Aruba Gold Rush: A Fascinating Look Back
Aruba Gold Rush

When you sign up for a tour of Aruba with Fofoti Tours & Transfers, whether it’s one of our thrilling UTV adventures or our bus tour of the island, one of the stops you’ll make is at the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins – the remains of an impressive stone building that rise dramatically from the surrounding dusty desert landscape. It’s a favorite site for tourists and locals alike, and we always think a special place like this is even more interesting to visit when you know some of the back-story about it, which in this case is all about the Aruba Gold Rush.

Spanish explorers first visited Aruba in 1499. Their expeditions in the New World were often driven primarily by their never-ending quest to find more gold. But the Spaniards were sorely disappointed when they poked around and didn’t immediately discover what they were looking for. They dubbed the island “Isla Inútil” or “Useless Island.” But don’t be offended because nearby islands such as Bonaire and Curaçao were also given the same label. Besides not finding any gold, there were also lots of pirates in the area who hid in the islands caves and coves and attacked ships to steal any riches that might be on board. Everyone moved on to other areas and dreams of Aruban gold withered away.

The Start of the Aruba Gold Rush

Aruba Gold Rush

Fast-forward 325 years to 1824 and a 12-year-old shepherd named Willem Rasmijn. He was trying to find a few sheep who had become separated from the flock. Hiking along in a dry river bed in northern Santa Cruz, he spied a glittering nugget. He and his father took it to a shop in Oranjestad – it was gold! Then an Indian girl found more shiny nuggets in Rooi Daimari. The word spread quickly and the Aruba Gold Rush was on! Europeans and Venezuelans descended on the island in full force. Within five months, more than 25 pounds of gold were collected in and around the original areas identified by the boy and girl.

For the next 30 years, locals were granted permission to carefully sift through the dirt of dry riverbeds and could sell any gold they found to the government for a fixed price. But in 1854 a significant new source of the precious metal was discovered and the gold rush needed a more regulated framework in which to operate. In 1872 the Aruba Island Gold Mining Company was given the exclusive right to mine the island’s gold, and it built a smelter in Bushiribana to process the ore using wind power for its mill. A second smelter was built in Balashi in 1899 that was more modern and used steam power. But after the turn of the century, the amount of gold was dwindling, and when the “black gold” of oil was discovered in 1924, it spelled the definitive end of the Aruba Gold Rush. But during those years, more than three million pounds of gold was removed from Aruban desert landscapes!

Re-Live the Aruba Gold Rush with Fofoti Tours

Aruba Gold Rush

If you’d like to visit this fascinating site of the Aruba Gold Rush on One Happy Island, sign up for one of the following tours with Fofoti:

Natural Pool UTV Adventure: You’ll be picked up at your hotel or resort in one of our comfortable full-sized coaches and taken to Orange Plaza where you’ll start your thrilling UTV adventure, making stops in Arikok National Park, the Natural Pool, Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins and the Alto Vista Chapel. This 3.5-hour tour has two daily departures at 9AM and 2PM. We’ll keep you hydrated with plenty of ice-cold water and keep you fueled up for the adventure with a dry snack.

Island Expedition UTV Adventure: This 3.5-hour UTV adventure will make stops at Black Stone Beach, the Natural Bridge, Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins, California Lighthouse and Arashi Beach. This tour is offered only on Fridays and Saturdays with a 9AM departure. We’ll keep you hydrated with plenty of ice-cold water and keep you fueled up for the adventure with a dry snack.

Best of Aruba Island Bus Tour: This is a great choice for people who want to see all the best sights of One Happy Island but want to travel to them in a more comfortable ride – one of our many full-sized air-conditioned coaches with plenty of huge windows so you don’t miss a thing along the way. This 4.5-hour tour makes stops at California Light House, Alto Vista Chapel, Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins, Natural Bridge, Casibari Rock Formation and Baby Beach with a daily departure at 9AM.

When you want to see all the iconic places Aruba has to offer, you’ll love doing it with Fofoti Tours and Transfers!