Salto El Limón is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Dominican Republic and therefore also one of the most popular ones. Furthermore, it is reachable from Punta Cana, Santo Domingo and the Samaná peninsula itself, which is why it receives many visitors. Therefore, it’s important to know the best excursions and insider tips – to avoid the crowds, to find the right option to visit and to have the best experience at Salto El Limón.
I have added up all the details to a full guide about waterfall Salto El Limón, which includes all the important information from my several visits – it doesn’t matter if for excursions or individual travelers, if you are coming from Punta Cana, Samaná or Santo Domingo, if you are preferring busses, private transfers or a tour or if you are coming with a cruise ship or your own (rental) car.
- What is Salto El Limón?
- Where is Salto El Limón?
- Visit Salto El Limón from Punta Cana
- Guided land excursion to Salto El Limón from Punta Cana
- Guided air excursion to Salto El Limón from Punta Cana
- Multi-day itinerary or road trip from Punta Cana to Salto El Limón
- Visit waterfall Salto El Limón from Santo Domingo
- Guided excursion to Salto El Limón from Santo Domingo
- Multi-day itinerary or road trip from Santo Domingo to Salto El Limón
- Visit waterfall Salto El Limón when you are already in Samaná
- Visiting Salto El Limón on your own
- How to arrive by car and where to park at Salto El Limón?
- Reaching Salto El Limón by public transport
- Local tours to waterfall Salto El Limón
- Hiking trails to waterfall Salto El Limón
- Sendero El Café
- Sendero La Manzana, Sendero Arroyo Surdido and Sendero Franklin
- Sendero La Javilla
- Sendero Olga
- Further waterfalls when hiking Salto El Limón
- Summary: what is the best way to visit Salto El Limón?
What is Salto El Limón?
Salto El Limón is one of the many waterfalls the Dominican Republic has to offer. Thanks to its abundant vegetation, the colorful water and the scenic drop it is also one of the most beautiful ones. It can only be reached hiking or horseback riding, which is usually included in the guided excursions. On the other hand, Salto El Limón is one of the few areas where you can also hike on your own without jungle experience as the trails are (more or less) signposted. Once you reach the waterfall – it doesn’t matter if you get there by guided tour, a horseback ride or by hiking on your own – you can enjoy the natural swimming pool which is super refreshing and features an emerald green color. Just be careful, the path to get there is slippery and there are some rocks in the pool.
Where is Salto El Limón?
Salto El Limón is located on the Samaná peninsula in the northeast of the Dominican Republic. The access point is the little village of El Limón between the popular fishing town Las Terrenas and the small bustling city of Santa Barbara de Samaná. There are several hiking trails (see below for details) starting between the villages of El Limón and Rancho Español. Driving distances to trailheads are approximately 30 minutes to Las Terrenas, 2.5-3 hours to Santo Domingo, 3-3.5 hours to Puerto Plata and 4.5 hours to Punta Cana. If you arrive by public transport, it is a bit more than 30 minutes from Las Terrenas and Santa Barbara de Samaná.
Visit Salto El Limón from Punta Cana
Guided land excursion to Salto El Limón from Punta Cana
Most excursions from Punta Cana to Salto El Limón are offered in a bus-boat-safari truck-combination. These tours are quite long and last around 10 to 12 hours but are offering a great diversity of different Dominican regions and landscapes. They also include the horseback ride to Salto El Limón and a visit to Cayo Levantado.
This kind of excursion is usually starting quite early in the morning with a pick-up from your hotel or all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, including all the areas like Cap Cana, Cabeza de Toro, Bavaro, Macao and Uvero Alto. The bus ride northwestward is not spectacular but scenic as you drive along a newly built road between the mountains of the Cordillera Oriental (incl. Montaña Redonda) and the coastline, passing small villages and abundant rice terraces. One of the small ports along the Miches – Sabana de la Mar route is your destination (which one depends on the tour operator you book), where you change over to your boat. The boat brings you over to the Samaná peninsula, a mere 15 miles ride that might be choppy, depending on the wind and the waves on that day. Once in Samaná, you change over for a safari truck, which passes the lush Samaná mountain range with its abundant vegetation and several fishing villages up to the ranches where the initial tour to Salto El Limón starts. Usually, you can choose between a horseback ride and a hike whereupon I always recommend the hike – to practice a bit your fitness and to support the mules and horses, which are not always in the best shape. It is just a 30-45-minute hike to Salto El Limon, so it is doable, but be prepared for a rocky and muddy trail.
