Arikok National Park: The Complete Guide

Arikok National Park

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Arikok National Park

Address
San Fuego 70, Santa Cruz, Aruba
Phone +297 585 1234

Arikok National Park is an Aruban treasure, a must-visit park that enchantingly blends the island nation's natural beauty with its cultural history. From the native Cacquieto artwork and drawings of the earliest European settlers on the walls of Fontein Cave to the natural pools in the sheltered oceanic enclave of Conchi, there's no shortage of delightful ways for visitors to spend a day (or more) at Arikok while visiting the island of Aruba.

Things to Do

Arikok National Park is a veritable treasure in the nation of Aruba, and it accounts for 20 percent of the entire island. The Arawak drawings, desert landscapes, and giant lizards are some of the highlights to be found amongst the more than 20 miles of walking trails in the park.

The limestone cave systems throughout the park are one of the biggest draws to Arikok, especially the Fontein Cave. It's small but filled with reddish-brown pictographs drawn by the Indigenous Caquetio people from before Spanish colonizers arrived (there are also paintings by Europeans in what is essentially centuries-old graffiti). The nearby Quadirikiri Caves are much larger but natural skylights make flashlights unnecessary for exploring.

An obligatory stop is the Conchi Natural Pool, a giant tidepool protected from the ocean waves by a natural barrier of rocks. It's located on the eastern edge of Arikok and—like most of the remote areas inside the national park—it can only be reached via four-wheel-drive vehicle. You'll either have to rent your own or you can join a guided tour of the park, such as those offered by ABC Tours or Around Aruba Tours.

Best Hikes & Trails

Hikers can explore the park on foot by choosing one of the trails, which vary in difficulty and length. It's best to arrive first thing in the morning to avoid the intense midday heat and definitely pack lots of bottled water. You can contact the national park before arriving to arrange a guided hike with a park ranger, an excellent way to learn about the flora, fauna, and history of Arikok during your trek.

Long pants are recommended for hiking at Arikok since there are several types of toxic plants along the paths that you don't want to accidentally brush up against. The most dangerous is the manzanilla tree, which produces small apple-like fruits—just coming into contact with the leaves or trunk can cause your skin to blister up.

  • Cunucu Arikok: This easy trail starts at the Visitors Center and takes about two hours to complete. The path is mostly flat on sandy paths, so you don't need to worry about any big slopes to climb. While the Fontein and Quadirikiri caves are on the other side of the park, you will pass by some smaller caverns that also have cave paintings. Near the end, there's a replica of a traditional Aruba homestead surrounded by a cactus wall.
  • Miralamar Trail: The Miralamar Trail also leaves from the Visitors Center and takes about two hours to complete, but it's considered more difficult than the Cunucu Arikok trail. The name of the trail alludes to sea views and you'll certainly get some panoramic photos ops of the coast. The trail also passes through an early 20th-century gold mine, adding a bit of historical context to your excursion.
  • Rooi Tambu: Hike all the way to the beach by following the Rooi Tambu trail to the east coast of the island. The trail is medium difficulty but long, taking about two to three hours each way (if your group has two vehicles, you could drop off one vehicle at the beach and then use it to drive back after hiking). The endpoint is the beautiful Dos Playas cove, great for cooling off after a hike but not recommended for swimming out too deep because of strong undertows.

Where to Stay Nearby

The vast majority of hotels and resorts on Aruba are in the northwest of the island between the cities of Oranjestad and Palm Beach. It's only about 20–30 minutes by car from the resort area to the Arikok Visitors Center, but there are a few options right outside of the national park if you're planning to focus your trip on Aruba's unspoiled interior and away from the touristy coast.

  • Fuego Mio Bed & Breakfast: Fuego Mio is a charming bed and breakfast that's within walking distance of the Arikok Visitors Center. Enjoy freshly prepared breakfast each morning before taking a dip in the swimming pool. While it isn't on the coast, some of Aruba's best beaches are just 20 minutes away by car.
  • Jamanota Happy View: Located at the base of Aruba's highest peak, Mount Jamanota, this homey hotel is perfectly situated for those who want to hike to the summit. There are also mountain bikes available to rent so you can ride directly into the park and leave the car behind. All of the rooms have modern bathrooms and air conditioning to have a comfortable stay.
  • Mammaloe's: Just five minutes away from the national park entrance by car, Mammaloe's is a small bed and breakfast that caters to visitors looking for a spiritual getaway. You can take part in meditation practice, yoga retreats, or even a massage to destress. Other outdoor activities like paddleboarding, diving, or mountain biking can also be arranged.

For more information about the best areas to stay in, read more on where to stay in Aruba.

How to Get There

The island of Aruba isn't very big and you can drive from the northern point to the southern point in under an hour. Most visitors arrive at Queen Beatrix International Airport in the capital city of Oranjestad and then stay in one of the resorts along the coast. If you have your own vehicle, it's easy to drive yourself to the park entrance (but remember to drive around within Arikok, you'll most likely need a vehicle with four-wheel drive). If you don't have a car, you can always use a taxi to get to the entrance.

Accessibility

Even though exploring the rugged trails of Arikok presents challenges for travelers with physical impairments, the organization Offroad Wheelchair Aruba has developed special "off-road" wheelchairs that can navigate rough terrain and sandy beaches. If you're a traveler with mobility challenges, contact the organization to inquire about renting equipment or tours.

Tips for Your Visit

  • The peak season for visiting Aruba is from November to March, so save money by visiting during the low season from April to October.
  • The temperatures in Aruba stay consistent throughout the year, but you're more likely to encounter rain in late summer and especially fall. Late spring is one of the best times to visit Arikok National Park for dry weather and smaller crowds.
  • Non-residents have to pay an entrance fee to enter the park in U.S. dollars.
  • The sun is especially intense in Aruba since it's so close to the equator, so protect yourself with sunscreen, a hat, and lots of water.
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Your Guide to Arikok National Park in Aruba