Hello everybody, if you have already checked out my previous blog posts you already know all about how my boyfriend and me decided to visit the Dominican Republic for the first time. But I never actually revealed to you why we chose Dominican Republic for our vacations.
Well it all began with Survivor, a popular reality TV show. The Survivor game involves a group of usually 16 to 20 contestants who are sequestered in a remote, exotic location and they compete for a cash prize.
They are initially divided into two teams (“tribes”) and are expected to survive (build shelter, find food, etc.) with a minimal number of tools. The teams periodically compete against each other in races, called “challenges,” involving physical endurance, problem-solving ability, and resourcefulness. The tribe that wins a “reward challenge” is awarded with “luxury” items (such as food, equipment, or phone calls). The tribe that wins an “immunity challenge” temporarily staves off elimination from the larger contest, while the losing tribe attends a “tribal council” with the show’s host at the end of each episode to eliminate one of its members from the show through a secret vote.
The reality-competition show program is moderately successful in many European countries. In Greece from where we come from is very popular and this year the third season of the show is going on.
All Greek shows were recorded in Dominican Republic. The participants of the show are living for several months in one of the beaches in Dominican Republic in Samana area. Therefore through this show we had the opportunity to see the breathtaking landscapes of that amazing country. We really fell in love with Dominican Republic and the desire to visit the country ourselves, to see those landscapes and places with our own eyes was born.
Thanks to this reality show we found out about El Limon waterfall last year. The tour to the waterfall was one of rewards for the winning team at one of the challenges. We were amazed with the beauty of the nature and the horse riding adventure through the rain forest. Therefore when we planned our trip and adventures in Dominican Republic, this one was one of the must-seen.
Today I am going to describe only half of the day tour that consisted of the transfer with bus to one small marina (Las Cañitas). From there we had a transfer with catamaran to the marina of Samana. Next step from there was the transfer to El Limon with 4×4 truck. Later on the horse riding through the rain forest to the waterfall, swimming in the waterfall, then back to the starting point with horses again. Lunch was also included. Then we went back to the marina of Samana again. From there we were transferred to the island Cayo Levantado, known as Bacardi island. There we enjoyed cocktails, and the beach for several hours. In the late afternoon we went to the Las Cañitas with catamaran. From there we were transported with bus to our hotels. We booked the day tour throug the Viator. If you wish to book the same tour, please press the link with word Viator, or day tour.
In this article I will describe only the rain forest part and the visit to the waterfall. You can read about the Bacardi island in my next blog post
OK I understand that when people are on vacation they are more relaxed than usual, but when they choose to go on the tour, everybody needs to have respect for the driver and guides, and of course for the rest of the group, and to be on time for departure.
Anyway this fact did not managed to ruin our good vibes, our positive energy and our excitement regarding this adventure tour, because we were looking forward for this excursion for a long time.
While we were in the bus heading to the marina, we passed by few towns, small villages, and coconut plantations. El Limon waterfall, known in spanish as el Salto del Limón or Cascada el Limón is tucked away in the beautiful Samana province in Dominican Republic. This cascade, with it’s 52 meters high drop, is perhaps the most famous waterfall in the whole country and a must-see spot while visiting the Dominican Republic.
The waterfall is located near a small town called El Limon in Samana, Dominican Republic about a half-hour away from Las Terrenas.
The landscapes were amazing.
I captured some photos from the bus window. Actually all the photos above are captured through the bus window.
Most of them had the reflection of the window. I shared some in this article, even though they are not of my best shots. Just to give you the glimpse of the area we were passing through.
The roads of Dominican Republic were a very pleasant surprise for us. Even in rural areas, the roads were very good and wide.
Our trip went smoothly, our guide Manchy, was not so informative like our guide Manny from our previous tour with Runners Adventures.
Maybe this thing regarding the delay of some passengers from our group kind of pissed him off. He was very intelligent though. He spoke several languages: Spanish, English, German and French. But he was not telling us much during our tour, just the most important things mostly regarding Samana. Most of the time he was busy biting his nails.
OK, many people are biting their nails, and maybe most of you don’t find nail-biting disgusting, but I really do. I don’t like to watch people biting their nails and I find this habit annoying especially when is done by adults. But this topic can be separate theme for conversation itself. I might write an article about this topic one day. Besides of the bad habit of our guide I have to say that he was a very pleasant and smiling person in general.
