[Heads up! This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Aruba Tourism Authority for SocialSpark. However, all opinions are mine and the interview below is with a real person who really went to Aruba and really liked it.]

Michelle, my best friend since sixth grade, and her husband just celebrated their one-year anniversary in Aruba.

It was a week of beaches, booze and seafood. They came back with sunburns, slightly thicker waistlines, and a greater appreciation for the 19-mile-long Caribbean island’s multicultural past.

Aruba’s earliest inhabitants were the Arawak Indians, a peaceful tribe of fishermen. The Spanish settled the island in 1499 and were ousted by the Dutch about 150 years later. The island has a strong African heritage and has recently seen an influx of residents from Venezuela, Columbia and China. Today Aruba’s population is composed of more than 40 nationalities.

The island’s melting pot of heritages can be seen today in its architecture, language and cuisine, which ranges from fresh fish to Dutch breakfast treats.

“Oh man, the pancakes were delicious!” Michelle said.

She and her husband ate their fair share in the island’s many pancake houses, where toppings included everything from strawberry and whipped cream, to ham, gouda cheese and pineapple.

Fruit and cream-topped pancakes from Aruba’s Dutch Pancake House (Pannekoekhuis), care of TripAdvisor

Michelle and I grew up on Florida’s Gulf coast. Here, our beaches are lined with funky restaurants, sand-floored dive bars, and shacks that serve all-you-can-peel shrimp.

There were plenty of those in Aruba, Michelle said, but there were also grand Dutch-inspired buildings with European porticos and terraces.

To keep true to their Caribbean heritage, these buildings are painted bright pinks, baby blues and greens.

Buildings in downtown Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital. Care of D-Stanley, on Flickr

The official language of Aruba is Dutch, but most people speak a minimum of four languages including the island’s native tongue of Papiamento, an Afro-Portuguese Creole that borrows from Dutch, English and Spanish.

Those who studied the Romance languages in high school may recognize the Papiamento’s Bon dia and Por fabor, but scratch their heads at Unda bo ta bai?, which translates to Where are you going?

“I listened to the radio and was completely stumped,” Michelle said. In 10th grade, she and I occasionally skipped Señora Garcia’s third-period Spanish class.

Alright, so Aruba’s got the architecture, food and language covered. All good stuff. But for me, the most important measure of any location is its beer.

Turns out the island’s multicultural past is also reflected here.

The local beer is Balashi, which got its name from the Arawak word for sea. Then there’s Amstel Bright, a nod to Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands. The island’s Cerveceria Polar hails from nearby Venezuela.

A six-pack of Balashi from pinguino, on Flickr

Again, this is a sponsored post for Aruba travel. Aruba Tourism asked me to share a video with you guys. I picked this one because of the gratuitous window seat shots.

What do you think? Does the idea of beaches, brews and pancakes make you want to pack your bags for Aruba? Comment below and let me know what you think.

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