Arikok National Park
Arikok National Park is Aruba’s national park and one of the most popular things to do in Aruba. It covers almost 20% of the island and consists of three main zones. In the northern part of the island, you will find the North Conservation Zone, in the center, there’s the Central Activity Zone and in the Southern part of Aruba the South Conservation Zone is located.
In these Zones, you’ll find unique historical, cultural and geological sites, either by taking a guided tour or by exploring them yourself. You will learn more about the flora and fauna and the geological history of Aruba, the rough terrain, the desert-like landscape and hills and the eroded rough eastern coastline with its secluded bays.
The protected area of Arikok National Park was officially established in 2000. Nowadays, the park is famous for its nature conservation, the landscape and its cultural and historical components. It is a perfect place to go when you are looking for adventure, nature, and enjoy the flora and fauna in all their beauty.
Before You Go
Make sure you prepare your trip well. You should have proper footwear, clothing, and lots of water at hand. To protect yourself from the fierce sun, you’ll want to wear sunglasses and a hat or cap. Apply sufficient protective sun lotion or even sunblock when visiting the Arikok National Park.
Arikok National Park is located at San Fuego 70, Santa Cruz, close to Route 7.
The park is open from 8 AM to 4 PM daily.
Tickets and Entrance Fee
At the Visitors Centre ticket office, you can buy tickets for $10 per person. Children younger than 17 years old will have free admittance. These prices refer to tourists, for locals the price is different. For both tourists and locals, it is possible to buy a year pass. It is possible to buy a ticket until 3:30 PM.
The North Conservation Zone
There are three points of interest at the North Conservation Zone.
The Natural Pool (Conchi)
Sometimes referred to as Turtle Pen, the natural pool has become one of the major attractions of the Arikok National Park. It is surrounded by lava stone rocks and rough seas. It can be quite a challenge getting there. The unpredictable high waves from the north-east coast of Aruba can swiftly change the pool from a quiet and seemingly friendly place to a rough, almost hostile environment before you even realize it – especially when you climb the rocks facing the ocean! It is recommended to always wear protective swimming shoes and keep a keen eye on the rhythm of the incoming waves. You can only reach the Natural Pool with a 4×4 vehicle, an ATV, or on foot after you’ve parked your vehicle nearby.
Daimari Beach is the most northern point of Arikok National Park. It is an old riverbed that has forever been battered by the relentless ocean waves that have sculpted it into a bay over time. Depending on rainfall, the ocean takes away or brings sand into the bay. This is an ongoing process. Daimari Beach is a beautiful place to visit. See our article under beaches in the menu for more information and how to get there.
Moro (Little Aruba)
Moro is a flat, large rock that lies just in front of the beach, and as you can see in the above picture, it looks like a huge table. The shape of the rock resembles the outlines of Aruba, this is why locals refer to this place as ‘Little Aruba’. Because the limestone plateau eroded in time the rock got separated from the mainland and the forming of the two bays accompanied this process. To the north, you will find Boca Keto and to the south, there’s Boca Fluit, both beautiful places to visit when you are in the neighborhood. The beaches are quiet and very clean and they both give you the impression that you are alone in the world, enjoying a private beach of your own.
The Central Activity Zone
The Central Activity Zone consists of twelve points of interest, including the Visitors Centre.
Dos Playa is one of the most important turtle nesting sites of the island. During a short period of the year, sea turtles of all kinds come to Dos Playa to nest. Some examples of sea turtles that come to visit the bays are the green turtle, the loggerhead turtle, and the leatherback turtle.
Rooi Tambu is one of the largest rainwater discharges of Aruba. It is situated in a deep valley. Rainwater is being conserved for very long periods of time and you still may find water, well into the dry season. The formation of lava over time gives you some geological information about how this place was created. It is a beautiful and challenging place to go hiking all the way to the beaches of Dos Playa.
At the end of Rooi Prins you’ll find Boca Prins, a narrow bay that used to be much bigger and deeper into the mainland of Aruba. It is a combination of mangroves and white sandy beaches.
