Dominican Republic // The southwest //

San Rafael and Los Patos

Five kilometres beyond Baoruco, the pueblo San Rafael holds an enticing beach, if one with a strong, crashing surf, crowded with Dominicans on weekends but only moderately populated the rest of the week. Fortunately, a waterfall thrums down the nearby mountains and forms a natural swimming pool at the beach entrance, with an unobtrusive artificial barrier walling it in so that water slowly pours over the edge into the sea. The area around here is a popular camping spot, complete with public shower and bathroom facilities, and some shacks nearby sell excellent grilled lobster and fresh fish. You can hike along the river’s cascades into the mountains, or head up a turnoff just west of the beach, with panoramic views atop a high cape. From the beach you can also climb up a series of small cascades that are a popular local bathing spot.

Another stunning beach lies 5km further west along the coast beyond Paraíso in Los Patos, where the ocean is joined again by a river descending from the mountains to form a freshwater swimming pool. The beach, surrounded by dense mangroves, is pretty lively throughout the week, with vendors lining the sand to take care of most visitors’ culinary and souvenir needs.

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