Exploring Jarabacoa and Manabao is traveling off the beaten path in the Dominican Republic
01.09.2015 - 23.10.2015 -23 °C
When my family and I moved to Jarabacoa, I knew that lots of natural experiences awaited me. There is plenty to do: mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, paragliding, and many visits to waterfalls. Staying at Villa Celeste Estate in Jarabacoa was the best choice because the owners introduced to us the concept of exploring a different side of the Dominican Republic.
Several months later, and after a little research, I met Katherine. A French-Canadian who decided over 25 years ago to hang her hat here in Jarabacoa and call it home. Katherine convinced me that I needed to head to Manabao, about a 25-mile drive up and further into the mountains for the best hike I would ever experience. She promised that this short hike would leave me breathless (pun-intended), which included hiking down through an uncharted path leading to an amazing natural waterfall.
I was a little hesitant since the drive was really curvy going up the mountain but the view was definitely worth the long drive. She also sold me on the natural organic coffee grower that she would introduce me to at the end of it all. I grabbed my husband, two guests that were daring enough and my cousin and we headed to Manabao.
Manabao is a Taino native word meaning “the water springs”. The mountains and trails in Manabao are filled with pine trees that seem to hum when the wind hits them, enhancing the experience of the trek through the trails. The pine canopy region of Manabao was inhabited by the Tainos for many decades. As you hike through the trails you find green peppers, strawberries, lemons, limes, guavas and even some endangered plants such as the Caribbean Nogal Tree. And, of course, the finest, highest-quality coffee I have ever tasted.
As we hiked through the farms and through the pine trees, I began to get a bit uneasy. We arrived at a sign that indicated- that the waterfall was 900 meters further down. As we trekked down, the closer we got to the bottom of the mountain the louder the sound of rushing water grew. My ears perked up and almost simultaneously the air became at least ten degrees cooler. Our pace became livelier and our breathless, quiet walk quickly became filled with loud, excited chatter. Cell phones and cameras were pulled out because somehow we just knew we were arriving at something marvelous.
We jumped over some rocks, climbed a little higher, and then headed down a dirt trail deep in the woods. Then an awesome sight began to unfold: beautiful rocks -- boulders almost -- and flowing clear water broke through. I was speechless and completely in awe. We stopped for pictures. Everyone was just silent. Katherine, who is one of the few guides that knew the way, said, “Well, we are not there yet.” I was a bit surprised since I thought this was the place. We continued on. We jumped over some more rocks, headed downward and heard the sound of rushing water becoming louder, which turned out to be a river. We crossed the river over some rocks and, to our left, we finally saw it. The majesty of the scene was undeniable. The experience was beyond words. The water rushed out with the seemingly clear intention of responding to our state of disbelief by replying, “Yes. I exist. I am real. Jump in. Be refreshed. Be renewed. After all, it is a long hike back up.”
We all jumped in. The water was cool and my companions were the happiest set of folks I had ever been around in a long time. This experience alone was worth the airplane ticket and the visit. One that I recommend to anyone who seeks a real experience worth traveling a long way for. Oh, and the coffee, by the way…the best coffee I have found in all of DR and now the staple organic full roast coffee we serve our guests every day.