If you decide to go on any tours organized by Runners Adventures, don’t be surprised when the guides address you as ”family”. Since we went on few tours organized by this company they always address their passengers in that way. When it is time for departure they are going to call it: Family, we are ready to go, or family it is time for a lunch, or family it is time to attack the buffet, etc.
The ride with the catamaran was amazing.
The sea was calm, the ride was around 45 minutes.
We enjoyed the cold drinks on the boat, Spanish music and the smell of the sea in the air.
The marina Samana is very exotic and beautiful.
Our guide told us about how people of Samana were living only form agricultural work, and their standard of living was very low.
Until they started getting involved with tourism.
From that time since they got involved with tourism, their income grew, the standard of living for the citizens increased by almost 100%.
We also passed by the big market place of Samana.
It was a very crowded market. One of the biggest in the area.
Note that you can visit the waterfall every day of the week during daylight hours.
The waterfall is open every day of the year, however, if you visit between May and December you should bring rain gear in case it rains.
I will share a few more images of Samana bay before I continue with the tour description.
Finally we arrived at the horse ride starting point with 4×4 truck.
We passed a few villages with colorful houses on the way to the waterfall.
Most of the houses had metal grilles on the doors, windows and balconies. Probably for safety reasons.
Some of the houses looked very poor. They were made of wood.
But all of them were painted in happy colors.
Our guide said that in Dominican Republic there is no middle class, and that you can only find poor and rich.
By looking these houses you can actually see the difference of the poor and middle class families by the way they live and the way their houses look.
There are a lot of horses there. Next to every horse there was one person as horse guide.
We had two local people that were guiding our horses. Both of them were amazing young people, very polite and they spoke very good English. The name of my horse was Babi, and my guide name was Gregory. Our guides did not asked for any tip from us, so we did not gave any. Later on when I came back I found out from TripAdvisor comments that those horse guides are volunteers and that they do this only for tips.
I am very sorry nobody had informed us about this. Otherwise we would have tipped them.
The horse guides showed us some very nice spots so we were able to capture great shots with our cameras. Try to avoid people with the green shirts. They are photographers. They will chase you to take photos of you. Later they will approach you to sell those photos to you.
One of them asked for 70 USD for a few photos he captured with us. He was so pushy. Later he said he can sell it for 40 USD. But we did not wanted them. We had our own cameras and we took a lot of photos ourselves.
Our guides explained to us all about the different kinds of plants we saw on the way to the waterfall.
I won’t lie, we did get tired. Maybe because we came from Punta Cana so it was a long way just to get there.
The horse ride itself is about 30 minutes to reach the waterfall and about 200 steps to get down, the same is to go back.
If you don’t have closed shoes you will need to borrow their rubber boots. They were giving them for free. But in this case it will be wise to have your own socks. Preferably the kind of high knee socks or one that the basketball players are wearing.
Be aware that the horse ride is really bumpy. Even though I was familiar with the horses I was a bit scared at the beginning, probably because I expected a casual ride, but this ride was not casual at all.
The terrain was very rocky and muddy, but these horses handled it very well. I read some reviews on TripAdvisor and some of the reviewers talk about horse abuse. I can assure you that we did not see any horse abuse.
Our guides rarely even touched those horses, they just talked to them, they were also giving them some plants that horses probably like and prefer to eat during our ride. They were petting them very often. And it worked great, horses were very calm. They know this terrain very well.
I noticed that they prefer to walk on the edge of the path right next to the water. It might seem scary, and you might be afraid that you will fall into the water in the beginning.
Horses do this because the ground there is softer, and it is more comfortable for them to walk on the soft ground than on the rocks. Please don’t be afraid. I haven’t heard that anybody ever has fallen from those horses.
There are many up and down hills on the path. One good advice is when you are riding a horse downhill to lean your back backward, it will help the horse with the balance but also it is more comfortable and less scary for you.
There are also few small waterfalls on the path.
At some point you have to get down from the horse and continue with the stairs.
When we finally arrived in front of the waterfall it was very crowded. Several people were standing in a row to take a picture, so it is not easy to reach the water. But if you do all this trip down there you need to be patient, wait for somebody to move, and get in to this beautiful clear water. The feeling is amazing.
