Natalee Holloway’s Disappearance in Aruba

Natalee Holloway was eighteen years old and in the prime of her life! She had just graduated from high school, and on May 24th, 2005, she went on a graduation trip to Aruba with her classmates. The kids were celebrating the end of high school and getting ready for the next stage of their lives. Unfortunately, one student didn’t make it to that next stage. Natalee was supposed to come home on May 30th, 2005, but she never showed up to her flight.

Natalee Holloway in a cheerleader uniform smiling / Natalee Holloway with her mother in a graduate custom / Natalee Holloway and her friends in a party / Joran Van der Sloot hugging a friend
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Natalee Holloway’s parents have been desperate to find their daughter for the past 15 years! As you would expect, they took a lot of trips back and forth from Aruba looking for leads and trying to figure out exactly what happened to her. The media made it looks like Natalee was a young American party girl causing trouble in Aruba. Sadly, this made the public believe she may have drunk too much and died of alcohol poisoning. In a strange twist of events, the prime suspect made the case become clearer exactly five years later.

This is everything we know about Natalee Holloway’s tragic disappearance.

All American Girl

Natalee was born to Dave and Beth Holloway on October 21st, 1986. She grew up with her brother, mother, and stepfather in Mountain Brook, an affluent community in Birmingham, Alabama. Natalee was a well-liked honors student and participated in many extracurricular activities, including the dance squad and the Bible club.

Natalee Holloway in a cheerleader uniform lying on the grass
Source: Pinterest

Natalee earned a full scholarship to the University of Alabama and was planning to study pre-med. The trip to Aruba was meant to be a final blowout before she embarked on a new chapter in her life. On May 26th, together with the other 124 graduates and seven chaperones, she headed towards Aruba.

A Wild Vacation

The group was staying right on the beach at the Holiday Inn at the top end of Aruba. Since the drinking age is 18 over there, the classmates were finally able to legally enjoy their first alcoholic beverages together. Police Commissioner Gerold Dompig later described the trip to Vanity Fair:

Gerold Dompig in a news report
Police Commissioner Gerold Dompig. Source: Flickr

“Wild partying, a lot of drinking, lots of room switching every night. We know the Holiday Inn told them they weren’t welcome the next year. Natalee, we know, she drank all day, every day. We have statements she started every morning with cocktails – so much drinking that Natalee didn’t show up for breakfast two mornings.”

Just a Normal Teen

Paul Reynolds, Natalee’s uncle, said: “Natalee’s naïve. She hasn’t dated a lot. She doesn’t party a lot.” However, the beginning of the trip was alcohol-fueled. The classmates headed over to the beach and took over the tiki bars. Of course, drinking can lead to dangerous situations. But it doesn’t mean their cases should be taken less seriously.

A portrait of Natalee Holloway wearing a black dress
Source: Pinterest

At the end of the day, their behavior was pretty normal for 18-year-olds trying to make lasting memories. Unfortunately, the media spun the story making Natalee look like she was a party girl asking for trouble. There are even detectives who think she died of alcohol poisoning, but we’ll get into all that later.

A Vacation to Remember

Natalee and her classmates took a tour to the Antilla shipwreck, a German ship that sank back in the 1940s. They snorkeled around before heading back to their rooms and getting ready for the night ahead. Just like the previous nights, the students and chaperones had dinner together before going clubbing around the island.

People snorkeling next to a boat
Snorkeling in the Atilla Wreck, Aruba. Source:

Most of their favorite spots were located around the capital, Oranjestad, where they hit up bars like Carlos n Charlie’s and Choose a Name, which attracted tourists and served American food. It was a long night, and many of the students drank large amounts of alcohol before stumbling home in the early hours of the morning. Natalee partook in the heavy drinking and missed breakfast more than once during the trip.