When my wife surprised me with a special anniversary vacation, she re-assured me that it included a number of lighthouses on our itinerary. Anxiously, I asked her to tell me our destination. “You’re the expert, so let’s see if you can guess,” she teased. “One of the lights is the California Lighthouse,” she said. I scratched my head looking for a better clue. “Which one? San Diego’s Point Loma? Alcatraz? Point Fermin?” I rattled off a few more names so as to impress her with my knowledge of the lighthouses in California. “None of those . . . but here is another clue. We can also see the Colorado Lighthouse on our trip.” I pondered that for a moment. “I am pretty sure that Colorado doesn’t have any lighthouses. Where are we going????” She smiled and said, “Pack your bags. We are going to Aruba!”
Okay, I’m pretty well versed on the East Coast lights and some of the West Coast lights, but have no knowledge of lighthouses in other countries. So I did some research and found that there were actually three lighthouses in Aruba. The island is only about 25 miles long, so it seemed that we could visit all three lighthouses in a single day trip.
We planned our day starting with a visit to the Seroe Colorado Lighthouse on the southern tip of the island outside the town of San Nicolas. Marked clearly on our map as the Colorado Lighthouse, the light is located on a very rugged formation of jagged, razor-sharp volcanic rocks with a very intimidating current that causes the huge waves to crash violently into the rocks. The need for a lighthouse here was apparent to us, but upon arrival to the site, we were somewhat disappointed to see a tower with a cage atop it which comprised the “lighthouse.” Some locals refer to it as “The Bird Cage,” as you can tell from the photo.
The name, Colorado Lighthouse, came about as a result of the wreck of the Colorado off the southwest coast near this location. The original lighthouse was a wooden framed structure that was replaced by a second masonry tower that lasted until the 1880s when the bird cage style structure was erected. During World War II, a battery of large guns was erected in defense of the island and the large petroleum reserves. The remains of some of the gun batteries are still visible.
Although the “Bird Cage” lighthouse is not a majestic tower as we traditionally think of ocean lights, the scenery and location are amazing. A large anchor greets visitors as one approaches the lighthouse site. The anchor commemorates the memory of all seamen. Entry to Arikok National Park is nearby, but a four-wheel drive vehicle is needed to traverse the dirt trail.
After cooling off in the crystal clear waters, we headed back north for lunch in Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba. Near the harbor area stands a colorful tower known as the Willem III Toren or Tower. In a small garrison called Fort Zoutman, built in 1798, this modest tower stands gracefully as a reminder of the earliest European inhabitants on the island of Aruba. The light tower was added in 1868. The light atop the tower was removed in the 1960s, but we found drawings inside the fort of what the earlier lights looked like. The tower has served as a bell tower and is now a light tower and welcome center used for numerous cultural events. We returned for one such event a few nights later.
Wishing to see a sunset at the California Lighthouse, we took a leisurely late afternoon ride to Hudishibana, the site of the California Lighthouse. “Now that’s a lighthouse!” I exclaimed as we drove up to the road leading to the area. I learned that the California Lighthouse got its name after the wreck of the ship California, which was traveling from Liverpool to Central America when it wrecked off the coast here. A large bronze plaque citing information from the National Library of Aruba gives a brief historical overview. It states that the lighthouse was begun in 1914 and completed in 1916. It further reads, “The tower of this magnificent masterpiece is made of stone blocks hewn right here and is 100 feet high. The metal top of the lighthouse, which contains the light that sets a romantic setting, is 25 feet in diameter.” Romantic, and perfect for an anniversary! To us it seemed that this lighthouse is in need of some attention, with the cupola heavily used and a great deal of weathering having taken a toll on the paint. Nonetheless, this lighthouse is majestic and stands prominently on Hudishibana Hill overlooking some spectacular volcanic rock formations below.
Aruba calls itself “One Happy Island” and we proved to be one happy couple returning to our hotel after a full day of sightseeing and learning more about the history of the three lighthouses of Aruba. The memories and numerous photos will sustain us until our next visit.
This story appeared in the
Nov/Dec 2014 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
All contents copyright © 1995-2024 by Lighthouse Digest®, Inc. No story, photograph, or any other item on this website may be reprinted or reproduced without the express permission of Lighthouse Digest. For contact information, click here.