Reserva Antropológica Cuevas del Pomier

Dominican Republic

Visiting this reserve is like reading a history book written in stone. There are 57 limestone caves in the area 10km north of San Cristóbal, five of which (containing almost 600 paintings) are open to the public – though note that they're frequently closed for renovations. The caves contain thousands of drawings and carvings that constitute the most extensive example of prehistoric art yet discovered in the Caribbean, including works by Igneri and Caribs as well as the Taínos.

The faded drawings, painted with a mix of charcoal and the fat from manatees, depict birds, fish and other animals, as well as figures that may be deities. Relatively little is known about Hispaniola’s earliest inhabitants, though the paintings here, believed to be up to 2000 years old, provide some tantalizing clues. The principal cave was discovered in 1851 by Sir Robert Schomburgk, who left his name and that of his companions on the wall.

A guide is obligatory – and none speak English. But you can ask for an English pamphlet for your tour, which can last from 30 minutes to a full day, depending on your interest. Until recently the caves were closed as a safety precaution because of nearby explosives blasting as part of a marble-mining operation. Local guides have fought to protect the site, though its future remains uncertain.

It’s a challenge to get to the caves on your own, even with the slew of signs. The easiest way is to take a taxi or motoconcho (motorcycle taxi), which should cost RD$400 round-trip including waiting time. If you’re driving, follow Calle Padre Ayala north from Parque Colón to Calle Máximo Gómez, head one block east to Av Constitución and follow it north to La Toma, a small community across the highway from San Cristóbal, where there's a faded, barely-clinging-to-life sign just over the bridge. From there, it’s 400m until a right turn onto Carratera de Medina (there's no official sign, but look for a Ministerio de Turismo sign across the intersection). Follow this road 2.6km to a prominent T-intersection, where you turn left (there's a nice sign as well as 'Cuevas del Pomier' scrawled across the 'Club Gallistico El Pomier' cockfighting ring) and proceed up the hill another 2.6km. Just past the Docalsa factory entrance, turn right at the sign (it will seem as though you are turning into a mining quarry, which you are). Stay straight another 600m, veering left at the fork, until you come upon a small field with a small green house on your left – this is the entrance. Ask as you go, as the turnoffs are easy to miss. Be alert for giant dump trucks coming down the road from the mine – there's a number of blind curves.

If you want to arrange a guide in advance, try Alex (809-721-5965), Victor (809-201-9778) or Yabel (809-573-8850), all members of the Associación de Guías Cuevas del Pomier (