Aruba might be tiny but it packs big natural wonders. About 20 percent of the island is the protected Arikok National Park, where you’ll find everything from a beautiful natural pool to enchanting caves and the island’s highest point, Mount Jamanota.
Getting to Arikok National Park is relatively easy thanks to informative signage you can follow from Santa Cruz. The official National Park entrance points are located at San Fuego, Shete and Vaderpiet, and the small fee you pay to enter goes toward conservation, education, research and maintenance.
Conchi, Aruba’s Natural Pool
From the national park entrance at Shete, take the desert road to Aruba’s east coast until you reach an amazing natural pool carved into the black volcanic rock. Formed by the wind and ocean’s strength over millions of years, this glistening natural pool has crystal-clear water that’s perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Just be sure to check the weather and possibly with a park guide to ensure conditions are optimal.
The park’s landscape is a microcosm of the varied wildlife and geology found in Aruba. Volcanic hills, limestone formations of fossilized coral and batholithic rocks make up the topography, while large waves roll into shore at the park’s windward cove-style beaches, Boca Prins and Dos Playa. The water here tends to be too rough for swimming or snorkeling, but you can enjoy the sun and views. These beaches are a beautiful representation of the force of Mother Nature and the way the ocean carves the landscape. Another prime example of this power was the Natural Bridge, a limestone formation that collapsed in 2005. It remains a popular spot to visit thanks to the unspoiled setting and beautiful views.
The ocean’s reach extends inward to the caves that have formed along Aruba’s north coast. Fontein Cave packs a double dose of nature and history—the wondrous stalactites and stalagmites bear the marks of the Arawak Indians, who researchers believed performed ceremonies and tribal rituals inside. While Fontein Cave is the most popular cave attraction in Aruba, Guadirikiri Caves in Arikok National Park have a romantic fable behind them. It’s believed that two lovers were imprisoned in the two separate cave chambers (one is known as the Tunnel of Love) but found each other inside and once they died, their spirits ascended to heaven through the holes in the caves. Unlike Fontein Cave that is more open, Guadirikiri Caves are not for those that become claustrophobic easily.
Touring Arikok National Park
Most of Arikok National Park’s attractions can be reached by a vehicle with four-wheel drive or even by foot for the more adventurous, but there are also plenty of tour options, some of which will have you zipping around off road on an ATV or horseback riding. Whether you choose to explore on your own or join a tour, be sure to spend a day immersed in nature, culture and history in the wild and wonderful Arikok National Park.