Month: September 2016

Pico Duarte: The Highest Peak in the Caribbean

While the Caribbean has always been more famous for sea level sun-lounging than mountain climbing, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some serious peaks to be scaled. In fact, the highest peak in the Caribbean, Pico Duarte in the Dominican Republic, comes in at over 10,000 feet high.

Ascending Pico Duarte is a great addition to any trip to the Dominican Republic, providing the perfect adrenaline-filled activity to balance out days by the beach or pool in places like Cabarete, Bavaro, or Punta Cana. If you’re going to hike highest peak in the Caribbean, there’s a few things you are going to want to know first, and here’s a mini-guide to get you started.

Pico Duarte

Where is Pico Duarte?

 

Pico Duarte is located in the central part of the Dominican Republic, a part of the Cordillera Central Mountain Range that serves as the spine of the country. The peak is near the town of Jarabacoa, which serves as a good base for supplies and guide-hiring.

Pico Duarte

What Makes Pico Duarte Special?

 

Unlike many of the Caribbean’s tallest mountains, Pico Duarte is not the result of volcanic activity. On the contrary, this peak and the entire range it is a part of called the Cordillera Central are made of extremely rough-and-rugged rocks that have helped provide the range its sturdiness, and its altitude.  

This altitude also creates an atmosphere not usually found in the Caribbean: year-round cool temperatures, pine trees, and even a trace of snow from time to time. Before you get to those heights though, the ascent will take you through lush tropical rainforest, river beds, and surround you with plenty of unique island birds.

Also unique is the fact that Pico Duarte has a twin peak, Loma La Pelona, which is only a few feet shorter, and can be reached by a mountain pass from Pico Duarte.  

Pico Duarte

How Long Does It Take To Climb Pico Duarte?

 

The most popular ascent also happens to be the shortest, and it leaves from the town of La Ciénaga, and takes three days / two nights. This route scales the northern side of the mountain range, providing plenty of freshwater access and a more direct route to the peak. You will typically set out extremely early on day three of your hike so you can summit just before sunrise.   

There are other routes that are a little more challenging, but we think this is the perfect trail, especially for first-timers. If you are truly after a challenge though, try setting off from Mata Grande, which will add a few more miles to your boots (it’s twice the length), but will bring you more dramatic scenery, including a scale of Pico Duarte’s aforementioned twin, Loma La Pelona.

Pico Duarte Hut

Should You Hire A Guide?

 

In a word: yes. While certainly not compulsory, expert guides are worth their weight in gold and can be arranged ahead of time or simply on-the-spot in towns like Jarabacoa or La Ciénaga. A good guide will take care of all the packing, preparation, mule-arranging (yes, you’ll most likely have a mule helping out), and cooking on the trail, so you can just sit back and enjoy the journey.

Leading tour operators/guides include Iguana Mama in Cabarete and Rancho Baiguate in Jarabacoa.

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