Arikok National Park
in the Hill Country
Watch and listen to this video clip of dawn in the park from November, 2011.
best spot to feel the real natural beauty of the island is in
Arikok National Park, which lies in the hilly northeast section
of the island. The park consists of rolling hills covered with
thorn-scrub vegetation. Unfortunately, goats were introduced
to the island centuries ago, and they have devastated much of
the vegetation. Some areas within the park have been fenced
off from the goats, allowing the native plantlife to make a
comeback. The hill country of Arikok offers breathtaking views
of the island, from the urban areas and resorts to the luscious
Getting There: Although most maps bear the
location, “Arikok National Park,” on them, you may
find it difficult to find the park entrance or to get a sense
of its boundaries from these. In recent years park staff have
developed some nice signage and trails through the park, but
you’ve got to get there first! The best way to get there
is to drive to Santa Cruz and follow signs for Arikok National Park (possibly also Miralamar Pass on old maps).
If you pass a yellow building on
the left called the Urataka Center, which is a sort-of bar/restaurant/ice
cream stand (and a great place to stop for refreshments), then
you’re on the right road. Eventually you’ll see the gates and then the multi-million dollar visitor center finished in 2010 and you'll know you are in Arikok National Park.
If you see this place, you are on the right road to
Arikok! Left photo is what it used to look like in the early 1990's, right photo is what it looked like in November 2011. Photos
The main road in the park has now been paved through a multi-millon dollar park upgrade project with carefully constructed places for water to flow across the road without washing it out. These cobblestone drainage dips also make it impossible to speed through the park as there are dozens of them!
Road through Arikok National Park. Photo Jeff Wells.
Once you have paid your $5 entrance fee in the visitor's center (a contribution that helps keep the park running and the birds and other animals protected), and passed by the gate house, you can go straight to Boca Prins or take a left to get to Cunucu Arikok.
Boca Prins in Arikok National Park. Photo Jeff Wells.
To get to Cucunucu Arikok take the left leading
down and then up a relatively steep hill. The road will eventually become dirt like the roads used to be ten or more years ago. At the Y in the road stay to the left and you will eventually come to to a small parking lot at a place called Cunucu Arikok. Here theres is a walled-in area where the goats
have been kept out and native vegetation has somewhat flourished.
The trail through Cunucu Arikok is very pleasant, with lots
of places to stop and sit in the shade.
Cunucu Arikok parking area. Photo Jeff Wells.
Anywhere in Arikok is best visited in the early part of the
day, since it gets intensely hot here from late morning on.
Not only is the park pleasantly cool in the very early morning
but the birdlife is also most interesting then, since bird activity
has a very short post-dawn peak here. Remember to bring plenty
of water. Also watch for snakes; although now unfortunately
very rare, the Aruban Rattlesnake does occur here. Sadly, boas
have been introduced on the island and have devastasted many bird populations and likely have had many other undocumented ecological effects, although they are essentially harmless to humans.
Welcoming staff at Arikok National Park visitor center, Aruba. Photo Jeff Wells.
Birds to Look For: In Arikok, Troupials
are plentiful—listen for their loud, piping songs. Yellow
Orioles, Burrowing Owls, Crested
Caracaras, Bare-eyed Pigeons,
Eared Doves, Common
Ground-Doves, White-tipped Doves, Rufous-collared
Sparrows, Crested Bobwhites, Aruban Brown-throated (Caribbean)
Parakeets, both hummingbird species, Brown-crested Flycatchers,
Scrub Flycatcher are among the many species you may see and hear inside the park, though many of these species are now greatly reduced in numbers. One of our favorites is the
Sparrow, whose beautifully clear whistle sometimes echoes through
the hills and over the valleys. Be on the look-out for White-tailed
Hawk; although we have not found any anywhere during the many
visits we’ve made to the island, they’ve occurred
here in the past.
Watch and listen to this short video clip of dawn in Arikok National Park that we filmed in November 2011.
hills, though normally dry, can suddenly
green after periods with significant rain
as in January
1999 when this photo was taken.