Although relatively small, Aruba is a stunning country with many national parks. One, though, stands out head and shoulders above the rest – Arikok National Park.
Aruba has some of the most dramatic and contrasting landscapes in the world. On one side, you’ll find the turquoise, crystal-clear blue water of the Caribbean Sea. On the opposite end, you’ll find deserts, caves, dunes, and limestone cliffs.
There’s an abundant and diverse range of flora, fauna, and animals within the park’s boundaries. Aruba National Park offers plenty to explore, so let’s dive into what you can look forward to experiencing.
Here are a few things you might not have known about the stunning Aruba Arikok National Park. We’ll also take a look at some practical travel trips to help you get the most out of your visit to this national park.
Amazing Arikok park makes up 20% of Aruba itself, situated on the island’s north side. The total area of the park is around 7900 acres. The idea of Arikok started in the late 1960s but with little realization until a few decades later.
In 1995 the Aruban government started taking the development of the national park more seriously, setting up the Nature Protection Regulation. Over the next two years, the government approved the establishment of Arikok, and work began.
Eventually, in 2000, Arikok was finally recognised as a national park, laying the foundation for the parks that would follow it.
Although only established in 2000, there is evidence that this area was well-inhabited thousands of years ago by native Arubans. You’ll see this in the cave drawings around the park.
Filled with many natural and cultural wonders, Arikok National Park is a dream to explore. Here are the top activities and sights that await you in this stunning park.
The Quadiriki Caves are one of the park’s top attractions. This cave system is made up of three caves that feature impressive stalactites and stalagmite formations. Here, you’ll also find Amerindian petroglyphs.
The first two chambers of the Quadirikiri Caves are the largest, about 490 feet long. The highlight of these two chambers is their natural skylights illuminating the caves. They’re also well known for containing bats. Don’t worry, they’re friendly.
The smaller cave is about 98 feet long, lying east of the other two caves. This one is especially rich in petroglyphs.
According to legend, the daughter of a local chief fell in love with an outsider and was imprisoned in one of the caves because of her forbidden love.
Her lover was also detained in the other cave. They found a way to be together underground and are believed to have died there.
Note: Flashlights are not allowed in order not to disturb the bats.
This is one of the most spectacular beaches on the island. It is affectionately known as “Little Aruba,” because of the large rock on the beach’s edge. It’s shaped like the island, hence the name.
Moro is one of the most secluded beaches in Aruba, which is perfect for getting away from crowds. Plus, it is just a stone’s throw away from the famous Conchi Natural Pool.
3.Conchi (The Natural Pool)
If you search for things to do in Aruba, one of the first places to pop up is likely the amazing Conchi Natural Pool. Simply known as the Natural Pool, it’s a special place to explore when visiting Aruba.
The Natural Pool is situated close to Moro Beach. The pool is made from limestone and volcanic rock, creating a natural enclosement in the Caribbean Sea. The pool is surrounded by some of the island’s most rugged terrain, which can only be reached by 4X4.
Dos Playa, or “Two Beaches” in English, are two of the most magnificent places in Arikok. It’s a great look outpoint, as a rock cliff serves as a natural pier between two coves.
The beaches look out across the Caribbean Sea’s stunning turquoise waters and are popular hangouts for sun lovers and surfers.
Dos Playa is also where leatherback turtles lay their eggs from March to September, so be prepared – you might have to share these stunning beaches with a few little sea creatures.
If you’re a plant lover, you’ll enjoy the Hofi Shon Shoko area of Arikok. This garden area of the park is just opposite the Arikok Visitor Center. You’ll be able to learn more about the flora and fauna of the area, such as the Candelabra cactus.
If roughing it out and hiking isn’t for you, then you might opt for a guided tour of Arikok. This is one of the easiest ways to discover all of the park’s highlights in a half-day or a full-day tour, usually by 4X4.
Some highlights include thrilling rides across the rugged terrain, with a visit to the stunning Natural Pool to top it off.
If the thought of powering through rough terrain and motion sickness scares you, then a more calming beach and horse riding tour might be the activity for you.
A horse riding tour will take you through the quieter parts of Arikok at a slower pace and allow you to enjoy the varied landscapes.
Then, you’ll visit some of Aruba’s most pristine beaches, like Dos Playas and ride alongside the calm waters.
Whether you’d like to go hiking solo or arrange a guided hiking tour in Arikok, this is a great activity to enjoy when visiting this national park. Here are some of the top trails:
If there’s one hiking trail in Aruba you shouldn’t miss, it’s the Miralamar trail. This route is one of the most scenic on the island. It takes you through the desert, eventually ending up at the sea.
It also passes an abandoned 20th-century gold mine for some historical context. The trail begins at the visitor center and takes about 2 hours to complete. Miralamar is rated moderate to difficult, depending on your fitness level.
You may want to try the Cunucu Arikok trail for something slightly more manageable. It also starts at the visitor center, lasting about 2 hours. It’s mostly flat, with some slight elevation in certain areas, but nothing too demanding.
The trail passes several small caverns where some rock art paintings can be seen. Towards the end of the trail, there’s a traditional Aruban homestead. This is the more recommended trail, as it’s not very strenuous.
Rooi Tambu is a moderate to difficult trail, depending on your fitness level. It will take you to the island’s east coast and is about two to three hours long.
While it is slightly more challenging than the other trails, the fantastic Dos Playas beaches are the endpoint, where you can cool off after a long morning of walking.
Beyond the aforementioned Arikok National Park hikes, Aruba has plenty more trails to explore. You can check out this other post, where I share some of the best hiking trails in Aruba.
The easiest way to get to Arikok National Park is via a guided tour, including pick-up from Aruba’s hotel zone. This usually takes about 40 minutes.
You could also opt to rent your own vehicle and travel to the north part of the island. In that case, it’s highly recommended that you rent a 4X4 or UTV because of the area’s rough terrain.
There is a conservation fee of $11 to enter the park. Children who are 17 and under can enter the park for free. If you are part of a tour group, the fee is only $9.50
- The peak season in Aruba is from November to March, so it’s best to visit anytime before or after. The best time to visit Arikok is from April to October.
- If the water is rough, it’s highly recommended not to swim in the Natural Pool or at the beaches to avoid getting swept away.
Well, there you have it, everything you need to know about Arikok National Park. This national park in Aruba is one of the island’s true gems. It’s the perfect place to relax, immerse yourself in nature, and truly enjoy the park’s scenic surroundings.
No matter what you choose to experience, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy it. Liked this post? Why not check out this guide on the best beaches in Vieques, Puerto Rico?
LET ME HELP YOU TRAVEL MORE BY GETTING ADDITIONAL TIPS AND INSPIRATION VIA THE MONTHLY NEWSLETTER.
Plus, receive a short e-book with 15 Beginner Tips and Tricks to Start Travel Hacking!