From the lush bird sanctuary to the surreal, boulder-strewn desert terrain of the country’s interior, Aruba offers plenty of varied ground to explore despite its diminutive size—a mere 20 by 6 miles. While some of the following attractions are a bit tricky to find, good directions provided by a concierge or a friendly local will help guide the way.
Arikok National Park
Sprawling across 22.7% of Aruba’s land area, Arikok National Park—a protected habitat for many wildlife species—features an incredibly varied landscape ripe for exploration. The Visitor’s Center provides information on the many sites within the park to facilitate navigation. The following list includes the most popular attractions.
Daimari: Located near the site of the Island’s first gold discovery, Daimari is a lush, functioning 17th-century coconut plantation nestled within the desert countryside.
Cunucu Arikok: This partially restored Aruban farmstead sits at the foot of Arikok Hill, featuring a traditional adobe farmhouse, or cas di torto.
Boca Prins: This north-coast beach harbors stunning sand dunes that are constantly being reshaped by the powerful winds here.
Natural Pool: Just a bit northwest of Dos Playa along the coast, a barrier of large rocks protects a pool of water from the rough sea to form the Natural Pool, or Cura di Tortuga.
Yamanota: The highest mountain on the island at 189 meters, Yamanota grants hikers a unique view encompassing two coasts at once.
Caves: Guadirikiri Cave is famous for the natural light that pours in through openings in the cave roof, while Fontein Cave is famous for the Amerindian drawings decorating the walls and ceilings.
Hofi Fontein: Just south of Fontein Cave, Hofi Fontein is the site of the only freshwater spring on Aruba ’s north coast, featuring a quaint museum with animal, plant, and colonial-life displays.
Bubali Bird Sanctuary
Since 1973, the Bubali Bird Sanctuary has attracted many of the over 220 species of native and migratory birds on Aruba. Located in the high-rise hotel area, this official nature preserve features two man-made lakes surrounded by lush wetland vegetation. An observation tower grants birdwatchers the opportunity to see blue herons, green herons, cattle egrets, snowy egrets, Caribbean coots, brown pelicans, Neotropic cormorants, numerous duck species, and much more.
The Hooiberg, meaning “haystack” in Dutch, is the cone-shaped mountain that rises 180 meters up from the center of the island. Hikers can take the 550-plus steps to the top, where a panoramic view and encounters with wild goats, parakeets, and colorful lizards make the climb pleasantly worthwhile.
The California Dunes are a protected nature reserve located at Hudishibana, an area at the northwestern tip of the Island. Named after the famous ship that wrecked just offshore, these rolling dunes of pristine sand soften the cratered limestone landscape and provide a perch from which to admire the waves crashing along the rocky shore and the California Lighthouse standing guard on the plateau nearby.
Mondi & Cunucu
Aruba’s wild countryside, or mondi, is a rugged desert landscape scattered with massive boulders, tangled cactus forests, and woody scrub. The thick mondi is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including snakes, birds, lizards, and wild goats. In times past, a farmer would clear a plot for himself in the mondi to create a little country farm—or cunucu—where he could cultivate beans, corn, millet, peanuts, and cucumbers and raise goats, donkeys, and sheep.
Thousands of years of pounding waves and strong winds have slowly carved away at the limestone cliffs along Aruba’s north coast to create eight natural bridges, the largest and most famous being the Natural Bridge, located at Andicuri Beach. Before collapsing in 2005, it was the most impressive structure of its kind in all the Caribbean. The Natural Bridge ruin is still a tourist attraction, with the still-intact Baby Bridge nearby also meriting a visit.
While the entire island is peppered with huge diorite boulders, Casibari Boulders and Ayo Rock Formations boast the most remarkable collections. Indian rock drawings decorate the monolithic stones of Ayo, providing evidence of the great importance these rocks held for the Island’s early inhabitants.
Seroe Colorado & Colorado Point
Next to the refinery at the southern end of Aruba, Seroe Colorado is the site of the former Lago colony where American refinery workers and their families lived. A few residents still live in the bungalows overlooking Roger’s Beach and Baby Beach. A road from Seroe Colorado leads up to Aruba’s most eastern point and highest headland—Colorado Point—where a rudimentary lighthouse humbly stands. Hikers can descend the surreal lunar-like cliffside to the base of the point in order to see the Seroe Colorado Natural Bridge in addition to the spectacularly turbulent water created by converging ocean currents.