Uncommon Attraction: Aruba’s Fantastically French California Lighthouse
It certainly stands out among the myriad of high-rise resorts and hotels that line nearby Palm Beach – Aruba’s California Lighthouse, a beacon in more ways than one.
If the marvelous symmetry of her design and fenestration, her stately facade, and the ornate pediments crowning each window have you humming La Marseillaise, don’t be surprised. This Aruban treasure bearing a distinctly American name was, indeed, designed by a French architect.
As in much of Aruba, a variety of different influences from near and far coalesce in the California Lighthouse to make something worth checking out. The name, though, doesn’t come from America.
Aruba’s California Lighthouse is actually named for the S.S. California, a wooden steamship that wrecked in the waters just off the island’s northwest coast in September 1891 while sailing from Liverpool to the Americas.
(Often, the S.S. California is mistaken for the S.S. Californian, which infamously declined to come to the rescue of the Titanic during the tragedy of its maiden voyage in 1912, a good 21 years after the California settled into its watery grave in the Caribbean.)
Constructed between 1914 and 1916, the California Lighthouse towers above the very northwest tip of Aruba, overlooking the very waters that claimed its namesake ship more than a century ago. These days, though, the Lighthouse serves more as a tourist attraction than anything else.
When I stopped in here back in August, I found the base of the Lighthouse and its attendant restaurant (formerly the home of the lighthouse attendant) teeming with tour buses, tourists, and tour-guides, the latter intermittently bellowing a cacophony of historical facts and time checks in an effort to wrangle their charges, while staying on-schedule.
This, of course, made admiring the California Lighthouse from the vantage point pictured here, a good distance down the road that leads to her doorstep, much more enjoyable for me.
The California Lighthouse is impossible to miss when exploring the northwest environs of Aruba. Just head north along the coast past the ultra-touristy Palm Beach resort area and you’ll run right into it. Get there early to avoid the crowds, or stay late for one of the best sunset experiences anywhere.