Arikok National Park consists of and preserves about 20 percent of Aruba’s land. On a visit there, kids experience Aruba’s natural, desert-like geography — something that’s nearly impossible to do in the heavily landscaped resort region. The park is home to many types of cacti (the tall ones are “candlestick” cacti), as well as sand dunes and caves. When we visited, days after the new visitor center opened in July 2009, rangers were still developing programs that included a new video that details the park’s flora and fauna. The park also has hiking trails on which ranger-guided hikes are planned. You can even check out a snake pit that displays Aruban rattlesnakes. The Visitor Center’s cafe sells water, soda and snacks.
A new road, part of the park’s renovation, means you no longer need four-wheel drive to visit the two caves. The Fontein cave gains fame for its centuries-old rock drawings by Caquetio Indians of the Arawak tribe. Sadly, graffiti mars the cave walls there and in Guadirikiri cave, known for its two chambers, the second of which has an opening through which sunlight streams in. Yes, harmless bats hang from the ceiling in both caves. (We wore hats.) If you need to pick one cave, we recommend Fontein.