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Arikok National Park
Aruba doesn't have a lot of land to play with, so it's heartening that almost 20 percent of the island has been set aside as the Arikok National Park. It encompasses a significant chunk of the interior and a long stretch of the northern windward coast. The enclosed wilderness preserve has 21 miles of marked hiking trails that showcase the island's native plants and animals.
Among the desert vegetation in the park, are divi-divi trees, rare and exotic cacti, aloe plants, and colorful tropical flowers. Critters living in the reserve include the local conejo rabbit, indigenous Kododo Blauw lizards, and the endemic Cascabel rattlesnake - the rattle-less Aruban rattlesnake, a local resident and one of the island's indigenous subspecies.
A path from the national park parking lot leads to Cunucu Arikok, a somewhat restored farm at the foot of 500-foot Cero Arikok. (Look for the airport radar station on the top.) Follow the walking trail through the outdoor exhibit that includes a typical cunucu cas di torto (a country house made of mud-and-grass adobe), planting areas that once grew a variety of crops, and stone walls and cactus fences that were built to keep out farm animals. The farmland is a popular hangout for rabbits, reptiles, and birds, and they will keep you company as you rest on one of the shaded benches along the path.
The park contains traces of nearly all the significant forces that have impacted on Aruba's history, including Arawak petroglyphs in the Fontein Cave, the remains of Dutch peasant settlements at Masiduri, plantation houses in the Prins Valley and the ruins of an old gold mining operation at Miralamar.
The park encompasses 620ft (188m) Mount Jamanota, Aruba's biggest hill. It's worth taking the short but stiff walk to the top if you didn't score a window seat on the flight in and want to get a tip-to-tip perspective.
There's a road running through the park, but you'll appreciate the landscape more by exploring one of the hiking trails.
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