- Where to Go
- The Best of the Dominican Republic
- A Nature Lover’s Dominican Trek
- The Sexiest Dominican Beaches
- Historical Dominican Road Trip
- A Dominican Culture Tour
- Carnaval and Its Masks
- Planning Your Dominican Wedding
- Dominican Adventures
- Golfing the Dominican Republic
- Dominican Music and Dance
- La Ruta del Mango
- Day-Tripping in Monte Plata
- The Best Small Resorts
Monte Cristi is about 135 kilometers west of Puerto Plata and is the capital of the arid and desert-like province of the same name. There isn’t a lot of tourism here, but those who do come enjoy beaches and diving. It is said that the surrounding waters have about 180 sunken galleons whose treasures still quietly rest in the sea.
Others come to see the Parque Nacional Monte Cristi and its subtropical dry forest, its lagoons, and the 274-meter-high mesa. Off the coast is a collection of islands where sea turtles lay their eggs. Most of the residents of Monte Cristi still make their living farming the land, fishing, or from the salt flats in the north.
The town was founded in the early part of the 16th century and for many years was an important trading port for cattle and manufactured goods. But in 1606, the Spanish crown ordered the northwest corner of the country to be evacuated and moved to Santo Domingo, when it had become clear that pirates were gaining control of trading with the colonists after having bullied the Spanish galleons from the shores.
And for 150 years, Monte Cristi was a ghost town. That is, until the French began moving into the territory. Concerned about losing control of the land, the Spanish moved 100 farming families from the Canary Islands and settled them into the area. Once again, it became an important port with its perfect positioning at the mouth of the Yaque del Norte river basin. Timber and tobacco were floated down from such towns as Santiago and La Vega to be exported from Monte Cristi. The timber industry began to attract Europeans, who settled the area, and the economy flourished.
But the prosperous time came to an end when, in 1860, the four-year Restoration War, in which the Dominicans fought the Spanish for their independence, ruined the city. But the European influence was still present as they rebuilt in their Victorian architecture, some of which survives to this day.
On Avenida Mella is the former house where Máximo Gómez (Cuban military commander) and José Martí (leader of the Cuban independence movement) signed the Montecristi Manifesto for Cuba’s independence on March 25, 1895.
Getting to Monte Cristi
Highway 1 (Autopista Duarte) coming into Monte Cristi from the Southeast becomes Calle Duarte (the main drag) in town. Highway 45 into town from Dajabón becomes Avenida Mella. Incidentally, this is a notoriously dangerous highway to drive at night. Many Dominicans advise highly against it as robberies are very common.
Caribe Tours (Av. Mella and Rodriguez Camargo, tel. 809/579-2129) is a block north from Calle Duarte. You can catch a bus to Santo Domingo (US$8.50) leaving at 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 1:45 p.m., 2:45 p.m., and 4 p.m. This same bus makes a stop in Santiago (US$3.65).
There is a guagua terminal on Calle Duarte between 27 de Febrero and Benito Monción. They go to Dajabón and Santiago (US$1–4) and generally depart every 20 minutes.
Walking is best in Monte Cristi, but as usual, motoconchos are readily available if you’re feeling adventurous.
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition