When it comes to historic and picturesque landmarks, the California Lighthouse is one of the most popular things to do in Aruba when visiting the island.
Of the three lighthouses Aruba features, this beacon is the most popular to visit and is open all day. One of the California Lighthouse’s main attractions is its breathtaking views. From its observation deck, visitors can enjoy panoramic vistas of Aruba’s coastline, including the rocky shores, turquoise waters, and the vast expanse of the Caribbean Sea. It is a popular spot for watching the sunset and capturing stunning photographs.
The lighthouse, known by locals as faro blanco or faro na Westpunt, is located in northwest Aruba, in the area known as Hudishibana, about 0.6 miles southeast of the island’s northernmost point. Other attractions, including famous beaches like Arashi Beach and Boca Catalina surround the lighthouse. Visitors often combine visiting faro blanco with exploring these nearby coastal areas.
California Lighthouse Bus Tour
With this 7-hour bus tour, you can visit the California Lighthouse, Natural Bridge, and Alto Vista Chapel in one go!
Accompanied by knowledgeable guides well-versed in Aruba’s rich history and present, you’ll embark on a comfortable trip aboard an air-conditioned bus. Marvel at detailed descriptions of the island’s prominent landmarks as you traverse its picturesque landscapes.
The tour begins by visiting the renowned California Lighthouse, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the entire island. Next, you’ll proceed to the tranquil Alto Vista Chapel and leisurely wander along the Labyrinthe de la Paix, fostering moments of contemplation and serenity.
History of the California Lighthouse
The California Lighthouse was designed by a French architect named Leon Jean Marie Bourgeois. Its construction began in 1914, and it took two years to complete. It stands on an octagonal stone base with a lantern and double gallery and has a length of 98 feet. The metal top of the lighthouse has a diameter of 25 feet. The range of its lights is 50 kilometers.
The lighthouse was first lit in 1916 and is still active today functioning as a coastal warning light. The first lighthouse keeper was a young man from Curaçao named Jacob Jacobs. Jacobs had learned the profession of lighthouse keeper at another lighthouse on the small island of Klein Curaçao.
Federico Fingal from Aruba was the last person to watch over the California Lighthouse. Today, the lighthouse is a monument preserved by the governments of the Netherlands and Aruba in association with the Sun Development Company.
Its design is reminiscent of the Dutch architectural style prevalent during the early 20th century.
You may want to watch this documentary that offers an in-depth look into the history of the California Lighthouse. It provides valuable insights into the lifestyle before the development of hotels and roads in the Westpunt area.
The S.S. California Shipwreck
The California Lighthouse was named after the S.S. California. This British wooden steamship was wrecked on a dark night in the waters nearby in September 1891 while sailing from Liverpool to Central America. The vessel carried passengers, merchandise, provisions, clothes, and furniture.
As the story goes, the cargo that the ship was carrying was thrown overboard, later to be sold in Oranjestad. Contrary to popular belief, the S.S. California is not the ship that received – but did not respond to – the Titanic’s S.O.S. signal.
In fact, the vessel involved in the Titanic disaster, named Californian, was a 447-foot long (136 m), British steel-hulled Leyland Liner. The Californian was torpedoed by a German submarine in the Eastern Mediterranean during World War I, on November 9th, 1915.
Today, the S.S. California shipwreck is still a fascinating diving site. The wreck rises to about 30 feet – making it easy to photograph underwater – and is surrounded by coral formations and plenty of reef fish. The remains of the S.S. California are scattered about and covered in coral and sponges. The largest objects to be found are the ship’s engine and anchor. Strong currents make this site accessible to experienced divers only, however. If divers swim past the wreck into deeper waters, there’s often a good chance of spotting some hammerheads or bull sharks!
California Lighthouse Restaurant
The 1-story lighthouse keeper’s house has been greatly expanded and rebuilt into an Italian restaurant named La Trattoria el Faro Blanco. The restaurant serves authentic Italian cuisine. Featuring 3 air-conditioned indoor dining rooms, an upper terrace offering beautiful views of nearby Arashi Beach and the Tierra Del Sol golf course, a lower terrace, and a garden, La Trattoria is open daily at 8:30 AM. To avoid disappointment, booking a table in advance might be a good idea. Menu highlights to try are Crespelle Certosina: a Crepe filled with shrimp, mushrooms, and Béarnaise sauce, Mixed Seafood Soup and Fettuccini Gamberoni Alla Vodka: a Fettuccini with jumbo shrimps covered with a sauce prepared with fresh tomatoes, basil, and a sip of vodka. From 9:00 AM La Trattoria also offers disposable cameras, film rolls, and California Lighthouse souvenirs.
Restoration of the California Lighthouse
After almost one year, the California Lighthouse reopened its doors to the public on September 5th, 2016. As original construction started in 1914 and finished in 1916, restoration of the lighthouse was necessary because of wear and tear by the sun, water, and wind. Frequent visits by tourists on their lighthouse tour also have contributed to the landmark’s restoration.
Since the lighthouse is a national monument, the restoration project was financed by “Stichting Monumentenfonds Aruba” (National Restoration Fund of Aruba), a financial institution specialising in heritage conservation.