Washington-Slagbaai National Park

National Park in North End
Gail Johnson / Shutterstock
Gail Johnson / Shutterstock

Comprising almost 20% of the island's area, this vast desert landscape is a fantastic place to explore on foot, by bike or by car (preferably 4WD). Stop at the visitor center, at the entrance, to pick up a map and see exhibits on the park's ecology and history. From here, two driving routes and two hiking trails show off the park's diversity, including salt ponds, seascapes, remote beaches, mangroves, volcanic hills and amazing desert vistas. And cacti – lots of cacti.

The two circular driving routes (24km long and 34km long) have birding stops, dive sites and hidden beaches – many ideal for swimming and snorkeling – along the way. Roads are rough but well worth the effort. Allow about two hours.

If you're hiking, it's best to get an early start. The 1½-hour Lagadishi loop takes you past ancient stone walls, a blowhole along the rugged coast, and a salt pan with congregating flamingos. The more difficult, two-hour Kasikunda trail ascends a challenging path to the top of a hill for sweeping views. A new kids' trail near the visitor center features a short loop and a swing set.

The park entrance, with restrooms and a small museum, is at the end of a good 4km concrete road from Rincon. Be sure to bring plenty of water.