A Legendary Journey: Aruba

I bounce around the back of a Land Rover as it dodges an obstacle course of sharp rocks and jagged coral along dirt roads lined with towering cacti. This stark desert landscape is the face of the rugged north side of Aruba, where an effervescent guide takes us to places most visitors never see.

Eddy Croes offers "sensitive" tours that lead us to hiking paths, deserted inlets and eerie stalactite-decked caves. At the Guadirikiri Cave fluted beams of sunlight cascade from an opening, illuminating walls stained green, orange and purple by nature. In the nearby Fontein Cave are red drawings of anthropomorphic animals, such as a rabbit with a belly button and hands, etched by the Caquet¿o Indians, who inhabited the island before Europeans arrived in 1499.

As co-founder and former lead ranger for the Arikok National Park, which covers nearly one fifth of Aruba, Croes has a special sensibility for the environment, witnessed when he stops his Land Rover to scoop up a discarded bottle. Between Croes' relaxed attitude and the curiosity of the four Americans he has in tow, his three-hour tour turns into a five-hour romp.