The Dominican Republic is loaded with caves and this is one of the more popular ones, a huge tourist attraction fronted by a sweeping manicured field. These gigantic caves are a must-see if you’re visiting the Dominican Republic and into being immersed into history, nature, and a touch of mystery.
The Cuevas de las Maravillas, is a 1,200m/1,300yd long cave system with magnificent stalactites and stalagmites and an underground lake.
Discovered in 1926, the 800 meters of Cuevas de las Maravillas cave system are decorated with hundreds of Taino Indian cave paintings.
The Taino people are the indigenous residents of Greater Antilles. It was the Taino who greeted Columbus’ arrival in Hispanola (now the Dominican Republic) in 1492. Throughout the Spanish colonial period that followed, their culture was ruthlessly suppressed, and through both violence and disease their numbers greatly depleted. Colonist and early humanitarian Bartolomé de las Casas wrote in 1561: “There were 60,000 people living on this island [when I arrived in 1508], including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this?”
The caves are significant in Taino origin mythology. Distinctive petroglyphs made by the early Taino are etched on rocks around the island and on stalagmites in caves across the island.
The Cuevas de las Maravillas have been open to the public since 2003. Although the cave has come under criticism for the way in which paths and lighting were installed, possibly damaging some of the caved geologic features, it was awarded the 2003 Gold prize in the International Landscape Architecture Bienal Award.
Today, visitors can explore about 200 meters on footpaths that wind through the galleries. Visits to the cave are strictly controlled, in small groups with a guide. Tours take about an hour.
•Awe-inspiring sights far below ground, viewable from well-lit paths
•Cave drawings are a fascinating thing to see up close and personal
•Knowledgeable bilingual tour guides
•Long walks on stairs, not for the frail or infirm
•Caves can be dank and a bit musty
•No photos allowed; the light can hurt cave drawings over time
•Rates: $8 per person for cave tour only
•Hours: Daily (except Monday) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
•Other amenities: Clean restrooms, gift shop, museum, cafeteria
•Note: Tropical Tours excursion that includes the cave are $25 per person, includes other stops and entrance fees.