For both options – hike or horseback ride – you have to first climb down and afterwards climb up a natural staircase of around 150 feet altitude to reach Salto El Limón. That’s equal to the height of this beautiful waterfall.
After refreshing yourself in the natural swimming pool, you ride or hike back to the starting point and can enjoy a typical Dominican lunch. Back in the safari trucks, you are heading back towards the port of Samaná where you embark the boat and just take a quick 15-minutes hop to the gorgeous island of Cayo Levantado, which is also widely known as Bacardi Island (apparently, this was where the famous Bacardi commercial was filmed, but there is no real proof about it). Anyway, Bacardi or not, you can enjoy the beach and the turquoise ocean before heading back by boat to the mainland and from there by bus back to your resort.
If interested in this tour, please check out the following hand-selected options, which are some of the recommendable excursions from Punta Cana to Salto El Limón and Cayo Levantado.
As you can see from the description, this tour is quite long, as it has several stages of transport: bus – boat – safari truck – hike/horseback ride and the same way back. The amazing thing about it that it doesn’t get boring, the negative point might be that it’s just too long because the whole excursion from Punta Cana to Salto El Limón takes 10-12 hours.
Guided air excursion to Salto El Limón from Punta Cana
If you feel that this is too long then you should check out the excursion by air as it cuts the transport part considerably. Instead of the long bus and boat journey, you board a plane at Punta Cana International Airport and hop over to Samaná in a fraction of the time – and get a couple of additional perks on top:
– smaller groups, as the plane usually only fits 8 to 19 passengers
– less time in the bus and more time on the Samaná peninsula
– amazing views on the Dominican Republic from above, including Punta Cana, the Cordillera Oriental and the Samaná peninsula (depending on the flight route of the day)
Once you arrive at the local Samaná airport of Arroyo Barril, the procedure is similar to the guided land excursion starting with the part of the safari truck. Some companies swap this truck for a private van as well, depending on the tour. You head over to the area of Salto El Limón (usually a bit earlier than the regular groups from Punta Cana), hike or horseback ride to the waterfall and visit Cayo Levantado (Bacardi Island) on the way back. Once you are done here, you head back to the Arroyo Barril Airport and fly back to Punta Cana – again with marvelous views if the weather permits. As the planes are super small, you shouldn’t be claustrophobic, but the big advantage is that nearly everyone in the plane has a window seat and can admire the Dominican Republic from above.
Check the prices of both tours, the land excursion and the tour by plane. Sometimes the difference is amazingly small. For example, at the time of writing, some tours by bus are offered at 179 USD per person (even there are existing a few cheaper options), while the plane excursion is priced at 234 USD. With such a small price difference, the tour by air is a no-brainer.
Multi-day itinerary or road trip from Punta Cana to Salto El Limón
You don’t like these guided excursions and would prefer to go on your own. Absolutely possible! Just count in some additional time as driving there the whole way is a bit further and would not be feasible for 1 day. That’s why I would highly recommend making a 2- or 3-day road-trip out of it – either as a self-drive tour or with a private driver. This also gives you the advantage that you can visit Salto El Limón very early in the morning or very late in the afternoon and therefore have a high chance of having this beautiful waterfall just for you. You can check out a possible itinerary from Punta Cana to Samaná in this article.
How do you organize this trip?
Well, it depends! If you would like to do it as a self-drive tour, just rent a car (my recommendation is here*), book yourself an accommodation* in the popular beach town of Las Terrenas (the complete opposite of Punta Cana) and head off early the next day on your way to Salto El Limón.
