In the Cordillera Central near Jarabacoa and Constanza is Pico Duarte, at 3,087 metres the highest peak in the Caribbean. The National Park entrance is four kilometres from La Ciénaga, which is reached by a road passing through some magnificent scenery from Jarabacoa. Before climbing it you must purchase a permit from the Dirección Nacional de Parques at La Ciénaga de Manabao for 50 pesos.
Guagua from Jarabacoa to Manabao US$1, then walk two and a half hours to La Ciénaga or hitch (very little traffic). At La Ciénaga go to the Information hut. You can sleep here, tap in the yard for washing. A small, new hotel was due to open in 1998 in La Ciénaga. It is advisable to take a guide, who will tell you that mules are necessary for the ascent, but it can be done without them. The path is clear and if you can carry your food, water and sleeping bag there is no practical reason why you need a support team, but it is difficult to negotiate entry without, particularly if you do not speak Spanish.
An organized climb can be arranged with DNP, Nuevos Horizontes, Martisant, T5857887. Several agencies organize trips up Pico Duarte but they may not have anything when you want it. Iguana Mama in Cabarete charges US$350 for a three-day hike and US$425 for four days. One walker in 1998 doing it alone was charged US$100 for guide, mule, park fee, 1-3 nights in the huts, hire of sleeping bag and consumption of rice and beans. The climb takes two days (or more if it rains and you are stuck in a hut) and the walk from the tropical rain forest of the National Park through pine woods is pleasant with great scenery. There are two huts on the path (first after one hour, second after another 5-6 hours, two hours or so more to the peak), which is clearly marked; they are lacking in ‘facilities’. Take adequate clothing with you; it can be cold (below 0°C) and wet; also take torch, food and matches. The driest time is December to February. The last carro leaves Manabao for Jarabacoa at 1600, so aim to climb the peak well before lunch on the second day.
There are also other walks in the Armando Bermúdez National Park and the adjoining José del Carmen Ramírez National Park, which do not involve such steep climbing. This is the largest protected area in the country and provides water for 12 of the country’s most important rivers. It is also home to the Hispaniola parrot, Hispaniola trogon, the palm chat, hutia and wild boar. Guides are available at the Park entrance. You can walk or ride a mule. Permission to enter is required and a guide is also required so you don’t get lost. Guides speak Spanish and charge US$15 per day, a pack mule is US$12 and a riding mule is US$15. You can walk three kilometres to Las Tablones for a swim in the pools near the guard station. From Las Tablones it is 17 kilometres to Valle del Tetero, an open savanna area in the Ramírez National Park and relatively unvisited. A 4-5 day hike takes you along trails through La Confluencia to Valle de Bao and Las Guacanas through broadleaf forest. There are campsites but you must bring all food and other supplies.