The Best of Arikok National Park, Aruba

In the blissfully rugged natural playground of Arikok National Park, you’ll feel removed from the white-sand beaches and glitzy hotels of Aruba’s most popular coast. Dive into a beautiful natural pool while waves crash around you, set out on a sunrise horseback ride across windswept terrain, or explore ancient cave dwellings or stone sanctuaries built by long-lost cultures.

L.G. Smith Blvd, Noord, Aruba
Built between 1914 and 1916 on an octagonal base, this stone, double-lens lighthouse is Aruba’s marquee landmark. Standing tall at 98 feet, it’s the highest structure on the island and offers the best views in its respective area. It gets its name from the SS California, a British steamship that sank in nearby waters in 1891 and now functions as a fantastic dive site. Adjacent to the lighthouse, visitors will find a beloved Italian restaurant and the California White Sand Dunes, a hot spot for dune surfing.
A scene like this, spotted in the Guadirikiri Cave in Aruba’s Arikok National Park, is a challenge for even the most experienced photographer. The rays of light streaming in through the hole in the cave’s ceiling can be tricky even for the most advanced camera’s spot metering system, while the all-encompassing darkness presents a daunting problem for lenses with slow apertures. But as a travel photographer—or a traveler in general, really—I can’t make excuses. I need to capture and communicate the moment as it plays out before my eyes. Thanks to Tamron’s new 16-300mm All-in-one Zoom lens, I was able to do just that. I flipped my camera to spot metering mode, dialed in the largest possible aperture given my focal length, and fired away. The lens did the rest. The snappy Piezo Drive autofocus system locked in on my friend’s face, even in the sort of light that presents a huge challenge for some of my ultra-wide aperture lenses. With the handy manual override system, I was able to fine-tune my focus where necessary, while not missing out on the moment. With my new Tamron in hand, I was able to capture a truly unique moment in one of Aruba’s most unique environments, and elevate what could have been a blurry, blown-out snapshot to a travel photograph I am proud of.
San Fuego 70, Santa Cruz, Aruba
Among the 20 percent of Aruba that’s protected land, Arikok National Park boasts lava fields, limestone terrain, and a small beach, all crisscrossed with picturesque hiking trails. Paths lead to gold mine ruins, former plantations, and paintings by the island’s native Arawak people, making for an exciting place to visit. Explore the park by mountain bike, horseback, or car, or take a free walking tour with a park ranger (reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance). You’re likely to see snakes, owls, bats, lizards, and myriad birds, as well as goats and the local donkeys.
This former mill in the northern part of Aruba hints at the island’s relatively unknown gold rush. First discovered in 1824, gold remained an important Aruban industry until around 1916, with the island producing more than 3 million pounds in total. The precious metal is even reflected in Aruba’s name, which roughly translates to “there was gold.” At this historic site, windswept stone ruins stand in the middle of a wide expanse of untouched land.
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