Eco adventures in the Dominican Republic include parasailing known as parapente Photo by Nick Argires on behalf of

Fun and Adventure in the Dominican Republic: Like no other places you've been

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There's a lot people don't know about the Dominican Republic (sometimes abbreviated as the D.R.). You may not know that the D.R. is the second largest land mass area in the Caribbean, second only to Cuba. You may not know that the D.R. was once controlled by the United States. You may not know that Columbus landed there in 1492 -sound familiar? You may not know that the D.R. was once controlled by Haiti.

The Dominican Republic has a long and very interesting history, but what you more likely know is that the D.R. is known for its beautiful beaches and beautiful weather. Punta Cana claims one of the ten best beaches in the world and the D.R. is the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean.

You may not know that right smack in the center of the Dominican Republic you have been missing the adventure capital of the Caribbean.

I recently traveled to the province of La Vega and spent a few days of discovery in Jarabacoa and Constanza. I live in Southern Utah and spend most of my free time hiking, scrambling and climbing through amazing red rock country. I'm not easily impressed with the so-called "adventure" activities many tourist destinations have to offer. Zip lines are o.k., I guess, but very few offer much excitement after the first time.

Parapente: Jumping Off a Mountain

Let me tell you about a week of adventure and ecotourism in the Dominican Republic. Let's start with a parapente experience flying off a mountain top in Jarabacoa. I was fortunate to be able to fly with an organization called Flying with Tony, known as one of the finest and most experienced group of paragliders in the country. Ifyou have never run to the edge of a hill and flown away into the sky then you don't know what you have missed.

The idea may be a bit frightening to you at first, but as you watch others step off the mountain and soar into the air your trepidation subsides as your eagerness to join them overtakes your fears. As soon as you are airborne you completely forget your concerns and enjoy the flight hoping the 15 minutes stretches into 20 or maybe even 30 minutes. Now when you see an eagle or osprey or vulture riding the currents you will understand exactly what it is doing ... and, maybe, start planning your own next flight.

Eco adventures in the Dominican Republic include heart in your mouth rafting White Water Rafting: Photo by Rancho Baiguate

River Rapids

Back down to earth you may now be ready for another adventure. If you crossed the Yaque Del Norte River it is probably calling to you. Typically a river of mostly Class II rapids it sometimes gets a good bit more serious than that. During my visit and with a high water volume, the river was enticing our group with what appeared to be predominantly Class III and sometimes Class IV runs. I can't remember all the names of the individual rapids, but they were designed to raise the expectations of the river runners.

On this day we didn't need scary names to get us excited. The river offered plenty of action and this was definitely not a "float trip." I rafted the Quijos River in Ecuador, site of the World Rafting Championships one year, and the Yaque Del Norte was, on this day, just as challenging.

Jarabacoa Hiking, Biking, Rappelling

Jarabacoa has much to offer for adventure seekers. Hiking in the J. Armando Bermudez National Park offers access to the Pico Duarte Trail which leads the hiker to one of the highest elevations in the Caribbean. There are rappelling and rock climbing opportunities on La Pelona and La Rusilla peaks as well. The Pico Duarte Trail is steep and arduous. Should you decide to go to the top you will likely need to plan and prepare for a multi-day climb. You can also access this trail by mule or horseback if you are not a strong hiker.

Some of the most spectacular hikes are also the shortest, but may be very steep in and out. The Jimenoa Waterall may be your favorite. The opening scene from Juraissic Park was filmed here. It is a beautiful waterfall, the icy waters tumbling almost 200 feet over a solid rock cliff into a beautiful pool below. Swimming below is optional, but be prepared for the cold water and swift currents.

Eco adventures in the Dominican Republic include waterfall and more hiking Photo by Nick Argires on behalf of
One of the best biking routes may be found in Constanza. It is very well marked and makes a loop around some urban areas and through a variety of agricultural plots. Just be sure and rent your bike from a shop that keeps the bikes in good condition and has a bike that will fit your needs . . . and size. Better yet, stay at the Alto Cerro, a tourist complex with independent villas as well as hotel rooms. They have very nice bikes available for guests. There is also a large camping area on the grounds with a BBQ area as well as bathrooms with showers and a pool.

Mountain biking enthusiasts can traverse the same path used for the 2003 Pan American games -- that should get your adrenaline pumping!

Another wonderful and surprising lodging alternative is the Jarabacoa Mountain Hostel. Don't be fooled by the description of "rustic retreat." This is a hostel like no other that I have encountered in travels around the globe. I would describe it more as a small boutique hotel. Located in a beautiful and quiet setting it has the quaint friendliness of a B & B with amenities of a lovely hotel.

If you are a coffee lover you will certainly want to add a coffee tour to your holiday in the D.R. Your best bet may be to arrange your tour with the Belarminio Ramirez group by calling 809.574.2618. You will be able to enjoy the entire process from planting the seeds to drinking the final product -- a delicious cup of Dominican Republic coffee.

Whatever adventures are calling you, the heart of the Dominican Republic is waiting for you. Pump up your adrenaline and . . . Keep on Traveling!

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Bob Painter Robert Painter is an adventure travel writer currently residing in Southern Utah. When not traveling around the globe his time is spent hiking and exploring the wonderful and beautiful red rock surroundings of his new home.

The parasailing and hiking: Photo by Nick Argires on behalf of White Water Rafting: Photo by Rancho Baiguate

December 23, 2016

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