Updated May 2019
In the past I have written several posts on Natural Pool and hopefully this way to shed some light about this popular and beautiful creation. Additionally, this way I try to offer my contribution and also explain what to expect, perhaps un-hype it little as I feel it gets over-hyped a bit. You need to understand what the Natural Pool is and what it isn’t.
Natural Pool Is
Natural Pool is shaped out of volcanic rocks in the salty Caribbean sea. The violent waves from the open ocean pound upon the rocks creating a nice effect for the ones swimming in the pool, as seen in above image. The walls surrounding the pool will offer enough protection for the swimmers. Beware that on extremely windy days and high tide the waves are of such magnitude that it will cover the whole pool, therefore becoming treacherous. Depending on the time of day it the water could feel chilly to the touch, especially early in the morning.
Something that many people overlook is that there is another mini-pool (or hot tub) just a bit more elevated by the wall of rocks.
Lastly, a little known fact about the pool (many locals don’t even know this) is that on the right side of the pool (not pictured), the area was once filled with large rocks some decades ago. This was to break the undertow below and to increase safety. Marine life adapted to this nicely and allowed for small fish to seek refuge in the pool. When you are in the pool you should snorkel to the right side and you will notice the rocks.
Natural Pool Isn’t
As great as it the Natural Pool is, not everyone “gets” it. The ride to the pool isn’t a picnic especially if you don’t know what you are doing (more below). Often people say “I hope the ride was worth it”. Actually the ride is an integral part of the Natural Pool Experience. It goes together. You will love the pool, if you love off-road.
Once there, just before you walk into the pool, it will get slick and slippery, so beware. Also, I get a lot people say “I thought it was bigger”. It’s not that big, so try to schedule your time such a way that you can avoid traffic (more about that below).
Again, the ride is great, the pool is better. Just be sure to know about the pitfalls.
The best choice to make your way to Natural Pool is signing up for a scheduled trip. Keep in mind that they know what they’re doing, they’ve done it before and if you happen to break the equipment you are not liable for any damages.
A downside for organized tours is that it could get overcrowded, especially on days with cruise ships in town.
Another option is to hire a private tour, but this could get crazy expensive.
On Your Own
You can choose to venture out on your own. The rest of this article will cover that. Some things first. Your rental vehicle or passengers won’t be insured and if you wreck something you will have to settle all bills in full before leaving the island. Most credit cards have insurance but in most cases won’t cover off-road incidents, make sure to double-check this with your company. Four wheel drive rental companies won’t actively control whether you have been to the Natural Pool, so as long as there aren’t any issues with the vehicle you are home safe.
Also make sure your four-wheel drive vehicle has all the tools present and in working order. Seriously, literally take out the lock tool to see whether it fits all nuts, including the one holding the spare tire. Speaking of spare tire, double-check the spare tire for proper inflation, don’t just hit it with your hands, as this might fool you. This is something you certainly don’t want to find out in the middle of nowhere.
Lastly be certain that the jack and tool are there. Corroborate that the jack is functioning properly as these are notoriously faulty due to our climate. Most off-road vehicles are open air and susceptible to our corrosive environment. These jacks are tossed around in the back of the vehicle and may be rusted or may have the hydraulic oil leaked out of them, rendering the jack useless.
Step by Step Directions
Street names are silly and illogical in Aruba. For this reason I will only use points of reference rather than street names. Let’s start.
- Assuming you’re staying at the low/high-rise area resorts the starting point would be the major traffic circle (roundabout) by the resorts. Points of reference: Pizza Hut, Cigto, Eagle Bowling Palace.
- On that traffic circle go east, destination St. Cruz.
- You reach another traffic circle, continue driving straight ahead. Points of reference: Dunkin’ Donuts.
- Yet again you reach another traffic circle and, yet again, continue straight. Point of reference: Stern Chevrolet dealership.
- And yet again another traffic circle, just keep driving straight ahead. Points of reference: Hong Kong grocery store, “Best Deal” store, Arubabank drive through.
- Continue driving straight ahead on the main road passing residential houses, sport fields, a bakery, bar, restaurants, grocery stores etc. Don’t pay too much attention to any of that.
- The next left turn is the most critical one, so here you’ll need to focus.