If you prefer a private driver, I can help you with finding one, then you just need your accommodation on the Samaná peninsula and you are good to go.
For the details on how to visit Salto El Limón waterfall within such a road-trip, please refer to my section below “VISITING SALTO EL LIMÓN ON YOUR OWN”.
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Visit waterfall Salto El Limón from Santo Domingo
Guided excursion to Salto El Limón from Santo Domingo
If you are based in Santo Domingo, incl. its beach towns Boca Chica and Juan Dolio, there are – as far as I know – no guided group excursions to the waterfall El Limón on the Samaná peninsula. Your only option, if you’d like to go with a guide, would be a private excursion, which of course is considerably more expensive than the typical group tour. In this case, you can combine Salto El Limón with some other highlights of the Samaná peninsula, for example the pristine beaches of the area or the popular beach town of Las Terrenas, as the driving time from Santo Domingo to Salto El Limón is just around 3 hours.
Multi-day itinerary or road trip from Santo Domingo to Salto El Limón
However, it would be nearly too far to travel for a day to just see Salto El Limón, as the Samaná peninsula is stunning and will blow your mind away with its natural beauty and unspoiled nature. Samaná is harvesting millions of coconuts every year, so you can imagine how many palm trees you can find here. The beaches in Samaná are no comparison with those in Punta Cana, as they are mostly pristine and empty – you can have a 2-mile beach in Samaná all on your own. So why not explore a little bit more and plan a 2- or better 3-day itinerary?
You can find a sample of my road trip ideas and itinerary proposals here. Furthermore, you can contact me here and we can work out a cool and personalized itinerary together.
Visit waterfall Salto El Limón when you are already in Samaná
Many people choose to spend their vacation right in Samaná – because of the relaxed beach town vibe, the pristine beaches and the lower prices, even transportation from the airports in the Dominican Republic to the Samaná region is a bit more difficult than in Punta Cana.
If you are already in Samaná you can choose between two options to visit Salto El Limón: going on an organized tour or heading to the waterfall on your own.
Guided excursion to Salto El Limón from Samaná (Las Terrenas, Las Galeras)
If you are on holiday in Samaná, you have different options to book a guided excursion to Salto El Limón. Advantages of these tours: some of them leave early so that you reach the waterfall before other people arrive from cruise ships or from Punta Cana.
If you are staying at one of the few all-inclusive resorts in Samaná, you can book one of the regular tours, where you get picked up and later head to the trailhead of Salto El Limón by safari truck. These tours are considerably shorter than the ones described above from Punta Cana because depending on where you are staying, the driving time is just 20 – 60 minutes. Upon arriving at the ranch, you saddle up the horse and start horseback riding (or hiking) to the waterfall Salto El Limón. As mentioned, I would recommend the hike as the horses or mules are not always in a good shape, furthermore the trail is a good challenge for your physical fitness. And by the way, I was once riding the horse and felt more in danger than when walking due to the uneven path, that’s also one of the reasons I have done all the hiking trails to Salto El Limón by foot since then.
Once you have arrived at Salto El Limón and climbed down the 150 feet staircase, you can refresh yourself in the natural swimming pool and enjoy the cold river and gorgeous colors. After the hike (or horseback ride) back you usually get a local Dominican lunch and drive back to your accommodation afterwards. The whole excursion just takes around 4-6 hours as opposed to 10-12 hours when coming from Punta Cana, but does not – in most cases – include “Bacardi Island” (Cayo Levantado).
If you would like to be particularly early at Salto El Limón, I can recommend Flora Tours* from my own experiences. They start their tours in Las Terrenas (no other pick-up points) at the latest at 8 am and just go in small groups which means you are at the waterfall usually around 9 am, which (nearly) guarantees you some unspoiled views and experiences of Salto El Limón. Further plus: if you reserve with 2 people and they don’t have other reservations for that day, they do the tour just with you – there is no minimum number of participants. This means you just pay the price for a group tour but get a private tour if you are lucky.
Visiting Salto El Limón on your own
How to arrive by car and where to park at Salto El Limón?
