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. Read on for your complete guide to Arikok, and start planning ahead for your next trip to Aruba.
History of Arikok
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. Yet, despite the fact that the park accounts for so much space on the island, it was only established (relatively) recently, in 2000.
The land has been protected since 1995, which is why the park is so magnificent today. In short, don't be discouraged by this millennial establishment date—the park contains centuries of history in the artwork that can be found within the ancient walls of Fontein Cave.
What to See and Do
Andicuri Beach: This coastline is simply breathtaking, but we encourage visitors to wander along the shoreline and explore other, less-discovered private beaches where you can easily while away an afternoon in the sun.
Arikok Hilltop: Check out Cero Arikok (also known as Arikok Hilltop), where you can see Aruba from all different angles and enjoy the beauty of the area.
Ayo Rock Formation: This beautiful rock formation is a must-visit when spending time in the park, as it is framed by cacti, and the land here was impacted by lava flow (the geological diversity of Aruba is underrated and impressive).
Boca Prins: Check out the white sand beaches and the bay's rock formation—perfect for taking some photographs.
Conchi (Natural Pool): This spot is always a favorite for tourists and locals alike, as the natural pool is surrounded by the sea and by large rocks, making it a veritable oasis in the tropics. You will need a 4x4 to get there.
Cunucu Arikok: This is a partially restored farm that reflects the time when agriculture was the driving force of Aruba's economy. Check out cactus hedges, stonewalls, and trails that lead to Cacquieto artwork (including drawings of marine life!)
Dos Playa: Active travelers should head here for surfing and body-boarding. Or, if you want to relax, it's a great spot to take some photos and enjoy a picnic.
Fontein Cave: Of all the limestone caves on the north coast, Fontein is the most popular. Caquetios left some pictographs in the brownish-red cave interior, and there is graffiti from early European settlers within the cave's walls and ceilings.
Jamonata Hilltop: Want to be on top of the world? Or at least Aruba? Jamanota is the highest point on the island of Aruba, and there are spectacular views to the north, east, and west sides of the island. Expect to see some beautiful desert, lush green, and water in the distance.
Quadirikiri Cave: This cave is dramatic to look at and explore; plus, there are two large openings in the roof that allow in sunlight, so you needn't be worried about being afraid of the dark.
Flora and Fauna
If losing yourself in nature is on the agenda for your next Caribbean vacation, then look no further than Arikok National Park, where every setting is picturesque, and the indigenous floral and fauna are unique and breathtaking to behold. (We are personally partial to the Candelabra cactus.) The arid desert landscape boasts a variety of species of plants and flowers. Still, the natural environment is varied as well: With natural pools, limestone caves, white sand beaches, and lava land formations, there is something for everyone in the park's 7,907 acres. While park rangers are available to answer questions and lead hiking tours, visitors can also opt for a private guided hike to explore the scenery at your own pace.
We recommend arriving early morning to beat the mid-afternoon heat. You will need to keep in mind that the Vaderpiet Entrance closes earlier (at 3:30 p.m.), and remember to show a valid ID at the gate, or you will be denied entrance. The more remote areas of the park (such as the Natural Pool) are only accessible via a four-wheel drive. Book a 4x4 or rent a vehicle if you want to see the Natural Pools at Conchi. You can also visit as part of a day tour (we recommend booking a Baby Beach Jeep Adventure that includes stops in Arikok). As for the best time to visit? We recommend late spring after the tourists have departed in mid-April after spring break, and before the hotter, wetter, summertime months. (Plus, the prices of hotel rooms and airfare are less expensive during this period, too.)
Rates to enter the park vary for residents and non-residents, as well as for different age groups, member passes, and tour operators. You can find a detailed breakdown of the rates on the website. The park is open Monday to Sunday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. (ticket sales closes 3:30 p.m.); The Vaderpiet Entrance accepts visitors from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.