- At a certain point before you reach the main traffic circle in Santa Cruz you must turn to the left. Point of reference: “Mundo Nobo” grocery store on the left side of the road. Note: straight ahead you will see a large McDonald’s sign. If you get to this McDonald’s means that you went to far and have to turn back.
- Drive straight ahead.
- At the next equal crossing continue to drive straight ahead. Point of reference: Another grocery store on the right.
- This road will turn, twist, go up and go down. Just continue driving on this paved road until you reach the end at a T-crossing.
- Turn to the right at this T-crossing. Points of reference: On the right a small white house, up front some rocks painted in white. Perhaps you might see some goats taking it easy around those rocks.
- Once you are on this road ignore the first crossing to the left. Continue driving a short piece and soon enough you’ll be at another crossing, where you turn to the left. If you DON’T turn here you’ll be on a dirt road to nowhere. Go back! Point of reference: At that crossing, there is a small tree with a sign to Natural Pool.
- Drive straight ahead on the paved and narrow road where it twists and turns. Point of reference: You’ll pass close to cacti fences.
- At certain point, where the road seems to end, turn to the left.
- When you follow this short road it will turn into dirt and rocks which means you found the point where you can start using your vehicle’s 4×4. Put it in four-wheel drive high gear, this will suffice throughout the whole ride. If you don’t have such a good vehicle, put in four-wheel drive low gear.
- Guiding you beyond this point is useless due to the lack of points of reference. The best I can do is to tell you to follow the tracks and head northeastward. Just make sure to reach the coast line. There will be a stiff hill to take along the way, both down and back up. If you don’t reach the pool within 30 minutes then you are lost my friend.
I never said it was easy. Hopefully my directions to the Natural Pool have been helpful. Good luck in finding it. Needless to say that you do this on your own risk.
- Natural Pool is the most popular attraction in Arikok National Park, which means it can get pretty crowded. Skip the crowds by going there at specific times. From Monday to Friday the best times to go there are before 9:15 AM, from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM, from 12:45 PM to 2:00 PM and from 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM. In the weekends this might calm down a bit with tourists, however, locals visit mostly in the weekends.
- I suggest you where either tennis shoes or water shoes to walk around the Natural Pool area. Especially near the water it’s extremely slippery to walk.
- Speaking of walking, above instructions are how to reach the PARKING of the Natural Pool. You still need to walk down, and up, 80+ steps to get into the pool.
- Don’t rock climb, unless you know specifically where you can walk.
- Bring a snorkel and mask. You’ll be surprised what you see there.
Update 1: Starting November 1, 2010 the only entry to Natural Pool is going through the main entrance of Arikok National Park. All other access to the Natural Pool will be shut down. Note: this measure was enforced starting April 2019. Nearly a decade since it was announced.
Update 2: Due to protests from tour operators, early 2011 the government reopened the entrance from “Shete”, which is explained below. This entrance is exclusively for tour operators, however many others use it. Note: see update 7.
Update 3: As per December 2014 the entrance at “Shete” is open to the general public and tickets are available from around 9 AM to around 4 PM daily. Note: there was a lot of back and forth regarding this entrance.
Update 4: If you enter the park after staff leaves around 4 PM you can enter for free. Just make sure to exit before sunset, this way you won’t risk getting stuck with car trouble after sunset. After hours towing is a pain and needlessly expensive.
Update 5: Since late 2014 the park has new management and its rumored they will take measures to avoid people entering for free after hours. Obviously they are losing revenue and the island government has already indicated that they will be halting any and all subsidies for the park. The park has to become self-sufficient and getting the two, two and a half extra hours of revenue might tip the scale.
Update 6: Admission fee as per 1 January 2015 for adults is US$ 11,00 (up from $10 in 2014). Children up to 17 are free. On public holidays typically there is minimum staff present, which can result in free admission.
Update 7: In April 2019 new park management announced the permanent closure of the entrance at “Shete”. This entrance functioned as shortcut or shorter route to Natural Pool coming from the western part of the island, where most people drive from. Now the only entrance on the western side is through the main gate at San Fuego, which is nearly a 4-mile (almost 6.4 km) longer drive or detour from previous Natural Pool-route.