Dominican Republic // The southeast //

Cueva del Puente and Peñon Gordo

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The park’s limestone landscape is riddled with caves, many of which bear evidence of ceremonial use by the Tainos and are adorned with Taino rock art. At the present time, the only cave system that is relatively straightforward to visit is the Cueva del Puente, which lies around 3km south of the national park entrance. You’ll need to hire a guide at the entrance who will accompany you on the fairly easy 30min hike down to the caves (see p.000). The system consists of three separate levels of caverns (the first has been caved in and thus gets some sunlight) with thousands of stalagmites and stalactites along with hundreds of bats and sparkling seams of bright, crystallized minerals. There are also Taino pictographs on the third level, though they’re not accessible to tourists: if your park ranger knows their stuff, though, they’ll be able to show you a Taino picture of a small- eared owl on the first level of caves – a bird that was thought by the Tainos to ferry dead souls to the afterlife.

The easiest way to reach the next set of caves, Peñon Gordo, on the park’s west coast, is to hire a boat (2hr each way). There’s a nice isolated beach from where it’s a 2km walk inland to the cave, where you’ll find scattered Taino glyphs on its second level. Be sure to bring a torch and boots if you want to get the most out of your visit. Also watch your step at the entrance, which is basically a large, slippery hole in the ground.