When planning my visit to Aruba, Arikok National Park was one of the selling factors for me, and it did not disappoint. The bluest water, strong sea breeze, and desert-like terrain are completely unlike anything I have ever seen before. Though the park is incredible, there were some bumps along the way. Here are some things you should know before you visit.
To start, I roll the windows down, blare Shawn Mendes, and enjoy the wind in my hair.
Entrance to the park
There is an entrance fee of $11 to Arikok National Park. Upon purchase of your ticket they will give you a map to the park. There is parking right next to the visitor center as well.
You can’t swim at Boca Prins, but the views are pretty
The waves crashing against the rocks are so huge they look like Tsunami waves. That may be the only thing that keeps me from breaking the rules and jumping in. I won’t lie it was tempting to take a dip. Even though you can’t swim in Boca Prins, due to the intensity of the waves and wind, the water is so blue that it looks like gatorade– making the views well worth it.
Don’t Drive a compact car
Driving my rental car through Arikok National Park is one of the scariest things I have ever done. When I purchased the ticket, no one said anything about what type of car should be driven through the park, but I quickly realized my rental car is not the most ideal vehicle to drive. There are huge dips in the road for rainwater. Every few feet or so I could hear the bottom of the car scrape the road. Off roading is fun and all, but not in a rental compact car you didn’t pay insurance for. The road gets more unnerving the farther along the road I drive. At one point in the journey there were two slabs of pavement for the car to balance on. Arikok National Park is incredible but save yourself some trouble and rent a jeep or 4×4 vehicle.
Who would want to hike in a dessert?
The map alluded to hiking trails. However, this is misleading. First, it is a zillion degrees outside and no one should be hiking. Even early in the morning the Aruban heat is too intense and strenuous for any hiking. Though I had a master plan of getting up early and hitting the trails, once at the park I knew it is not a good idea to hike in such heat. There are no trees so a long hike can get dangerously hot in the blazing sun. Secondly, the “trails” are designed for ATVs or 4×4 vehicles and are not suitable for hiking on foot.
The Natural Pools a taste of heaven, but they are hard to get to
After realizing hiking was not an option, we had to figure out a way to get to the natural pools without destroying the rental car. Luckily, a local tour guide overheard my friend and I’s concern about not having a way to get to the natural pools. He was off duty and offered to take us up to the pools at the reduced price of $25. Both of us hop in the back of his jeep, and soon I feel hot sun on my back with a warm breeze coming from the momentum of the off-road vehicle. It became a safari-like adventure bumping up and down in the back of the truck. The whole experience is riddled with the spirit of adventure. In about 45 minutes we arrived at the natural pools, and now looking back I know there is no way we could have hiked the journey.
I only stayed an hour at the natural pools, but I could have stayed a week. That was the deal with our driver. Upon arrival we had one hour before he would leave to take us back. The natural pools were so refreshing after a hot day of exploring the park in the sun. The water is clear and I can see sea plants floating around me feet as a slide into the water.
Don’t hesitate to jump in the center of the pool because it is fifteen feet deep. After you jump in the center, swim up onto the rocks ahead. There is a natural hot spring perfect for relaxation. Once at the hot spring there is a ledge you can jump off of into the main pool. As a huge advocate for cliff jumping this is my favorite part of the natural pools. When the hour is up I begrudgingly get out of the pool, just like a child whose mom has told them it is time to go. I am not ready to leave this slice of heaven, but once back in the truck we enjoyed the trek back to the visitors center.
That is until our truck broke down.
Not even halfway back the jeep came to a halt. At that point I wasn’t even worried anymore. I was on island time, and I knew it would get fixed eventually. Sure enough our driver happened to also me a mechanic, and he was ready for this sort of problem. Within minutes it is fixed, and the jeep is up and moving once more.
Aruba is a desert island in the Caribbean, which loosely translates to ‘it is HOT.” If you aren’t an Aruban native dehydration is a serious concern; I only brought one bottle of water with me, and it was not enough. By the time I got back to the Airbnb I had a splitting headache, and it took several glasses of water to dull the pain in my head.
Visit year round
There are no seasons, so life outside happens all year long. No matter what time of year you visit the natural pools, they will be warm enough to swim in. I asked our tour guide if he owned a jacket, he laughed and said “no”.
Off to the right of Boca Prins is a small natural cave. Instantly the cave is much cooler than the heat of the desert. It’s made from volcanic ash, and just like all of the rocks in Aruba it has a unique texture. Since the cave is small, it will only take few minutes to walk through.
They are goats- not screaming children
Near the caves there are more goats than I can count. The goats are scattered throughout the park, and the first time I heard one of them, and I genuinely thought it was a child crying.
The windmills of Arikok National Park are a staple of Aruba. The strong sea breeze makes this place ideal for them. Once you reach the windmills you know you are almost to the end of the park. If you go to Boca Grande beach you will be able to see the windmills of Arikok National Park from a distance.
Arikok’s hidden abandoned house
As you are exiting the park there is a small house. It is easy to miss so look closely. As a photographer one of my favorite things to shoot is abandoned houses and places. I wish I knew more information about this old home, but for now it remains a mystery.
Arikok National Park is a desert paradise for those daring enough to venture out and explore all it has to offer.
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