Just outside the town of Imbert, around 15km southwest of Puerto Plata, you can visit and climb (and sometimes even slide down) a stunning series of waterfalls along the high, early course of the Río Damajagua (daily 8.00am–3pm; RD$280–$490, including guide; w http://www.27charcos.com). The 27 natural, boulder-strewn cascades snake down the side of a mountain wilderness, the water crashing down at breakneck speed. It’s a wet, challenging and extremely rewarding hike up, with a great hilltop view at the end. If not part of an organized tour – most of the operators in Puerto Plata, Sosúa and Cabarete offer the trip – pack your swimsuit and make sure you’re wearing robust footwear before heading southwest from Puerto Plata along the C-5 until you see the Damajagua sign 3km south of the Imbert Texaco station. From here a road leads east for 500m to a visitor centre where you pay the admission fee, meet your guide and pick up the life-jackets and mandatory safety helmets. From here, it’s a 20min hike to the falls. Each individual cascade has its own feature. Some have pools for swimming or ladders for climbing up, while others have natural chutes waiting to be slid down. The climbs can be pretty steep and the flow of water fierce at times, particularly after heavy rains, and you should exercise extreme caution at all times. Children under 8 eight are only allowed to tackle the first cascade.
The visitor centre, which has an attached restaurant, is a sign of the site’s growing popularity and importance to the local tourist industry. Now designated a national monument, the falls have become an almost obligatory stop-off for the region’s all-inclusive tour operators. The revenue generated has allowed the authorities to upgrade the paths linking the falls, several of which have been turned into nature trails. The surrounding community has also benefited with a percentage of each admission fee set aside for local development projects.
You can easily do the cascades as a day-trip from Puerto Plata – take one of the frequent Javilla Tours buses to Imbert then hop on the back of a motoconcho; alternatively a taxi will set you back US$60, including wait time.