Day-Tripping in Monte Plata

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If you are vacationing in the city, you may come to the point of needing a break from the din of the metropolitan jungle. Those needing a refreshing change from the typical day trip to the beach should try going inland to the rich countryside of the province of Monte Plata.

The town of Bayaguana (25 km north of Carretera 4 on the Carretera 23) has a fiesta patronal on December 28, during which all the horses and several herds of livestock are paraded through town. The tradition began when a long drought caused cattle numbers to drop, and crops were suffering too. In a last-ditch effort, the townspeople offered a bull to their patron saint in the hopes that he would help it rain. After a few days, the rain came and the tradition stayed. The procession is anything but solemn. The parade is ushered through with loud music, songs, prayers, fireworks, and dancing, of course.

The Cerámica Taína Hermanos Guillen (Yamasá, Calle Duarte 9, tel. 809/525-0756) is a must-see for pottery fans or for those who want a taste of what is preserved of Taíno culture. The Guillen brothers create pottery replicas on their picturesque studio grounds in Yamasá. They will walk you through the whole artistic process. If you are there in June, don’t miss the Fiesta San Antonio, which is held on the grounds of their studios.

Part of the Ruta del Cacao is available for touring in Yamasá as well, at Bloque Cacaotero No. 2 (Yamasá, Calle Rafael de la Cruz 2, El Cercadillo, tel. 809/525-0641). Here you can learn all about the organic cacao process and even taste some of the product.

Balneario Comate (3 km from Bayaguana) is a popular spot for families on the weekends. This natural swimming pool has a small waterfall fed by the Río Comate and is a wonderful place to spend the day. There is a thatched-roof covered dance floor with tables and chairs where they sometimes have live music. Light refreshments are sold.

Salto Alto is about 15 kilometers from Bayaguana and made up of three waterfalls that spill into a large azure pool.

Boya is a town that the mountains have made invisible to tourism. Here you can see the Santa Maria de Boya, a 16th-century church still standing. Nearby, the Salto Socoa waterfall will entice you into taking a swim in its crystalline waters.

All of these places are perfectly fine to visit on your own, but if you want a tour company that sets up day trips to all of these locations, look into Tequia Experiences (Av. Gustavo Mejia Ricart 69, tel. 809/563-0019). This is a well-planned company dedicated to ecotourism, adventure, and sustainable tourism, based out of Santo Domingo, whose guides are knowledgeable in Dominican history, ecology, and culture and speak many languages. Their tour buses are modern and very comfortable.

Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Dominican Republic.

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