Arriving by car to Salto El Limón is not that difficult if you are used to road conditions in third-world countries. Saying that, if you have driven in similar countries before, you can easily rent a car in the Dominican Republic*. If this is your first time in this kind of environment I highly recommend a private driver.
To reach Salto El Limón, just enter Salto El Limón in Google Maps and follow the instructions. Depending on where you are coming from, the distance and driving time to the trailheads are as following:
– from Las Terrenas: 12 miles / 30 minutes
– from Las Galeras: 25 miles / 1 hour
– from Santo Domingo: 100 miles / 2:40 hours
– from Puerto Plata: 120 miles / 3:45 hours
– from Punta Cana: 200 miles / 4:20 hours
You can park your car at one of the several paradas and ranches which are signposted along the road between the villages of El Limón and Rancho Español. Those are properties of small family-operated tour operators. All the tours to Salto El Limón, it doesn’t matter if guided or not, if hiking or by horse, start from here.
Reaching Salto El Limón by public transport
If you would like to reach Salto El Limón by public transport, you can connect either via Las Terrenas or Santa Barbara de Samaná. Little pick-ups or minivans are leaving Las Terrenas at the cemetery right in front of La Bodega or in Santa Barbara de Samaná at the public market.
When arriving from Las Terrenas, some of the vans/pick-ups run all the way to Santa Barbara de Samaná. In this case, tell the driver that you want to go to Salto El Limón and they will drop you at one of the different trailheads.
If the minivan/pick-up just runs until the village of El Limón, you have to get a motoconcho (motorcycle-taxi) from there to your preferred trailhead or simply walk half a mile to the first trailhead, Sendero El Café (see below for explanations of the different trails).
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Local tours to waterfall Salto El Limón
Once you arrive at one of those ranches (called “paradas”), the owners will most likely try to sell you a tour which usually includes the horseback ride and lunch. If you are interested in one of those tours, be prepared to haggle as they tend to overcharge. However, if you would like to have a tour with horseback ride and lunch I recommend booking one of the excursions listed above. There are hardly any advantages when going with the local tour operators as they are not as customer-orientated but more money-orientated. You probably have a better experience when going with an official tour*.
Hiking trails to waterfall Salto El Limón
On the other side, if you don’t want to have a tour at all, you are good to go once you park your car at the ranch. You might have to pay around 100-200 DOP as a parking fee and the ranch owners will try to tell you that it is dangerous to go on your own, but it is not as long as you have hiking experience, are in decent physical shape and head off with your GPS application to track your trail. Alternatively, hire a guide from the ranches and pay him around 15-25 USD per group (without horses, without lunch).
If you decide on visiting Salto El Limón on your own, you have plenty of hiking trails available. The good thing compared to other hiking areas in the Dominican Republic is that the hiking trails are marked in some way, so it is one of the few occasions where you can go hiking in the country without proper field experiences. However, due to the limited signs, I recommend going with a GPS that tracks your way to make sure you don’t get lost. In total, there are 6 hiking trails (called “Senderos”) leading to Salto El Limón. I will describe them shortly from north to south.
Sendero El Café
Sendero El Café starts just 1 km behind the village of El Limón, making it the hiking trail closest to Las Terrenas. With around 2 miles and a spectacular viewpoint on the way (which is unique and doesn’t exist on the other hiking trails), it is also the longest and the most beautiful hike of all trails leading to the waterfall Salto El Limón. It also contains two river crossings, so be prepared that your shoes get wet and muddy (which also happens on most of the other trails).
Sendero La Manzana, Sendero Arroyo Surdido and Sendero Franklin
These three trails are the shortest routes to Salto El Limón. If you hike at a decent pace you can make them in around half an hour, as they are just around 1 mile long. On the way, you can see a smaller waterfall which, however, isn’t as impressive as Salto El Limón. A river crossing is also necessary on this hiking trail. The trailheads of Sendero La Manzana, Sendero Arroyo Surdido and Sendero Franklin can be found around 5 kilometers after the village of El Limón.