The Dunes of Boca Prins
The Dunes of Boca Prins have been created by the ever-blowing north-eastern trade winds. As a result of this force of nature, water in the Boca Prins evaporated and the amount of sand increased, even in a south-western direction. Like in any desert-like environment, any vegetation has a hard time surviving here.
Plantage Prins is an old coconut plantation from a long time ago. Nowadays it is a perfect spot to go bird watching. The surroundings are favorable for vegetation and fruit trees to survive. These natural circumstances attract all kinds of animals, especially birds looking for water and food.
Fontein Cave is a limestone cave and a good example how limestone terraces were formed during geologically active periods. The cave is an important archaeological site. Inside, the cave features many Indian rock drawings that date all the way back to the year 1000. Fontein Cave also features some more recent carvings that have been left behind in the early 1800’s by colonial visitors. Exploring the cave is done best by taking a guided tour.
Indeed, the Aruban landscape has hills! Sero Cabai is the fourth highest hill with a height of 554 ft. (169 metres). Its vegetation gets heavily influenced by the wind from the north-east. The windward side has much less vegetation than the leeward side.
From the Visitor’s Centre, it is only a short trip by foot to visit Miralamar Hill. At the top, you will find the ruins of the Miralamar Gold Mine Complex. A long time ago gold was extracted from gold ore, processed and transported from this place to the Gold Smelter at Balashi.
The Visitors Centre
Arikok National Park has a Visitors Centre that is the main entrance to the park. At the center, you will be able to find further information, have a look at the exhibits and buy your tickets at the ticket office. Restrooms are available.
Hofi Shon Shoco
Very close to the Visitors Centre there is a place called Hofi Shon Shoco. The area has a large collection of local plants as well as fruit trees. At this place, this kind of vegetation gives you a good impression of common use in the culture of Aruba. There’s also a facility called an adobe house where one can relax and enjoy the various kind of birds that visit this place. Hofi Shon Shoco is a great place to visit with your children. House of Mosaic Aruba organizes events at this location in the park. They have become famous for their “Breakfast in the Park” events for various clientele.
Sero Arikok or Arikok hill is the second highest hill in Aruba. It has a length of 606 ft (185 meters). From the top, you have a wonderful view of the island and the park.
Cunucu Arikok (Cunucu means ‘country side’, where most of the time small agricultural activities took place) is a good opportunity to visit and get acquainted with Arikok National Park. By following the Cunucu Arikok trail, geology, flora and fauna and historical cultural sites are presented to you in an easy way for you to further explore further. Especially the rock paintings of the Caquetío Indians, left almost 2000 years ago, are worth visiting.
South Conservation Zone
There are five points of interest worth to consider visiting in the South Conservation Zone.
The Quadirikiri Cave is famous for its large bat population. Although the cave gets daylight through holes in the ceiling, it offers enough protection and darkness for the bat population to rest during the day and to go out at dusk, looking for food. When you plan to visit the cave, bear in mind that flashlights are not allowed.
Vader Piet does not actually belong to Arikok National Park. It is a landmark with wind turbines along a road that lies next to the park and it offers an exit towards the direction of Rodgers Beach, Baby Beach and San Nicolas.
Rooi Prins is a dry riverbed and it has created itself during geological time forming different kinds of layers. When it rains, the riverbed changes into a stream and water is being carried to the lower parts of Aruba. Rooi Prins ends at Boca Prins. When you would like to explore the environment by hiking, a guide or a guided tour is recommended. It is a long hike and the terrain is rather challenging.
Jamanota Hill is the highest hill of Aruba. At 617 ft. (188 meters) the top offers you a beautiful panoramic view of the southern part of Aruba. The top can only be reached on foot.
Cunucu Masiduri, also known as the Eucalyptus tree initiative, used to function as a plantation. Through experimenting – adding Eucalyptus trees to the local flora – one was trying to find out whether these trees could survive the Aruban climate. Nowadays the area serves as a good example as to how the flora changed, and how one tried to conserve the new environment.