Arikok National Park

Hikes, caves and Indian paintings

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Arikok National Park

Located on a triangle of land between Boca Prins and San Fuego, Arikok National Park covers 34 square kilometers (7907 acres) in the northeastern part of Aruba. Arikok National Park encompasses 18% of Aruba's landspace, an amazing amount of protected area compared to most Caribbean islands. See park map.

Arikok National Park (also called Parke Nacional Arikok) is an interesting place, well worth a half-day visit and easy to navigate in a rental car. It has several easy, well laid out trails that are and easy to follow and on some the petroglyphs are still evident on some of the rocks.

The island's two highest points, Mt. Arikok (577 feet) and Mt. Jamanota (617 feet), are inside the park. A small garden at the foot of the Mt. Jamanota (hill, really) displays most of the trees and shrubs common to Aruba.

The park also contains several animals endemic to Aruba: the Aruba island rattlesnake, Aruba cat-eyed snake, Aruban whiptail lizard, Aruban burrowing owl and Aruban parakeet.

Arikok's most interesting feature are its caves in the area known as the Seroe Colorado and north along the coast, all easy walking if you have a light and stay on the main path.

Go wandering off into the darkness of a cave and you could step into a pothole and twist your ankle. That's why flashlights sometimes are provided by guides or vendors at the cave mouths but you'd be wise to bring your own. Admission to the caves is free.

Fontein Cave near Boca Prins is perhaps the most interesting. Enter the large chamber with natural pillars at the entrance to a cavern and tunnel with Indian paintings.

This is the largest of Aruba 's caves. There was a rumor these Indian paintings may not be real, but were painted by a film company a number of years ago. Park officials say they can prove the Indian drawings are originals.

They point out the drawings were first documented in 1836 by a protestant minister named Bosch. Between 1870 and 1886, Father A.J. van Koolwijk collected a great number of antiquities which came into possession of the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden. His manuscript on the Indian pictographs from Aruba was considered lost, until it was discovered by Maritza Coomans-Eustatia, and published in 1987.

Another document dating from 1890, by Alphonse Pinart, also detailed information on the Amerindian rock drawings on the island. Modern studies also indicate the drawings are originals, and from a pre-historic period. (Special thanks to Dilma Arends on the Arikok Park staff for this detailed clarification on the authenticity of the drawings.)

The Guadiriki Caves contain two large chambers lit by sunlight coming through an opening. The chambers are connected by a tunnel that may require a light because the passageway often turns into a shadow world. Bats live in this cave system, but none on the island are infected with rabies.

The Huliba Cave, also known as the Tunnel of Love, is a commercial cave that is explored primarily in darkness. You have to really like caves to venture into this one. I didn't consider it worth the hefty admission fee.

Arikok Park is open daily 8am-4pm with last ticket sold at 3:30pm. Fee $8 per person, children under 17 free. Guided hikes available. The cost is 11 per person. Under 17 free. Website

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