Most of the Dominican Republic’s 4.6 million annual tourists come for a week or two of relaxation and recuperation in this tropical paradise. Many won’t leave the resort or beautiful Dominican Republic villa rentals spending all their time on the beach. It may come as a surprise, and relief, to some visitors that the island has plenty opportunities for adventure and hiking to keep the most active tourists busy. Here’s a guide to hiking in the Dominican Republic.
What Makes the Dominican Republic a Good Place for Hiking?
Let’s first start off with a quick geography lesson. Hispaniola Island, as you may know, is the Caribbean’s second largest shared between the Dominican Republic to the east and Haiti on the west. A total of four mountain ranges cover more than 80% of the island’s landmass. You’ll find diversity including highlands, rainforests and savannahs along with three peaks taller than 3000 metres. Combine this with the vast variety of wildlife, birds and flowers, and you’re in for a treat. There are even flamingos, endangered lizards and deadly crocodiles living here too. So now you know the why, let’s look at where to go in the Dominican Republic.
Parque Nacional Armando Bermudez
The 760 square kilometre national park covers the central and northern slopes of the Central Mountain Range and houses one of the most extensive savannahs on the island. Several rivers have their source here creating waterfalls and magnificent scenery in the changing landscapes. The region’s biodiversity is vast making ecotourism popular.
Typical hikes often last around a day along easy to medium difficulty trails. The northern coast has lots of paths leading through the tropical forests and to the famous Damajagua Falls. Others will take you to rivers, caves and waterfalls.
Jose del Carmen Ramirez
The national park is to the south of Armando Bermudez along the same mountain range. You won’t find any roads passing through and have to rely on hiking to see the attractions. As with its neighbour, you’ll find tropical forests, serendipitous waterfalls and spots for the perfect picnic. And if you want to stay overnight there are a few cabin along the way too.
The main attraction inside this Jose del Carmen Ramirez is Pico Duarte, or the Caribbean’s highest mountain at 3087 metres (10,128 feet). The three-day hike is best taken with an experienced guide. If you don’t have the time to hike up the mountain, visit Yaque del Sur River and the springs or hike to the San Juan Valley.
Trekking inside the Dominican Republic’s oldest national park (open since 1956) is a rewarding experience. The vegetation, flora and fauna change as you get deeper into the protected area. Birdwatchers and animal lovers will also love the opportunity to get up close and personal with the abundant wildlife such as hogs, parrots and the small endangered rodent hutias.
El Choco National Park
El Choco surrounds Cabarete on the northern part of the island. The region is famous for having more than 200 caves, which are approximately five million years old. Other attractions inside the national park include two lagoon, trails for hiking, wetlands, forests and hills. You also have the chance to go horseback riding and four-wheel driving inside El Choco too.
The caves are the biggest attraction. Visitors will get an expert guide who takes them along the trails offering a running commentary on the surroundings and local ecology. When you get inside, you’ll descend through narrow passageways and caverns to see the underwater pools. Professional divers have the chance to swim from one pool to the next. There are a few tours available, and you should take the time to research and find the best one for you. Also, remember that the temperature inside caves is a constant between 14 and 16°C. You may need to bring warmer clothes.
Hydration is an essential travel tip for visitors who want to go hiking in the Dominican Republic. The climate is hot and humid all year round, and some of the trails can be challenging. You may find yourself drinking far more water than on similar length and difficulty trek back at home. Factoring in this is an essential part of planning a hike. You’re going to need to carry your own water, which may amount to several litres. It’s also a good idea to bring dehydration tablets from home in case you find yourself in an emergency situation.
Another common sense tip is to tell someone where you’re planning to go, especially if you’re not joining an organised tour. Trails can be challenging, muddy and sometimes a little confusing to follow. Phones may not work well out in the rainforest, and in the case of an emergency, the situation can turn serious much faster than back at home. Dehydration, wildlife and the potential for open wounds to become infected are a significant concern.
Tropical downpours are frequent and sudden, especially in the rainy season between May and November (or from November to January along the northern coast). Hurricane season lasts from June to November. Don’t hike if the weather predicts stormy weather. You should also consider the temperature at higher altitudes too, which averages around 18°C. Remember to pack warmer clothes if you plan to climb the mountains.
Hiking in the Dominican Republic
A holiday to the Dominican Republic doesn’t have to be about lounging on the beach all day. There are lots of opportunities to explore this tropical paradise and see the diversity in ecology and wildlife. And if you’re really up for a challenge, hike up Pico Duarte.