Riding Horses to El Salto del Limon presents a fun excursion for most visitors and lasts about three hours, depending on how long you want to splash in the waterfall. The horses tend to be rugged little mounts of assorted lineage closer to donkey than thoroughbred. But a ride up the mountain definitely beats hiking it on your own two feet . . . well, three if you count a cane . . . or four if you brought walking sticks.
Whether you’re coming from the malecon near Samana on the south shore of the peninsula or from La Barbacoa on the north side, the road is very good. Either direction, access to the El Salto Del Limon National Park constitutes a lovely drive through beautiful country. The sign for the national park is not prominent at the entrance, which is a tiny road to the east. Be sure to come with plenty of pesos in your pockets to pay for horse rental and guides, which require cash.
Renting a horse
A moto-concho caught up with us on the main road and tried to direct us into the park, which made us feel fairly uneasy. Actually, he’s paid to bring in the tourists by the “ranch” he represents, which means you don’t need to pay him. We didn’t have any opinion about which “ranch” we rented the horses from, so finally we caved and let him lead us.
The cost is somewhere between 700 and 900 pesos per horse (2017), and must be paid in advance. Each person going to the falls is required by law to have a guide whether you ride a horse or hike on foot, and you pay him/her at the end of the trip.
The route is very rocky, the path completely ungroomed, which presents a rather strenuous hike for the horses. We forded the river twice before we headed up a steep rugged trail. We visited during the rainy season, so the river was nearly up to the stirrups—and yes, our feet got wet. Other times of the year, it’s a 3-inch stream through a gravel bed.
Riding experience didn’t seem to matter. I’ve ridden horses since I was a child, but some people in our group had ridden very little. We all fared about the same. The heavy recent rain meant that the horses slipped and stumbled quite a bit on the rocks slippery with mud. The guides didn’t seem worried. It was all in a day’s work to them. But if your back can’t take significant lurching, you might want to skip this excursion.
At the top of the hill we experienced a 360 degree range of vistas with two waterfalls in the distance. Spectacular. That’s the end of the trail for the horses. The guides tie them up to the railing and walk with you down a lot of stairs to the falls. If you don’t want to hike that last leg of the trail, you can relax at the top in a covered area having tables and chairs, with snacks and water for sale, and enjoy the amazing view.
El Salto del Limon
If there is a lot of water coming over the falls like there was when we visited, no one will be jumping from high perches into the pool. But you can still go back behind the falls if you like. After splashing in the cold water, hike back up the hill to where you left your horse, and retrace the route back to the “ranch” near the road.
Last of all, pay your guide. Generously, I’d suggest. We were told the going rate was a minimum of 500 pesos each. The job is coveted, so on average each guide is allowed only two trips in per week. The terrain is rough and the guide walks every step of the way along with the horses for three hours, which is hard work. We paid each guide 600 pesos and wished we had brought more cash.
The Cove on Playa La Francesa
We stayed at The Cove Condominiums on Playa La Francesa just past a small fishing village. Look for a stone wall with a metal gate with “The Cove” on one side, and “La Ensenada” on the other. The area is small, private, and quiet, and a pleasure to have as home base over the space of several days as we explored the Samana Peninsula. The little strip of beach is rocky, but you can always enjoy the swimming pool with deck chairs for lounging. Additionally, the condos have a porch in front over-looking the cove where you can sit and read, have a snack, or chat with your friends.
A couple of odd little observations
- At the side of the gravelled parking lot by our condo I saw an interesting banana-fact. Did you know that baby bananas grow down and adult bananas grow up?
- Normally we see the wind blow the waves toward the main shoreline in a pattern of lines and arcs that appears to be basically horizontal. You’re used to seeing waves coming toward you and lapping the sand or crashing onto rocks, right? Well, because this was a cove, an inlet onto a larger body of water, the waves went past the cove like they were marching along on their way to somewhere else (which, of course, they were). It just seemed odd at first.
More JMBryceTravel blogs about visiting the northeast Dominican Republic area:
- First Itinerary for Visiting Northeast Dominican Republic
- Second Itinerary for Visiting Northeast Dominican Republic
- Paradise Amidst the Trash at Playa Rincon
- Samana’s Fierce Blowhole and Granite Mine
- Visit Samana on New Year Day
- Dominican Tree House Village & Samana Zipline
- Whale Watching Samana Bay January to March