pop, and a new pedestrian-only walkway along the old Mainstreet (Caya G.F. Betico Croes) draws visitors and locals alike back to this once neglected area.

Bright new modern stores like Mango and Victoria’s Secret are now sidling in between the older, well-established, and family-run shops and local food stops. And the newly refreshed courtyard at Daniel Leo Plaza has free Wi-Fi if you grab a gelato at the new Italian outdoor eatery. Hop off at stops like Nicky Plaza to see old neighborhoods developing into trendy new blocks with cool cafés like the Coffee Break, and stop into new bakeries and boutiques there as well.

If you notice big blue horses popping up everywhere you go, don’t worry you’re not hallucinating, they’re part of a downtown-wide outdoor local art project. (Oranjestad was once an important horse-trading port!) And speaking of local art, you must stop into the new Cosecha building that showcases only local artists and designers and also has a cute little café with authentic local eats. You’ll find it right across from the National Archaeological Museum – another must visit spot!

Of course, the trolley loops around all the high-end shopping emporiums like the Renaissance Mall for designer fashions and top quality jewelers, but once the sun starts to set it’s time to head to the Renaissance Marketplace on the marina. Catch a stellar sunset over the water, then choose from scads of wonderful restaurants for dinner. There are also casinos and even cinemas for entertainment there, and usually a live band is playing in the public square. And if you’re downtown on a Tuesday, take the trolley to the fabulous Bon Bini Festival at Fort Zoutman at 6:30 p.m. for local food, drinks, and a folkloric dancing gala.

So what are you waiting for? Hop aboard Aruba’s unique new trolleys to truly explore all there is to enjoy in the refreshed Oranjestad. You’ll see why it’s bound to become the coolest little cosmopolitan capital in the Caribbean!