Travelers to the Dominican Republic will find a bounty of waterfalls. // © 2016 iStock
Feature image (above): The writer and her daughters tackled 27 Charcos together. // © 2016 Dana Rebmann
Travel is one of the best teaching tools in a parent’s arsenal. Visiting spots such as the Italian archaeological site of Pompeii solidifies historical understanding, but travel is also about having fun and making family memories.
This summer, my teenage daughters and I went on a community-service-focused trip in the Dominican Republic with cruise line Fathom. Most of our days were spent doing good — teaching English to school-age kids, recycling paper in creative ways and helping a women-only chocolate company boost its supply. But once we discovered 27 Waterfalls, or 27 Charcos as it’s known locally, we couldn’t wait to play hooky.
Its name paints a fairly accurate picture of the attraction, which is located on the northern side of the country, near Puerto Plata. After an hourlong hot and humid hike up, the rest of the day is spent jumping, splashing, sliding and swimming back down. Under the careful watch of guides, and armed with helmets and life jackets (and hopefully waterproof cameras), adventure seekers hop from one adrenaline-inducing location to the next.
About 30 minutes in, while adjusting my helmet, I said to my girls, “Don’t tell Grandma we did this.”
Experience in waterfall jumping is not required, but clients should plan for a reasonable amount of exercise throughout the day. Tell them to leave water shoes at home, as they’ll want the stability and traction that a good pair of sneakers (even soaking wet) provides. Bathing suits are a must, but ladies should wear a pair of shorts on top. Along with helping avoid any embarrassing moments, the extra coverage will protect against scrapes and bumps from the natural rock waterslides. And don’t forget to put on sunscreen before venturing out.
Technically, there aren’t 27 waterfalls; the number is closer to a dozen. Charcos means “pools” (which there are also plenty of) in Spanish, and somewhere along the line, something got lost in translation. But at the end of the journey, no one feels slighted — just exhausted.
Families can explore 27 Charcos with Iguana Mama, the only tour company that climbs to the very top. The tour includes transportation; cruise passengers are picked up and dropped off just outside the main gate of the Amber Cove cruise port, and others can hop on and off the van at their hotel. Knowledgeable and funny guides come along every wet step of the way, and lunch awaits at the end of the adventure.
The less courageous (the ones Grandma might call smart) and children under 8 years old can do the easy waterfalls tour, a 20-minute hike to the first waterfall to swim and wait for the rest of the family. The 27 Waterfalls Midway tour includes a 40-minute hike and is suitable for kids over 8. The minimum age to take on all of the waterfalls is 12. Families can also visit the falls independently and hire a taxi to make the trek back and forth.
Either way, bragging rights are a given for both kids and parents. It’s the type of family-friendly activity that will be part of numerous dinner conversations — with or without grandma — to come.