There is a small room if you need to change and put on your swimming suit. We had ours under our clothes and it was easier that way.
The water in the natural swimming pool under the waterfall is cold and fresh, but it is worth to swim there. The waterfall is surrounded by beautiful forestry.
The cold water and the wind created by the waterfall is just what you need to cool down after horse riding and the hiking down 200 stairs.
You have to be careful though because some rocks are sharp under the water, it is good to wear swimming shoes. I did not have any so I was just careful and I tried not to step very much on the bottom.
The water is deep, a great place to do your swimming. You can even swim to get behind the water curtain which is awesome. I did not dare to reach the end behind the water curtain, but my boyfriend did it. El Limón’s tumbling cascade dropping around 40 meters (130 feet) from the top of Sierra de Samaná.
The waterfall was amazing. Once you are in the water you have to look up and you are guaranteed to feel awed and small in front of this amazing work of nature. You can actually feel the breeze from the water falling, it is coming as a mist onto your face.
And as much I am trying to describe this experience, I can not find the right words. You have to go and live this adventure yourself .
You have to hear that gushing sounds of El Limón.
It is a lifetime experience.
Native plants grow abundantly here in the wild, like the royal palm tree, pineapples, we even saw the bamboo.
Birds are also ubiquitous, like the palmchat, their national bird, the Hispaniolan woodpecker, and the Broad-billed tody.
While we were in the water our guides waited for us patiently.
I was already tired so the way back with the stairs seemed more difficult this time.
Our horses were waiting for us too.
They were relaxing and eating the grass by the river.
Our way back with the horses seemed shorter this time, probably because we knew the route.
Once we made it back to the facility we had a nice lunch.
The buffet was rich, everything was tasty and fresh.
Besides of water and soft drinks they were also serving beer and wine.
Now regarding the whole horses experience, it was unforgettable, but I have to be honest. I had the pain in the groin area for several days later. Probably because of the rough terrain that we were riding. As I said it was kind of bumpy. Also my horse Babi was not as slow as the others. He was running and jumping all the time. He wanted to always be first in front of all the others. Whenever he was noticing other horses in front of him he was desperately trying to lead. I was so proud of my horse.
Also I have to mention some inappropriate comments that I saw on TripAdvisor about animal abuse regarding the horses at El Limon. Well, these horses are not abused for sure. Each of the horses is going only for one ride per day. I found this out from my guide Gregory. And they are not working every day, but only three times per week. The horses are not hungry, they are small, because Dominican horses are small generally, smaller than American or European horses. That is typical for the horses found in the Caribbean. The horses in warmer areas tend to have smaller body mass. The theory is that this allows them to disperse body heat more efficiently. Most of these horses at El Limon belong to the famous Dominican breed Paso Higueyano. They even have the Asociacion de Caballos de Paso Higueyano and it was formed to encourage the breeding, promotion and competitions of these noble animals.
Every year in August on the Restoration Holiday they shut down the streets to cars around the boulevard in downtown Higuey with hundreds of horses brought in from the countryside to parade while crowds of spectators line the streets to watch. Watching their high step and proud carriage it is easy to see why the Dominican people love to celebrate this amazing breed of horse. So, I don’t like to hear from people who are not even familiar with horses about how Dominicans abuse those animals. This is an absolutely wrong impression. They really love and take good care of these horses.
As for the tour it was incredible, but also exhausting in the same time. So the only not so nice part was that a large part of our day was wasted just getting there and back because as I said we stayed in Punta Cana.
As I previously said after Samana they took us with catamaran to the Cayo Levantado (known as Bacardi Island) for cocktails and swimming. Later we went back to Las Cañitas, and with bus back to our hotels.
After we arrived in our hotel, we took a shower and we laid on the bed to rest for a while. We were planing to go out for a dinner, but we woke up the next morning. So yes, the experience was incredible, but it was also exhausting at the same time.
Later on I found out that the best way to visit Samana from Punta Cana is by plane, just a 30 minutes flight across the Samana Bay with an unbeatable view.
Maybe next time we will choose this way. It might be more expensive, but I am sure that this experience is amazing as well.
As usual when I start writing an article, my intention is to describe the journey the best I can, but I have reached more than 3000 words again. I hope you enjoyed the article though.
You can follow my blog to find out all about the rest of our adventures in Dominican Republic.