Whether you’re an avid mountain climber, a caving enthusiast or you love light walks during your vacation, the Dominican Republic’s varied landscape of beaches, national parks, and dunes offer a wide variety of outdoor adventures and hiking. Here are the best hikes you can experience in the Dominican Republic, whether you end up on the coastline or inland.
One of the most extended hiking expeditions is the one that leads to the summit of Pico Duarte, the highest mountain in the entire Caribbean, standing at 10,105 feet above sea level. Most visitors depart from their hotel base in Jarabacoa, and opt for the two-night expedition up through Armando Bermudez National Park to this summit, with overnight camping after dusk and dinner by a warm fire. Guides and mules accompany you for the journey and are included in the rate. The hike continues after a few hours, such that you reach the top—and the commanding statue of Juan Pablo Duarte, the father of Dominican independence—by sunrise.
Standing at just over 3,800 feet, well below the height of Pico Duarte, El Mogote is a more technically challenging hike than the highest summit in the Dominican Republic. That’s because it’s a near-vertical ascent on rocky terrain, requiring stamina and physical strength. You’ll need to wear mountain boots to protect your toes. The rise begins just about 10 minutes outside of Jarabacoa. On the hike, you’ll come across plenty of berry trees as you ascend higher, which makes for tasty snacks. The walk up takes approximately three hours or less for those who are avid hikers. Because it’s a challenging hike, you won’t see a crowd here.
Cotubanamá National Park
One of the most extensive national parks in the country consists of offshore islands Saona, Catalina, and Catalinita, but it also comprises a land portion located at the entrance of Bayahibe and Dominicus. The Padro Nuestro Trail takes you along a densely forested path and a series of caves with freshwater lagoons, where the Taino once lived. It’s a refreshing break from the beach and sun, as well as a chance to explore Dominican flora.
Parque Nacional Los Haitises
A popular boat excursion from the shores of Samana to this intriguing national park is just one of the ways you can explore Los Haitises’ thick forests. There are several caves you can hike while taking in the splendid scenery of giant bluffs jutting out of the Atlantic. You can also hike deeper inside the park from its northern entrance near Sabana de la Mar—head to Cano Hondo, where guides from Paraiso Cano Hondo lodge can take you to hike the park on foot, rather than go on a boat ride. You’ll get closer to its numerous species of trees, from cacao to coffee, spot birds, and take in an even bigger tropical rainforest.
Cueva de la Virgen
In the remote southwest of the Dominican Republic, Cueva de la Virgen sits tucked inside the Bahoruco mountains. The trail and hike to get there begins in Bahoruco, just outside the Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge. You’ll venture deep into the forest for approximately an hour’s moderate hike along the crystalline turquoise Bahoruco River. Signs explain the various flora and fauna along the way. Once at the cave, you’ll marvel at the gushing waterfalls that tumble down its rocks. Take a dip and take in the vast chambers that surround you.
Parque Nacional Valle Nuevo
One of the most outstanding national parks in the Dominican Republic and the most unique in the Caribbean, Parque Nacional Valle Nuevo boasts thousands of pine trees, over 400 sources of freshwater, and temperatures that dip into the 40s at night or below freezing December. Standing at nearly 7,000 feet above sea level, Parque Valle Nuevo is as much a hiking paradise as it is a birding hotspot. You’ll find bromeliads, giant ferns, and more than70 bird species, among other wildlife. Mornings are frosty, as are evenings; you’ll need layered clothing to hike here as well as an all-terrain vehicle to reach this remote, rugged region of the DR.
Cueva Fun Fun
The ultimate hiking and caving adventure takes you to the province of Hato Mayor, into the edges of Parque Nacional Los Haitises. From there, you’ll hike your way for approximately 15 minutes through private property to reach the entrance of one of the longest caves in the Dominican Republic. You’ll rappel your way into the entrance as there’s no other way to get inside, and proceed to spelunk through the dry cave with flashlights and the occasional water drips from stalagmites. There will be one section where you have to dip your head underwater to cross and continue the hike. It’s a fun, adrenaline-pumping hiking adventure.
Cueves de Cabarete
Cabarete is known as a hub for wind water sports, from surfing to kiteboarding, but those who venture here can also enjoy plenty of hiking. Located just under ten minutes from the heart of this beach town, El Choco National Park offers easy trails in a protected forest, punctuated with ancient Taino caves of various sizes boasting impressive stalactites. One of these caves has a lagoon that’s said to be one of the deepest in the country, where professional certified cave divers venture. There are park guides at the entrance ready to hike with visitors. You’ll spot fruit trees, coffee, and cacao trees, as well as plenty of birds. Dip in the freshwater lagoon at the park’s entrance after you hit the trails.
Charcos de Los Militares
One of the most fun hikes in Puerto Plata begins in Tubagua Village, a 20-minute ride from Puerto Plata city up into the hills. Once you reach Tubagua Ecolodge, which offers this two-hour excursion, you’ll begin a moderate guided hike that takes you into the backcountry of this northern province. You’ll cross through a local village, meet locals on the way and eventually trek past large pastures to reach a series of deep turquoise freshwater pools and cascades. Swim to your heart’s content.
Dunas de Baní
This is one of the most adventurous outings you’ll experience in the Dominican Republic: a hike to dunes in Baní, an hour southwest of Santo Domingo. Located within a national park, this vast terrain boasts dunes and a desert landscape you won’t see anywhere else in the country. The hike takes you under a hot sun for about 20 minutes as you make your way up to the largest dune; bring a hat, sunglasses, and closed-toe shoes. Once you reach the top of a dune, a spectacular view of the sea appears, as well as a wild beach, though the waves are too rough to swim in, unless you’re a surfer. There’s a lookout tower on site as well, near the park entrance, for panoramic views over the dunes and the blue water.