When choosing a route to take to the top of Pico Duarte , consider how long you’ve got to spend and honestly ask yourself what sort of stamina or at what athletic level are you able to hike. There are five different routes with varying degrees of stamina needed.
The five routes  differ in that the first two routes (La Ciénaga and Mata Grande) leave the Cibao Valley rising upward via the northern slope of the Cordillera Central within the Parque Nacional Armando Bermúdez . Trade winds in this area bring greater amounts of rain, and there are many natural freshwater sources for a large extent of the way.
The latter three routes rise via the southern slope of the Cordillera Central within the Parque Nacional José del Carmen Ramírez, where rain is less prevalent, and therefore have a drier climate with fewer potable water sources.
There are tour companies that provide worry-free packages of treks to Pico Duarte , or you can wing it on your own by hiring a guide at the park entrances. The advantage of booking through a tour company is that everything will be taken care of: where you’ll sleep, what you’ll eat, transportation to the launch point. It is a convenient solution for those who don’t have time to plan prior to arrival or are not experienced multiday hikers. If you’ve never done it before, there is a lot you could forget, so it is best to leave the details to the professionals so you can concentrate on just having fun.
Rancho Baiguate (Jarabacoa, Carretera a Constanza, tel. 809/574-6890, www.ranchobaiguate.com ) has treks in 3- to 5-day packages that vary in price depending on how many people are in the group. Call or email to reserve your spot and get a price quote. Prices start at US$255.
Although located in Cabarete , Iguana Mama (Cabarete, tel. 809/571-0908, www.iguanamama.com , 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily) is one of the best trekking companies in the country. For US$450, they’ll do all the prep, and you’ll just enjoy yourself for three days and two nights riding mules, spotting rare birds, traversing rivers and creeks, and of course, hiking to the top of the highest peak in the Caribbean.
Mountain Expedition (tel.829/801-7199 or 809/674-1596, erivanbittar [at] hotmail [dot] com) is a company based in Constanza  that will arrange for lots of different mountain excursions, whether on foot, horseback, or four-wheeler. As far as trekking to Pico Duarte  goes, this is the only outfitter that will take you from Constanza, preferably in February (when the heavy rain season is usually done). It’s a three-day trip (prices start at US$150).
If you would rather be independent of a tour company, the national park fee is RD$100 per person. Guides typically cost around US$10–20 per day and can be found by asking at the park entrances’ ranger stations. You can’t be completely independent, though; hiring a guide is mandatory. The parks require that for overnight hikes, there is at least one guide for every three trekkers. Most guides take along a mule to carry their equipment, but it is generally a good idea to hire additional mules to assist in carrying your own loads; they cost about US$10 per day.
Something else to consider when contemplating the necessity of renting a mule—many hikers find that partway through their journey to the summit, the road gets a little too rough, and that they are not as physically up to the challenge as they thought they were. In cases like these—not all that uncommon, actually—people find that spending part of the journey on the back of a mule is a welcome relief. Have your hands free for photo taking! For a mule to ride (RD$350/day) or to carry your packs (RD$300/day) you’ll need to contact Alex Corona of the Ecotour Department (tel. 809/604-4862) to make reservations.
Custom dictates that you buy all provisions for the whole journey, for yourself and the guides, and tip them at the end. In making arrangements for your trek independently, it is best to find the guide a couple of days in advance so that preparations can be made with adequate time. They will help you figure out how much food to buy, too. You’ll need to bring bottled water or some sort of purification system. Just remember to pack out what you take in. Guides are usually willing to tailor trips to your needs and desires (although the cost will vary accordingly).