If you want to avoid the tour-bus crowds, arrange an early morning or late afternoon visit from El Limón. The 52m waterfall is accessible by horse from any of the operators below (as well as several outfits in Las Terrenas) and takes roughly three hours round-trip. You can also walk but that‘s only advisable when it‘s very dry. The path cuts across a broad river before climbing into the palm-thick mountains. As the waterfall comes into sight, the horses are tethered at a small way-station where you can have a drink before making the steep descent to the fall. The walk is well worth the effort to see the torrent of whitewater dropping precipitously off a sheer cliff in the middle of the wilderness forming a natural pool at its base, where you can swim. You need to be in decent shape and well shod, especially after a lot of rain when the boggy route can be treacherous. You‘ll also need to wear long trousers for the ride.
The local community-based ecotourism association now has its own excellent website (gosamana-dominicanrepublic.com), which gives details in English, including phone numbers, of the dozen legitimate operators in the area and where they’re located. However, tour quality and the rates charged do vary among the providers, as does what is included. Whether you come on a tour bus, or as an independent traveller, you should establish beforehand whether the price covers: transport to the parada (in the case of an organized tour); the park entry fee (RD$50); drinks and/or a meal, generally a combination of chicken, rice, fried plantain and a smidgen of salad; and the guide – who walks alongside you and informs you about the surrounding countryside, probably in Spanish. If the guide’s tip is not included, find out from the operator (again before you sign up) what the norm is.
The pick of the bunch, and so preferred by a lot of the larger tour operators, is the combined ranch-restaurant Santi Rancho, just south of the intersection on the road to Samaná. Their waterfall trip currently costs RD$750 per person, which includes the horse, guide and park fee and they now also offer canyoning down Río El Limón.
Also highly recommended is Parada La Manzana (t 916-0892, e [email protected]), located a few kilometres south of El Limón and run by Antonia and Martín, who, in addition to organizing a good trip, also prepare an excellent traditional lunch. Consider also Parada Ramona and Basilio (t 956-5526), where you can also learn about their home-grown cocoa.