Barahona City to Pedernales,
Southwest Dominican Republic

Facilities are scarce but the coastal scenery is knockout.

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This trip takes about 3 hours each way from Barahona city. At the outset, you may feel like you've been transported to the other side of the planet. The rectangular, thatch-roofed homes and huts sitting at the base of a mountain definitely conjure up images of the South Pacific.

You'll find miles and miles of empty, incredibly beautiful coastline. This area undoubtedly would have been developed years ago if the beaches were of the classic fine sand variety; instead, the strands here are pebbly and sometimes down right rocky, though still gorgeous.

   San Rafael , home to one of Barahona's best known beaches, is also one of the best places to enjoy a fresh fish sandwich. You can swim either in the Caribbean or in the pool of a cold fresh water mountain stream that flows into the ocean. This combination of ocean and fresh water is a classic characteristic of the region. Going up into the mountains of San Rafael you'll pass the Villa Miriam , a private residence with a stream-fed swimming pool and a series of waterfall pools; admission is RD$50.

The palm-lined beach between Paraiso and Ojeda is undoubtedly the area's most striking. Due to the wave action (good for surfing) the water just offshore is a chalky white, dramatically offset by the surrounding Caribbean deep blue. The fishing village of Enriquillo offers another deserted beach and the final gas station before the town of Pedernales, still 2 hours away.

Just before the village of Oviedo is the turnoff to the six-mile long Lago Oviedo, a salt water lake cut off from the Caribbean by a sandy barrier. Flamingos are most common in winter. If the birds aren't readily obvious, you can walk in either direction on a clearly defined path made by the local fishermen. You'll probably see their boats anchored just off the beach.

The huge Jaragua National Park begins just south of Oviedo and extends almost all the way to Pedernales. Named after a Taino ruler, the park extends over 520 square miles, including 270 square miles of the Caribbean and the small islands of Alto Velo and Beata.

This is an extremely dry region, full of cactus and acacia. If you go walking off the road, watch your step because the needle-sharp cactus spines can easily go through the soles of a tennis shoe. They can also flatten a tire.

Several marked dirt turnoffs lead into the park's nether regions, but you'll need a four-wheel drive and plenty of water for the trip. Many species of birds inhabit the park and four species of sea turtles also nest there. The resident rhinoceros and Ricord's iguanas can be seen inland at Lago Enriquillo.

Pedernales is located in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by nothing. It's an area the government has been talking for years about developing for tourism. The economy definitely could use the boost. For now, the place is important for stocking up on cold drinks, sandwiches and fuel for the return trip to Barahona.

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