National Parks on Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao
Concierge.com's insider take:
The ABCs' are committed to preserving their natural beauty, which ranges from an aviary-filled forest to an arid park swarming with rattlesnakes. Bonaire's Washington Slagbaai National Park, founded in 1969, is a preserve that now comprises one fifth of the 110-square-mile island (599-717-8444; www.stinapa.org). Renovated plantation buildings hold a small visitor's center that traces 3,000 years of human habitation on the island, while a series of 4WD roads lead to natural blowholes, ancient stone walls, and colonial-era ruins. The dry-forest habitat and salt pans support nearly 200 bird species, including an endemic Amazon parrot and some of the Caribbean's largest flamingo colonies, while the beaches are nesting grounds for four species of sea turtle. Resident naturalist Jerry Ligon leads bird-watching tours of the park by appointment (599-791-6079; firstname.lastname@example.org). Park trails can also be tackled on a guided mountain-bike tour with Bonaire Wellness Connexions (599-717-4241; bonairewellness.com).
On Curaçao, 4,500-acre Christoffel National Park is a 40-minute drive west of Willemstad and is laced with hiking trails and driving routes that lead to abandoned plantations and mines, Indian pictographs, and the highest peak1,345-foot Mt. Christoffelin the ABCs (599-9-462-4242; carmabi.org). Desertlike Arikok National Park on Aruba's windswept east end protects 13 square miles as a habitat for rare endemics like the burrowing owl and cascabel, or Aruban rattlesnake (297-585-1234).