Exploring Aruba’s National Park by jeep, ATV, or from atop a horse is great fun and a truly bumpy ride. This ecological treasure is a rugged triangle-shaped chunk of land bordered by a turbulent sea on the island’s east coast. When you leave the tropical northwest beaches and approach Arikok, you’ll be surprised by drastic changes in the landscape. This is outback country, a wild, desert-like place. Think New Mexico rather than Florida.
Get there from Oranjestad by following signs for Parke Nacional Arikok along Rt 7 to the San Fuego park entrance near the village of Santa Cruz. The visitors’ center is a modern glass-and-hardwood eco-friendly building with a gift shop featuring products made of recycled or biodegradable materials. Pay your entrance fee ($), pick up a map, and then set out to explore this fascinating wilderness preserve.
There are many ways to journey through Arikok and you may want to try a couple of different means. If this is your first time, book a free walking tour in advance with one of the park rangers. You might also consider signing up for an off-road tour with ABC Tours or De Palm Tours. Sightseeing on horseback is a real adventure with I-land Aruba Tours. Bikers may prefer renting a bike, and it’s possible to travel through the park on paved roads in a regular car. If you want a do-it-yourself off-road tour you’ll need to rent a jeep from one of the companies on the island. Two to consider are Dushi and Top Drive.
Highlights of the park include 20 miles of marked trails, rocky cliffs plunging into the sea, an abandoned gold mine, and the popular Conchi, a calm natural pool where swimming is permitted. You’ll find hidden beaches, indigenous plants, and some interesting critters, like the endemic Cascabel rattlesnake and the Kododo Blauw (blue whiptail lizard). When you get hungry, stop at Boca Prins Bar and Restaurant where Rt 7 meets the sea, about 4.2 m/6.7 km from the visitors’ center.
The park is open 8:00 am – 4:00 pm. Try to arrive early before, the temperature rises, to catch the creatures when they’re most active.