Sendero La Javilla
This hiking trail to Salto El Limón is only a few hundred meters longer than the three previously mentioned and leads along a beautiful and quiet river for a long time. It has the lowest incline of all options and is therefore the easiest to walk, although your shoes will get dirty due to the mud on most parts of the trail.
Together with the Sendero El Café, Sendero Olga is the longest hiking trail with a distance of around 2 miles. It has the southernmost starting point and is the first trailhead when coming from Santa Barbara de Samaná. After half of the distance, it gets united with Sendero Javilla. The scenery here is quite attractive but not as spectacular as at Sendero El Café.
You can also combine the different trails and walk one of the trails to get to the waterfall and another one to get back. Motoconchos and little public busses are plying the route along the trailheads, so if you choose this option you won’t have a problem getting back to your initial starting point or to your car.
Further waterfalls when hiking Salto El Limón
Interestingly enough, there is not only Salto El Limón when it comes to waterfalls in this area. Right below Salto El Limón, just a few feet away, is another pretty waterfall. You can go pass there independently from the trail you choose. If you arrive at Sendero El Café, you will see this waterfall anyway.
There is also the smaller waterfall from a side river which I mentioned above, you pass it when using the Senderos Franklin, Manzana, Arroyo Surdido, La Javilla and Olga.
If you’d like to explore the region further, take yourself a local guide and a GPS and continue in the open terrain, as there are many streams, little cascades and unknown waterfalls. I once ventured out a little bit and saw a sneak peek of what’s possible but have to go back one day to deeper explore this region. However, please note that this is only for the adventurous people of you. If you are just on vacation for one week in the Dominican Republic, better stick to the marked trails or the guided excursions.
Summary: what is the best way to visit Salto El Limón?
As always, the answer is “it depends”.
If you are staying in Punta Cana and would like to visit Salto El Limón just for a day trip, it is impossible to do this on your own. In this case, your best option is the air excursion* as it is considerably smoother and more exclusive plus you can enjoy marvelous views from the sky. However, if this is above your budget you can also go with the land excursion*, just be prepared for a very long day.
In case you have some days to spare, I highly recommend a multi-day road-trip from Punta Cana, Santo Domingo or any other region in the Dominican Republic to Samaná. You can not only see the waterfall Salto El Limón, but also the other pristine and beautiful spots the peninsula has to offer, among them many virgin beaches. If you need any help crafting an itinerary, let me know via my travel coaching request.
If you are already in Samaná, you have two options. You can either go with one of the guided tours starting from your accommodation* or you try to organize everything on your own. If you are staying in a resort or a villa and are not fancy to negotiate, to haggle and to prepare your daily itinerary, I would recommend a guided excursion as this is the smoothest way to visit Salto El Limón. You can also decide if you want to hike or horseback ride on these tours.
On the other side, if you are an adventurer, have experience in traveling developing countries independently and are in an at least decent shape to hike the trails, you can explore Salto El Limón on your own. Thanks to the signs and the maps on every trailhead, it is possible to walk this without a guide as long as you hike carefully.
It doesn’t matter which option you choose, you will have a great experience when visiting Salto El Limón as it is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Dominican Republic. Make sure you visit as early as possible (before 9 am) or as late as possible (after 3 pm) to have as few other people as possible around you. Take your swimsuits, camera, sufficient water and hiking boots with you and enjoy a marvelous day in the abundant and lush nature of the Samaná peninsula.
If Salto El Limón is too far for you and you prefer closer waterfalls, have a look at all the waterfalls reachable from Punta Cana in under 3 hours.
What do you think about Salto El Limón, would you like to visit? Would you choose the hike or the horses?
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CHRISAuthor, Travel Coach & Punta Cana based digital nomad
Hey, I am Chris, a born and raised German, travel-addictive and Caribbean Soul. Since 2011 I have been living in the Caribbean, among them 5 years in the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana is my home-base here in the country and I’d love to tell you more about how to experience Punta Cana off-the-beaten-track and give you all the advice you want to know for your vacation in Punta Cana.