After a week of all-inclusive beach resort luxury, I am ready for a change and decide to drive to Jarabacoa, a small town in the “Dominican Alps” featuring many boutiques, cafeteria’s, outside patio’s, a gym, restaurants, affordable hotels and even a stationary store. Before the town became the center of adventure-sport activities and the busiest departure point for treks to Pico Duarte, the highest mountain peak in the Dominican Republic, it was a popular retreat for affluent Dominicans from Santiago and Santo Domingo seeking relieve from the tropical heat. more...
The final part of the road to Jarabacoa, a quaint little town in the Cordillera Central Mountains, illustrates very well why the area often is being referred to as the Dominican Alps. Wooden shacks, little stores and boutiques hug the curving uphill road. While it is still comfortable t-shirt weather, I do notice that Jarabacoa, just like nearby Constanza, has a much cooler climate than the coastal areas of the Dominican Republic. Good thing I brought a sweater!
The setting sun bathes Jarabacoa in a warm, almost golden light. I sit down for a drink at a small terrace that belongs to one of the many “colmados” in town. A colmado is a typical Dominican fusion between a bar and grocery store, where locals hang out with friends and neighbors. Some visitors make use of the free Wi-Fi connection the owner of this colmado offers. As it turns out, this is a very common service in Jarabacoa and proof that this town is in tune with modern times and the needs of the youthful tourist crowd it attracts. The friendly waitress urges me to come back for the local Carnival, which is celebrated in February and is said to be one of the best in the Dominican Republic.
Jarabacoa’s social activity is focused around Parque Central where you find a church, casino and various fine restaurants, bars and colmado’s. I run into some travelers who booked a 5-day excursion to Pico Duarte, the highest mountain peak in the Caribbean. With a height of 3087 meters, Pico Duarte, attracts around 3000 people a year who make the 2-5 day journey to the top.
The Taino Indians named Jarabacoa, which translates into “land where the water flows”, a rather poetical reference to the many rivers and creeks that run through the region. I first visit Salto Baiguate on horseback and although the waterfall is by no means the most impressive or highest waterfall (25 meters) in the Dominican Republic, Salto Baiguate must be one of the most awe inspiring and peaceful natural environments I ever visited. More popular are the two waterfalls in the Jimenoa river, especially Salto de Jimenoa one (made famous by the movie Jurassic park). Next up is a wild river rafting excursion on the Rio Yaque del Norte, the longest river in the Dominican Republic. The ride is excellent fun and not as strenuous as I initially thought it would be.
In Jarabacoa, I am being reminded how relaxing an active vacation can be.
How to get there
The Central Cordillera Mountain area of the Dominican Republic including the towns of Constanza and Jarabacoa can be reached by flying into either Santo Domingo or Santiago International Airports.
- Dominican Republic Domestic Flights
Caribe Tours offers luxury bus services that run between Santo Domingo and Santiago. Both cities have connections to La Vega from where you can continue to Jarabacoa.
For bus information see: Caribe Tours
I recommend renting a solid 4x4 vehicle if you plan on driving to Constanza or Jarabacoa since the roads in these areas are definitely more challenging.
Tours & Excursions
In case you decide to go on an excursion or outdoor adventure tour, I suggest that you choose a renowned company. Although I normally refrain from obvious endorsements, I must say that I found Rancho Baiguate to be excellent.
Other excursions or attractions are being by offered by the Jarabacoa River Club, Rancho Jarabacoa, Rancho 2 Rios and the Jarabacoa Golf Club. Very popular are the eco adventure excursions like canyoning, rafting on Rio Yaque del Norte and multi day treks to Pico Duarte. The Salto Baiguate and Salto de Jimenoa waterfalls (1&2) are wonderful daytrip options, as are the many hiking trips like the 3-hour journey to the top of El Mogote, just a few kilometers outside town.