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The 7 best hikes in the Dominican Republic: from the mountains to the sea

Thinking of stepping outside the Dominican Republic’s bounty of all-inclusive resorts? Then you’re in for a number of enriching experiences. Hiking through the island’s various regions is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in its abundant natural beauty and wide variety of ecosystems.

Majestic waterfalls cascading into pristine pools of water, rocky rivers winding their way through dense vegetation and cool mountain air with panoramic island views — the Dominican landscape is a hiker’s haven.

Whether you’re leisurely winding your way along the shores of the island’s unspoiled beaches or making your way up a mountain to snap pictures off of a cliffside swing, the Dominican Republic offers outdoor hiking adventures for novices and experts alike making it a popular activity for visitors looking to get an up-close-and-personal view of the native wildlife and vegetation. 

Note: Many of the island’s hikes require the assistance of a guide or a reliable GPS system, as signage, detailed maps and marked trails, can be scarce.

Palm trees coconut in Samana Peninsula, where the 7 beaches hike is great for novices
Make your way to the shoreline of the Samana Peninsula and you’ll find a few trails to enjoy with ocean views © Benny Marty / Shutterstock

7 beaches hike 

Best trail for non-hikers
10 miles (16km) round trip, 4-5 hours, easy

Most visitors come to the Dominican Republic to soak up their fair share of sunshine and beaches, and this hike checks all those boxes. Starting from Las Galeras, you’ll wind your way through the shoreline of seven different beaches in the Samana Peninsula, traversing coconut groves, small hills, and plenty of sandy coasts on your path. 

This route doesn’t require a guide or hiking tour, and there’s a good chance you’ll be one of only a few people on the trail. But as you near Playa Rincon, you’ll have a chance to take part in some company and refuel with a cold drink and some fresh fish from one of the local beach shacks in the area. 

If the roundtrip trek is too long, you can cut the hike in half by catching a boat or taxi at Playa Rincon that’ll take you back to the beginning of the path.


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Cueva de la Virgen 

Best family-friendly hike
5.2 miles (8.4km) round trip, 30 minutes, easy

Legend has it that the spirit of La Ciguapa, the titular virgin of the site, still inhabits the cave in the rocky canyon of Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Gorge) in Barahona and can turn visitors to stone. While there are no reports of tourists turning into statues in the area, the trail remains a popular hike for adults and children alike.

Along the path, you’ll make your way through a vegetal rainforest replete with seven species of ferns, and fruit trees, all of which are labeled with their medicinal properties. 

You’ll also have the opportunity to cross gentle streams, maneuver small climbs, and finally, take a cool dip in the Cueva de la Virgen, a cavernous expanse surrounded by natural pools and waterfalls.

Playa los Patos (Ducks beach) in the province of Barahona in the Dominican Republic offers hiking opportunities
Barahona in the southwest region of the Dominican Republic is known for its crystal clear swimming holes © Marvin del Cid / Getty Images

Balneario La Plaza

Best hike for a swim
3 miles (4.8km) round trip, 1-2 hours, moderate

Head to Barahona in the southwest region of the Dominican Republic and set your coordinates for Balneario La Plaza, a crystal clear swimming hole situated in the mountain region. This pleasant day hike will take you through some rocky streams and rivers, so make sure your footwear is well equipped to handle the terrain. 

Your destination is a small canyon with a crystal clear pool fed by smaller waterfalls and a sliver of sunlight at its peak. But to get there, you’ll need a guide to lead the way, as many of the paths and coordinates are unmarked. 

Your best bet is to find an official hiking tour or outfit as some visitors have reported being swindled — and in some cases, robbed — by individuals offering to take them to the site.

The best time to visit the Dominican Republic 

Bike riders on a ride through the countryside of Dominican Republic.
Head up the mountainsides of the Dominican Republic to begin your day of hiking © B Cruz / Shutterstock

Montaña Redonda 

Best hike for mountain views
2 miles (3.2km) round trip, 30 minutes, moderate

About an hour’s drive from Punta Cana, the trail at Montaña Redonda is somewhat steep at about 800ft, but straightforward. Despite the lack of signposts, there’s only one path leading up, making the trail easy to navigate. 

After hiking up the path, visitors are treated to 360-degree panoramic views of the Cordillera Oriental (part of what makes up the Colombian Andes), rain forests, and, on a clear day, the shores and beaches of Samana. 

But one of the most popular activities at Montaña Redonda is taking photos while swinging in the sky-high swing sets, hammocks and teeter-totters that seemingly float off the edge of the cliff (but don’t worry — you won’t actually fly off into a cavernous abyss). 

Dunas de Bani 

Best desert hike
5.2 miles (8.4km) round trip, 20 minutes, moderate

It’s not often you find a Mad Max desert landscape in the middle of a tropical Caribbean island — unless you’re in the Dominican Republic. Located in a national park in Las Calderas Peninsula, the Dunas de Bani is just that — a sandy field of dunes composed of quartz and feldspar from the nearby Bahia Stream and Nizao River. 

As you make your way up the highest dune (about 115ft / 35m), you’ll come across wildlife and fauna that are very specific to the region. 

Think mangroves, olive and mesquite trees, lizards, flamingoes and night herons. The heat is particularly scorching in this area of the island, so packing a hat, sunscreen, and water is strongly advised.

Once you’ve reached the top, one of the wildest beaches in the Dominican Republic comes into view — and while swimming in its rough currents isn’t really an option, you might catch a surfer or two trying to tame its waves.

Top things to do in the Dominican Republic 

Pico Duarte 

Best overnight hike 
29 miles (46km) round trip, 2-3 days, moderate

While this is one of the lengthier — and steepest — hikes in the Dominican Republic, the trails aren’t necessarily very difficult or technical but do require decent endurance and fitness. Expect a long and steady climb with 7,500ft of elevation gain that culminates at Pico Duarte. 

At 10,000-ft, it’s the highest mountain peak in all of the Caribbean and rewards dedicated hikers with jaw-dropping views of the Central Mountain Range.

You can access the hiking trails at five different entry points (the La Ciénaga trail is the quickest and most popular), each offering various levels of difficulty. Depending on your chosen route, you’ll run into rivers, rocky streams, lush pine forests, and native wildlife. 

The park requires that you pay an entrance fee and hire a guide to help you navigate the trails, so be prepared to have those arrangements settled before you arrive.

A hiker enjoys a waterfall in the Dominican Republic
Canon de Arroyo Frio offers over 50 natural swimming pools, cascades and waterfalls for hikers © Don Mammoser / Shutterstock

Canon de Arroyo Frio 

Best hike for water enthusiasts
5 miles (8km) round trip, 5 hours, difficult

Hiking along the Canon de Arroyo Frio — located in the Cordillera Septentrional Mountain Range near Cabarete — requires trekking experience, good physical fitness and a knack for navigating your way through various water attractions. 

That’s because the trail near this clear, cerulean river will take you through over 50 natural swimming pools, cascades and waterfalls. So, while the distance and elevation aren’t really a challenge, the terrain — which requires you to swim, wade, jump and balance your way through rocky river surfaces and water-filled canyons — isn’t for the faint of heart.

Opting for a hiking tour is your best bet here, with most making time for jumping from the occasional waterfall, the highest of which reaches 66ft (20m). 

You might also like: 

Dominican Republic: beyond the beaches
Best places to visit in the Dominican Republic
Do I need a visa to visit the Dominican Republic?  
 

The post The 7 best hikes in the Dominican Republic: from the mountains to the sea appeared first on Lonely Planet Articles.

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