This area of the Dominican Republic  has the most unique terrain in the entire country, not what you’d expect to see on a Caribbean vacation. Countless varieties of cacti dot the countryside, crocodiles lie around in the estuaries of rivers, flamingos flock on the salty shores of Lago Enriquillo , and iguanas saunter around like house cats on sedatives. It’s a truly distinctive experience.
The near-desert environment also brings heat. The heat in this part of the country is intense, so it is best to travel in a rented car with air-conditioning in good working order. And don’t forget to take water with you.
As for the entire peninsula, Barahona  has your best options for accommodations. From there, travel northwest on Highway 46 (a well-paved road, surprisingly!) until you come to Cabral, about 30 kilometers west of Barahona.
For a strange encounter with mystery (or just plain scientific reasons), follow signs from Cabral to the town of Polo and to a place called Polo Magnético. Along this drive your car will feel very heavy like you’re going uphill, even though the ground is flat. When you reach the Polo Magnético, a spot where the road appears to rise, roll an item along the ground and watch it as it appears to roll uphill in a strange optical illusion. Slip your car into neutral (but stay in there ready to brake!) and feel the car independently pick up speed uphill.
If you’re in the area on the first weekend in June, look for the Festival de Café Orgánico de Polo (tel. 809/227-0012 or 809/687-2148, www.festicafe.org ) held in Polo. It was established in 2004 as a sociocultural event for organic farmers from Polo and the surrounding communities of the Bahoruco  mountains and throughout the Southwest  to celebrate harvest and make their products known. This weekend marks the end of the coffee-growing season with live merengue, bachata, coffee tours, lots of coffee drinks, dancing, an arts and crafts fair, and games for kids.
Back on the Highway 46, you may run into soldiers who are trying to hitch rides from their military posts. They tend to wait near the speed bumps so that they can say where they need to go when you slow down. Generally they are harmless and very respectful. You are not obligated to give them a lift; it is all just a courteous exchange. If you have a truck and signal them to get in, they’ll automatically hop into the back and tap on the side of the truck when they’re ready to get out.