San Nicolaas

San Nicolaas
Sint Nicolaas

Nicolaas Store in 2013
Motto: The sunrise side
San Nicolaas

Location in Aruba

Coordinates: 12°26′N 69°55′W / 12.433°N 69.917°W / 12.433; -69.917Coordinates: 12°26′N 69°55′W / 12.433°N 69.917°W / 12.433; -69.917
Country Aruba
Region San Nicolas Noord
San Nicolas Zuid
Population (2010)
  Total 15,284
Time zone AST (UTC-4)
Climate BSh

San Nicolaas (Dutch: Sint Nicolaas) is 19 kilometres (12 mi) southeast of Oranjestad, and is Aruba's second largest city. As of 2008 it has a population of 18,126, most of whom originate from the British Caribbean and rest of the Caribbean.


Known as the island's Sunrise Side, San Nicolaas was once a bustling company town, when Lago Oil and Transport Company opened its oil refinery in 1924 until 1985 when Exxon Corporation closed it and began to dismantle the facility as well as the Colony. In 1991 Coastal Corporation reopened the oil refinery until 1995. It was then sold to Valero in 2004, and it was open for a number of years, and closed in 2009. In December 2010, Valero announced plans to reopen the refinery.[1]

San Nicolaas was named after a Mr. Nicolas van der Biest (1808–1873), who owned a big piece of the land there. Landowners were then addressed by their subordinates by their first names preceded by 'Shon' meaning 'master'. So he was called 'Shon Nicolas', as was the area. It is thought that the change from Shon Nicolas to San Nicolaas was due to the influence of Spanish. (Source is Dr. J Hartog, Aruba's historian and Aruba Tourism Authority.)

On August 22, 2010, San Nicolaas, Aruba, won the Senior League World Series in Bangor, Maine.

Close to San Nicolaas, a Dutch marine camp is off Commanders Bay near the fishing village of Savaneta.

Charlie's Bar, in operation since 1941, once had a colorful reputation as a hangout for rowdy sailors and oil refinery workers. The establishment is known for its variety of bric-à-brac. Pictures, business cards and license plates grace the walls of the bar while the hundreds of items hanging from the ceiling include hats, frisbees, an inner tube, a life jacket and even shirts from the Boston Braves and Brooklyn Dodgers. Charlie's Bar and the town of San Nicolaas are featured in two novels by American author Daniel Putkowski, An Island Away (2008) and Under a Blue Flag (2011).

A section of San Nicolaas' main street has been converted to a picturesque promenade with shops containing souvenirs, crafts and local snacks. In nearby Seroe Colorado, there is a small natural bridge, not to be confused with the bridge at Andicuri. To view the bridge follow the road to its terminus, then hike approximately 200 feet (61 m) down old lava and coral formations.

Only in San Nicolaas is prostitution legal on Aruba.


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