To get to Natural Pool, also known as “conchi,” visitors must ride through rugged terrain in an off-road vehicle before hiking down a trail. // © 2014 Nila Do Simon
Feature image (above): While Aruba’s famous Natural Bridge collapsed in 2005, guests can still visit the limestone Baby Bridge near Andicuri Beach. // © 2014 Nila Do Simon
While visiting Aruba, it’s easy to focus on the island’s beautiful blue-green waters and pristine beaches, but there is so much more to Aruba’s natural side. Travelers are discovering that this tiny Caribbean island, measuring 19.6 miles long and 6 miles across at its widest point, has myriad natural attractions supported by a deep commitment to conservation and sustainability.
Some of the island’s natural wonders are surprising, including the environment in Aruba’s rugged and wild interior. Cacti, coves, caves, natural pools, bridges and a variety of indigenous flora and fauna are all available for visitors to explore.
Commitment to Conservation
The island is committed to protecting and promoting its natural resources. In 2011, Aruba Tourism Authority created a program called “Mi Compromiso cu Aruba,” or “My Commitment with Aruba.” The certification program is designed to educate those working in the tourism industry about the country’s natural resources, cultural attractions and sustainability issues. Hotels, such as Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, have embraced the program and gone a step further, setting up tours to key ecological attractions on the island.
Ecotourism and sustainability awareness were bolstered in 2012 when Aruba partnered with Carbon War Room, an international non-governmental organization that focuses on supporting business solutions to reduce carbon omissions. One of the organizations founders is Richard Branson, founder and chairman of Virgin Group.
“Due to the island’s natural solar/wind resources and an aggressive plan, Aruba is on track to be the world’s first country to transition off fossil fuels 100 percent by 2020,” says Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, CEO of Aruba Tourism Authority. “Aruba’s government is actively promoting the use of renewable energy through wind farms, an airport solar park, a waste-to-energy plant, smart communities and a $1 billion island investment largely focused on ecotourism. A new, award-winning trolley is the world’s first municipal streetcar system using hydrogen fuel cell technology that runs off a battery charged through wind/solar energy.”
Parks and Pools
Arikok National Park is one of the finest examples of Aruba’s natural treasures. Composed of 18 percent of the entire island, the park includes unique land formations created by lava, limestone and plutonic rock. Various animals inhabit the park, including the Aruban burrowing owl, the Aruban rattlesnake, the Aruban whiptail lizard and the Aruban parakeet. Arikok’s desert-like hills plant life give way to beautiful vistas and coastlines. The park’s Natural Pool, or conchi, is a main attraction.
“Accessible only by off-road vehicle, foot, horseback or mountain bike, this shell-shaped natural pool is surrounded by a larger barrier of lava rocks that greet crashing waves from the Caribbean Sea,” Asjoe-Croes says. “Locals and tourists delight as they wade in the cool waters, but it is the breathtaking journey to conchi that makes the experience especially remarkable.”
Another popular ecotourism site is Aruba Natural Bridge. Formed out of coral limestone pounded by surf and wind, the 100-foot-long bridge collapsed in 2005, though the nearby Baby Bridge remains intact.
While the beaches of Aruba will always beckon, it’s the rugged, natural landscape that makes Aruba a unique Caribbean island that people often return to explore.