Riding to the Domincan Republic’s El Limon Waterfall on a Horse

On the way up to El Limon Waterfall

On the way up to El Limon Waterfall

I am not a horsewoman. I did not grow up around horses, and they’ve always been a mystery to me. When people say a horse is nervous, or bad tempered, or skittish, I don’t know how they know this, as I can’t figure out a horse’s mood when I’m near one.

I’m near one now, in the beautiful Samaa Peninsula of the Dominiccan Republic, because it seems that just about every trip I take involves an optional horseback ride somewhere. As long as the ranch hand promises my horse is not going to gallop away in a fit of anger for any perceived wrongdoing, I’ll try a gentle ride — even thought what others may call a gentle ride has sometimes been for me a hair-raising, spine-crushing adventure.

A Waterfall? O.K., I’ll Ride

Here in the D.R., I decided to try this particular “gentle” ride, because there was a prize at the end: El Limon Waterfall, considered the most spectacular of the DR’s many waterfalls. It cascades 170 feet into a pool where we could swim once we reached the top of the falls.

In Your Bucket Because…

  • The Samana region of the DR is unspoiled and unknown to many travelers, but worth a visit
  • There is so much more than golf in the Dominican Republic
  • A good trip for teenagers

I should have known there might be adventure in store when the couple who ran the trip offered us high rubber boots to wear. These were not riding boots but waterproof boots, to keep our feet as dry as possible on our way up to the waterfall. But with each of us assigned a Dominican leader to hang onto a rope attached to the horse, I thought, how hard can this be? How wet can this be? We started off at a slow leisurely pace into a tropical jungle on a narrow path filled with rocks that would have been hard for us to maneuver on foot. I felt sorry for our poor horses who had to navigate this bumpy trail on four feet rather than two, but my horse seemed pretty steady, if ever so carefully picking his way around rock after rock. Here, too, it had been raining the day before, so not only was the path rocky, but it was also wet and muddy, and the horses occasionally slipped a bit in the slippery mud. But no of us fell…so far.

Cross A River? Can’t Stop Here

Into the river we go

Into the river we go

Then we got to the river. The first part of the river, that is. Before me I saw the rider ahead going down into a roaring, splashing, angry torrent with a current that looked as though it could sweep away a car, let alone a horse. Down, down, she went on top of her horse, although by now she looked as though she was alone on top of the river, as her horse had all but disappeared in the water.

The water came up to the horse’s shoulders, and still they kept walking into it, and across it, splashing as they went. “I can’t do this,” I thought, as my leader smiled and led me down into the river. “I hope my children hear that I was having fun, after they retrieve my body and send it home,” I thought, as we made our way carefully across the river and up, up, up a steep path on the other side. My boots had filled up completely with water, and my leader smilingly showed me how to take them off and dump the water out before putting them back on.

After going up another quarter of a mile or so, I saw that we were going to meet the same river on its curvy route, higher on the mountain, and we had to cross it again. This time I saw a woman, who had intelligently decided to walk rather than not to ride a horse through this raging water. She fell into the water. Luckily, she had friends to pick her up and drag her to the other side, while we — my horse and my leader and I — once again dived in and my horse tried to find footing among the rocks at the bottom of this swelling, roiling sea.

The scenery along the way was spectacular, with mountains and flowers and tropical greenery, and the waterfall, when we finally reached it, was delightful — a fitting reward for our adventure. We were wet up to the waist anyway, so we all just threw off our boots and jumped into the pool under the waterfall.

It Gets Easier

El Limon -- we're here!

El Limon — we’re here!

Somehow, the way back didn’t seem nearly as frightening, perhaps because we were prepared for the two river crossings, and no one except a horseless woman had fallen in. And the scenery, the waterfall, the swim and the wonderful lunch afterward of local chicken, rice and beans cooked by the owners of the horses, was appreciated more than any lunch I’ve had in years.


  • You will enjoy this ride if you have been on a horse at least once before. A rushing river and steep slippery slope are not the easiest places to learn to ride.
  • Take a backpack for your camera and necessities — you’ll need both hands free to hold the reins.
  • Wear your bathing suit under your jeans or shorts, for a quick strip-down to jump into the waterfall pool.
  • Put on the usual sunblock before you mount the horse.
  • Study a few words in Spanish. Your horse guide will know no English, except, perhaps, “Whoa.”
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