The Government of Aruba has dedicated approximately 18 percent of the island to this national park. It has many walking trails that are well kept and open to the public for exploring. Some tour companies offer guided tours through this massive protected area that is teeming with unusual plants and wildlife. The park is safe to explore if you stay on the main path. You may find some big green lizards but they are harmless like most of the other animals that inhabit the area.
It is located near Mt. Arikok, close the center of the island and is a natural preserve which features some of the oldest Arawak drawings, as well as trails that showcase Aruba's great variety of plants and animals like the divi-divi and kwihi trees, rare and exotic cacti, aloe, tropical flowers, birds and iguanas.
The government is very concerned about the environment and strives to maintain the park by employing only high quality, nature friendly and environmentally sound organizations to beautify the island for the Aruban community.
Arikok National Park was first designated as an area of significant national importance in the early 1980's. It is an area of unique scenic beauty, flora and fauna, geological formations and cultural resources. The highest points in Aruba are located in the park and include Arikok and Jamanota hilltops.
The Arikok National Park land area encompasses the three primary geological formations that shape the island of Aruba: the Aruba lava formation, a quartz diorite formation and a limestone formation extending inward from the coastline. These formations have played an important role, not only in supporting unique, indigenous plants and wildlife, but by influencing historic human settlement and activity patterns on the island.
The rock outcrops, boulders and crevices between the various formations create micro-climactic conditions that support unique examples of indigenous flora and fauna. As a result, the park is the habitat of several animal species found only in Aruba including two snake species: the cascabel, Crotalus thurissus uni- color (Aruba island's rattle - snake) and the santanero, Leptodira bakeri (Aruba cat-eyed snake); the kododo blauw, Cnemido- phorus arubensus (Aruban whiptail lizard); and two bird species: the shoco, Athene cunicu- laria arubensis (Aruban burrowing owl) and the prikichi, Aratinga pertinax arubensis (Aruban parakeet).
Early settlement and activity patterns of the island were also influenced by the resources and micro-climactic conditions found in this area. The limestone formation, for example, supports the largest natural fresh water spring on the island and, for that reason, was the site of early agricultural settlements and small-scale plantations during the early years of European rule. The micro-climactic conditions on the western side of the highest hilltops in the park, Arikok and Jamanota, provide protected locations from the constant northeasterly winds.
This, together with the better soil conditions in this area, made the western side of the island more suitable for agriculture and settlement. In the early days of European rule, the merchant and wealthier classes of farmers settled along Aruba's south coast near present day Oranjestad while poorer settlers and farm workers were relegated to areas with less fertile soils and difficult terrain, such as the Arikok National Park territory. The remains of several of their settlements can be found in this area and the form and shape of their houses, known as the cas di torta, have became a cultural icon for Arubans.
Several phases of Native American occupation occurred in Aruba, each leaving behind artifacts and evidence of the inhabitants' presence. Significant sites of early native art and settlements are located inside Arikok National Park. Many of these sites are threatened by unstable conditions and uncontrolled visitation.
Geological conditions also resulted in the presence of gold deposits in the Arikok area. During the last century, a considerable amount of mining activity occurred, leaving behind remnants of these early operations including the ruins of a mine complex known as Miralamar.
In the 1400's and 1500's, adventurers traveled throughout the Caribbean in search of wealth and treasures. According to legend, one of these treasure islands was named "Oro Ruba," which means "red gold." Now known as Aruba, a colorful history of gold prospectors has shaped the island's history. Today, remnants of this history can still be visited.
On the northern coast, midway down the island, lie the abandoned gold mines that were the center of Aruba's gold rush during the nineteenth century. In 1824, gold was finally discovered in Aruba, and eventually, the industry produced more than 3 million pounds of gold.
While driving down to Pos Chiquito, along the southwest shores, take a left and drive through historic Frenchman's Pass, a narrow canyon in the rocks with hundreds of chattering parakeets and birds in residence.
Nearby is the Balashi gold mill ruins at the tip of the Spanish Lagoon, which is nearby the world's second-largest water desalination plant.
The population of Aruba is predominantly Catholic, a fact that can be seen by observing the number of Catholic churches located in all of the districts of the island. On a drive to the northeastern coast from San Nicolas, you'll drive by a unique Roman Catholic shrine built into the rocks.
The Lourdes Grotto was created under the guidance of a priest named "Erkamp" and parishioners in the year 1958. The grotto is located in Seroe Pretoe (black hill). The year 1958 was an important year as it was 150 years ago that the Holy Virgin appeared in front of Bernadette, as legend has it in Aruba.
Bishop Holterman blessed the statue from the Holy Virgin and Bernadette. The statue weighed 700 kilos and one Mrs. Maria Geerman played an important role in the development of the grotto. Eight people were needed to hoist the statue and place it in the grotto.
Mrs. Geerman's wish was to be buried in the same box that carried the Holy Virgin and this wish was granted. Elmar, the electrical company of Aruba, provided a permanent light pole so that the statue would be illuminated throughout the night.
Every year, on February 11th (feast of Lady of Lourdes) a procession leaves from the St. Theresita church in San Nicolas to the grotto, where a mass is performed.
Location: Seroe Pretoe (black hill) San Nicolas