Los Haitises National Park
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Spelunking the Caribbean's Largest Cave
There aren't too many opportunities in the Caribbean to ride on horseback to a cave. In Los Haitises National Park, located three hours west of the resorts of Punta Cana, Fun Fun (pronounced "Foon Foon") Cave is officially known as the largest cave in the Caribbean. Though the cave itself is in the National Park, access to the land goes across a private ranch and requires a guided tour. While the nearly three-hour drive from the resorts of Punta Cana is a lengthy, bumpy, journey into the interior, the scenes from the window provide an authentic glimpse into rural Dominican life. Sugar cane sways, schoolchildren wave, and mangoes drip from the trees. Upon reaching the ranch where you begin the tour you are shimmied into a jumpsuit and saddled onto your horse. A 45-minute ride through the shaded forest brings you to the edge of the National Park. From here it's another 30 minute walk through sun-swallowing trees until you reach the entrance of Fun Fun Cave. Sliding into a harness and climbing gear, entering the cave requires a 50 ft. repel into a tiny hole which can barely fit your shoulders. Once at the bottom, it's a one hour slog through the depths of the darkness before reaching the other exit. Inside the cave, stalactites and stalagmites pepper the areas which fall in the beam of your flashlight, and at some areas you are forced to swim through the soothing, subterranean waters. Here, a lone rope helps guide visitors through the hidden recesses of the cave.
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Marvel at the Unique Los Haitises National Park Geological Formations
The main feature is a densely clustered expanse of conical hills. Peculiarly, they’re almost all the same size and height — roughly between 660-1000ft tall. These epic mounds stretch for 51 miles east to west and push inland for 16 miles! Sporting colorful names like Cayo de los Pájaros (Key of the Birds), El Naranjo Arriba (“The Orange Top”) and Boca del Infierno (“The Mouth of Hell”), Los Haitises is unlike anything else you'll find in the Caribbean and well worth a speedboat ride from nearby Samana into its depths.
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Pristine, Wild Coastline in Samana
Popular with birdwatchers and eco-tourists, Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic is almost exclusively accessible via boat. There is some road access, but the best way to take in the protected islands, mangrove forests and extensive bird life is by boat. The word Haitis comes from the Taino Indians, former residents in this region, and refers to the mountains and hills within the park. Fans of flora will appreciate Los Haitises for its copious orchids and thick mangrove forests. Aside from magnificent birdwatching, you may also see humpback whales in the bay from January - March.
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Pictographs & Petroglyphs in the Dominican Republic
When visiting Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic, check out the two natural, oceanside caves open to travelers. First, visit La Linea, a cave deep within the mangrove forest, and marvel at the ancient Taino (and pre-Taino culture) pictographs on the wall. You'll find everything from sharks to manatees to indigenous rituals, all drawn prior to Columbus' arrival in the late 1400s. Next up, check out La Arena, located right on the beach, for more cave paintings. Don't forget to watch out for guano and bats!
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Pure Peace in the Caribbean - Los Haitises
We've traveled around most of the Dominican Republic and one of our favorite spots was Los Haitises National Park. The area really is in the middle of nowhere. Just to get to the park you need to either drive 45 minutes down a dirt road or take a 20 minute boat ride across the bay. It's all worth it though! If you go, I'd definitely recommend getting the earliest tour possible. We did the tour with the sunrise and it was absolutely worth it. You'll be the first one out in the water and you'll get the best views. All of the birds have yet to be annoyed by the countless boats that pass by and you'll see much more wild life. Not only that but you'll have the beautiful morning light sun kissing the landscape. You can also do this tour by kayak. You'll go out with a guide (or without) and be even more connected to the area around you.
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