Jarabacoa is an adventure capital, with popular excursions for canyoning, hiking and white-water rafting.
A few hours rappelling, jumping, sliding, zip lining and swimming down a mountain river will have you feeling like a Navy SEAL or Hollywood stunt person. Contact Rancho Baiguate.
The area's big trek is to Pico Duarte, but there are several shorter half-day and full-day walks you can take in the area.
You can get a taste of the ecology of Parque Nacional Armando Bermúdez with a day hike to Los Tablones (seven hours, about 10km). The trail is not especially well marked and it's highly recommended to go with a local guide. Rancho Baiguate can arrange the trip (US$150 per person including meal, minimum two people), which involves a four-hour walk up and another four hours back down, or you can make your way to the park yourself, pay the entrance fee of RD$200 and negotiate with guides there. It's a 10-minute drive southwest of La Ciénaga on a very rough road to the Los Tablones trailhead.
A challenging steep hike is to El Mogote (1573m), west of town; to get to the trailhead 5km away, hop in a taxi (one way RD$200). Along the way you’ll encounter a Salesian monastery where the monks have taken a vow of silence. From here it’s a stiff five-hour hike to the summit, so the route's only for the very fit. Start early, wear boots if you have them, and bring plenty of water. It’s a slippery walk (or slide) down from the top (at least the first half).
La Jagua (four hours, about 6km), a shorter walk in the area, can also be arranged by Rancho Baiguate (US$50 per person including meal).
Promising and delivering thrills, chills and, for the unlucky, spills, a rafting trip down the Río Yaque del Norte is an exhilarating ride. A typical excursion begins with breakfast, followed by a truck ride upriver to the put-in. You’ll be given a life vest, a helmet and a wet suit, plus instructions on paddling and safety. You’re usually only asked to paddle part of the time: in the rapids to keep the boat on its proper course, and occasionally in the flat-water areas to stay on pace. You’ll stop for a small snack about two-thirds of the way downriver, and then return to Jarabacoa for lunch.
The rapids are rated Class II and III (including sections nicknamed ‘Mike Tyson’ and ‘the Cemetery’), and part of the fun is the real risk of your raft turning over and dumping you into a rock-infested, surging river. A videographer leapfrogs ahead of the group along the riverbank, so you can watch (and purchase) the instant replay afterwards over a beer.
The Río Yaque del Norte has Class IV and V rapids much further up in the mountains. No official tours go that far, but some intrepid guides raft it for fun on their own time. Ask around at Rancho Baiguate – if you don’t mind paying a premium, you might be able to organize something.
A lot of people come from the north coast to raft and then head straight back, which involves at least three hours each way on a bus. Consider spending a couple of nights in Jarabacoa – you’ll enjoy your trip much more if you do.