Heading for Aruba Aloe Museum and Factory I knew next to nothing about the plant or how it is harvested, but I have long been a fan of its seemingly miraculous beauty and medicinal properties, so I left behind the beach and headed inland for a tour.
Greeted by Veronique, another visitor and I were invited to first visit the museum before our tour began. In the museum I learned that for nearly 200 years aloe has been harvested on the island. In 1840 it was introduced. Soon two-thirds of Aruba was covered in the succulent, making the island the world's largest aloe exporter.
The first plants were cultivated on 150-acres at the Hato plantation. Today this is the site of the factory, museum and 125-acres of aloe vera plants.
Soon the tour began. We followed Veronique outside where she explained more of the history—first manufactured for use in laxatives—and showed us how it was, and still is, harvested. With practiced hands she fileted the aloe by cutting off both sides of the leaf, then one broad side of the leaf before cutting away the white interior.
Next she led us back inside and up a flight of stairs where we were shown how, once fileted, the aloe is processed and made into numerous products. She was informative and explained the manufacturing method in such a way that it was easy to understand. At the end of the tour a gift shop showcased the many items made from aloe from makeup and sunscreen to body lotion and lip balm.
When you go:
Tours are free and offered in English, Dutch, Spanish and Papiamento, Aruba’s native language, every 15 minutes. Tours are offered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed on Sundays.
For more information:
Aruba Aloe: www.arubaaloe.com
Aruba Tourism Authority: www.aruba.com