Cueves de Cabarete – Dominican Republic (DR).
Only 30 minutes east of our condo in Sosua on the north coast of DR is the small village of Cabarete, which is the home of 3 caves.
We hopped on a rented moped and went to explore the area. Arriving there we were greeted by a very friendly and informative local, who advised that the entrance price for the 3 caves was US$20pp. On the basis that we were the only ones there, we felt obliged to negotiate a slightly better rate and ended up paying the equivalent of US$15 each.
We were introduced to our guide Phil, who lives in DR but originally hails from Birmingham UK, which meant he could take a break from his Spanish speaking and give us a more in-depth explanation of the customs, plants and caves in the area.
After introducing us to one or two new herbs (strictly legal) he showed us to an area owned by a foreigner nicknamed Jungle John in the late 1980s, during which time he had constructed an outdoor bar, dance floor, auditorium and changing rooms, made entirely from coral (the dominant rock in the area) in the middle of the jungle. We were told that the parties back in the day were something else. Fortunately the area and structures are now used primarily for cave related tourism during the day and by locals for only the occasional impromptu party at night.
We have seen our fair share of caves over the years and wondered if these would be any different.
The first was called Voodoo cave. The steep steps down are closed off to the public (for safety reasons) and descended approx 20m below an area once used as a type of amphitheatre for voodoo rituals. At the bottom of the steps there was a pool of water in pitch black darkness. After shining a torch on the water surface to reveal no eels, Phil offered us the chance of a dip…Jon took the plunge. Vanessa watched.
After climbing back up to the entrance to the cave, we walked a couple of hundred meters to the entrance to the second cave. This one, called Crystal cave due to the colouration of some of the rocks, was not as deep as the first but did house many stalactites and stalagmites of weird and wonderful shapes and sizes. We were invited to use our imagination to identify the names of the various shapes in front of us. To be honest they just looked like rocks but that’s not the point! The most interesting feature, for us, was a pool of water within the cave which apparently led to a 2.5km tunnel which could be dived through, eventually reappearing in a nearby waterhole. Phil assured us he had no intention of ever finding out the accuracy of those details.
We exited Frog cave and walked back towards the entrance, at which point we were joined by 2 young local girls (both called Nicolle) who walked with us to the final cave…called Frog cave but we didn’t find out why…whilst Phil explained the growth of some weird looking local fruits. It soon became clear why they had joined us when we entered the cave, as the younger Nicolle (no older than 8) jumped from the ledge overlooking the cave approximately 5m into the water below, followed soon after by the older Nicolle. Phil had secured the services of the 2 girls to show us gringos how and where to jump, rather than do it himself (very smart). Anyway, ‘anything an 8 year old can do…I can do’ said Jon somewhat naively and jumped in, followed shortly afterward by Vanessa after Phil had assured her he had done so previously on many occasions.
After our respective plunges, we said goodbye to Phil and Nicoles 1 & 2 and headed back to Sosua, (after the obligatory ice cream stop at the nearest beach).
Summary: We have been spoilt with caves over the years. Whilst these were by no means the biggest or most impressive ones we have visited, they do give a break from the heat, the option of a swim or two and the guide (at least ours) was very informative.
27 Damajaqua Cascades (27 waterfalls)
We decided to get off the beaten track and go to these babies ourselves, especially as we had rented our own motorcycle. Plus, we had heard that if you went independently, it would cost you at least 30% less. It took us around 1hr to ride from Sosua, on the one main road, to the entrance to the park.
Once there we paid $700 DR Pesos each to do all 27 waterfalls (around 21 AUS dollars). There are two other options: 7 waterfalls at 500DRP and 12 waterfalls for 600 DRP. We had heard/read that if you go with a tour or prebook, you’ll be paying around 1300DRP each and only do the final 7 falls…of course we wanted to experience them all!!
We got ready quickly, changing into our bathers, choosing a helmet (Jon’s was several sizes too big) and life jacket each, which are compulsory for good reason, before setting off with a group consisting of us, 5 Costa Rican customers (weekend!) plus two guides. It took the group 30 minutes or so to hike up to the 27th waterfall, through well defined paths, up steps, over bridges and through rivers.
Once at the top we had a quick debriefing (in Spanish) of safety precautions (needed to pay close attention to this one!), before heading off. We all waded/swam across a small lagoon and climbed up onto a ledge before jumping back in to the lagging. We then carried on navigating down through the streams, sliding down natural tubes and small falls. Each section got increasingly exhilarating the further we went. The waterfalls were a combination of natural slides, small and large rock pools to jump into, channels of clear, fast-flowing water, and included a 7metre jump at the 7th waterfall.
The whole experience lasted 3hrs and 30 minutes and was well worth every peso. The colours of the rocks, pools and river were magical in the sunlight.
The guides were fun but safe and helpful. We would definitely recommend this as the one ‘must do’ experience whilst in the Dominican Republic ??