Tucked away in the southern Caribbean, Aruba is a paradise for beach lovers, but its natural wonders extend far beyond its sandy shores. One such hidden gem is Hooiberg Mountain, a picturesque peak that offers a unique perspective on the island’s diverse landscape.
Hiking Hooiberg Mountain was a goal of ours on our recent trip, and we ended up hiking it twice in 5 days for sunrise! After hiking Mount Christoffel in Curacao, we’ve made it a point to hike some of the highest peaks in the Caribbean!
Here’s what to know about hiking Hooiberg Mountain before you go.
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About Hooiberg Mountain
Hooiberg Mountain, also known as Haystack Mountain, stands at 541 feet (165 metres) tall and is a prominent landmark on the island. On clear days, you can even see Venezuela in the distance.
Its distinctive cone shape sets it apart from the surrounding flat terrain, capturing the curiosity of both locals and visitors alike. The name “Hooiberg” translates to “haystack” in Dutch, reflecting the mountain’s resemblance to a traditional haystack.
Hooiberg is actually not the highest peak on Aruba – it’s the third highest, after Seroe Jamanota (620 feet) and Arikok Mountain (610 feet).
This geological marvel is composed of volcanic rock, providing a stark contrast to the coral and limestone formations commonly found in the region.
The dark, weathered stones of Hooiberg create a striking visual impact against the vibrant blue skies, making it a captivating sight for those seeking a break from the beach scene.
Hiking Hooiberg Mountain
For adventurous souls, the ascent to Hooiberg’s summit promises a rewarding experience. A well-maintained and newly redone cement staircase leads you through a landscape adorned with cacti, aloe vera plants, and other resilient flora native to Aruba.
The hike is moderate in difficulty (it’s a straight set of about 600 steps, after all!), offering a refreshing challenge for those eager to explore the island beyond its coastal attractions.
The hiking trail consists of stairs the entire way. There’s a handrail most of the way until you reach the last bit of the ascent – so keep that in mind! As far as how many steps go, we didn’t count it’s exact number, but I’ve read it’s around 560-600. The stairs were recently redone in 2023, and provide a stable path up and down the mountain.
As you ascend, the panoramic views unfold, revealing the sparkling Caribbean Sea, the arid plains of Aruba, and the distant shores of neighbouring islands. The breathtaking scenery provides the perfect backdrop for capturing memorable photos and embracing the tranquillity that envelops Hooiberg.
Tip: Bring water and bring your phone so you can use its flashlight if you’re hiking Hooiberg at sunrise! It would’ve been very difficult for us to hike this mountain without any light, since we started before dawn.
While we were planning this hike up Hooiberg, I read it could take anywhere from 30-60 minutes. We did it in 13 minutes both times. There are spots to take a rest and soak in the views.
Once you get to the top, there is a viewing area to the left (which was our favourite) with a rope guardrail and unobstructed views of sunrise. The breeze from the top was the best reward.
If you continue by the cell towers, there is another open area you have to clamber up. There are no guard rails or rope, so be mindful of your step! There are lots of cactus on top of Hooiberg, and if it’s hard, just make sure you don’t lose your footing and grab onto something sharp!
Good to know: If you feel like you can’t make the ascent, no worries! There are still places to stop and admire the view along the way. Remember not to push yourself, drink plenty of water, and try to avoid hiking during the hottest parts of the day.
Sunrise on Hooiberg Mountain
For a truly magical experience, consider planning your visit during sunrise.
You can check the Aruban sunrise times prior to visiting, and allow enough time to drive to the base of the mountain and hike up! For reference, we would wake at 5:30 am to give ourselves enough time to wake up, drive 10 minutes down the road, park, and hike up for the sunrise at 6:57 am (when we visited in December).
The warm hues of the early morning transform the landscape, casting a golden glow upon the mountain and its surroundings. The peaceful atmosphere and the gentle rustle of the wind through the desert vegetation create a serene ambiance that’s perfect for meditation or simply taking in the beauty of nature.
Hooiberg Mountain also holds cultural and historical significance for the people of Aruba.
Legend has it that the mountain served as a lookout point for early inhabitants, providing a vantage point to spot approaching ships and potential threats. Today, it stands as a symbol of resilience and endurance, much like the Aruban people themselves.
Hooiberg Mountain – an Iconic Landmark
Hooiberg Mountain in Aruba is a testament to the island’s diverse and captivating landscape. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a hiking aficionado, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, Hooiberg offers a unique and memorable experience.
As you reach its summit, you’ll not only gain a new perspective on Aruba’s beauty but also connect with the rich history and culture that define this Caribbean paradise.
What does it cost to go up Hooiberg Mountain?
Like many of Aruba’s attractions, Hooiberg Mountain is completely free to visit! It’s one of the best things about the island – much of its natural beauty doesn’t cost anything to see and enjoy.
Where to park to hike Hooiberg Mountain
Hooiberg Mountain is a close drive from anywhere on the west end of the island. It took 10 minutes from our Airbnb near Eagle Beach. We typed in “Hooiberg Mountain” into Google Maps and it took us right to the base of the parking lot.
Keep in mind, if you’re arriving at the base of the mountain to hike for sunrise, it’s quite dark and there’s no signage for the parking lot. It’s a dirt lot with trees to park between. I recommend using your flashlights on your phones for a sunrise hike. While it’s stairs the whole way up, it’s still nice to know where you’re putting your feet.
How many steps is Mount Hooiberg Aruba?
There are approximately 560-600 steps going up Mount Hooiberg.
What else to see near Hooiberg Mountain
One of our favourite things to do after hiking Hooiberg Mountain was to visit Bright Bakery, just down the road a few minutes away.
Touted as Aruba’s most-loved bakery, it quickly became ours too. Popular with locals, you can find everything here from breads, cakes, pastechi, and an array of delicious baked goods. They’re open from 6:00 am – 8:00 pm daily, so be sure to hit up this bakery if you find yourself near Hooiberg.
It’s also worth paying a visit to Casibari Rock Formations and Ayo Rock Formations. I didn’t think we’d get to both, but I’m so glad we did because while similar, they’re both so different!
Both Casibari and Ayo Rock Formations are free to visit, so it’s worth checking out if you’re already down this way! These ancient rocks were formed during tectonic plate shifting and volcanic eruptions – although their origins still aren’t that clear – they also hold cultural significance for the Arawak people. You can even see 4000 year old cave paintings at Ayo.
You can definitely spend more time at Ayo Rock Formations, and it’s a stunning place.
Keep in mind though, that if you want to wander through the rocks, there are tons of hornet nests and hornets flying around. That prevented us from fully exploring the area. There are also goats that live here, and use the rocks as their home. Watch your step, and if you smell something like a barnyard, it’s the goats! 😂
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