Iguabonita would be amazing all by itself, but even before you reach this hauntingly beautiful series of caverns, there’s an unforgettable trek through untamed jungle, and if all kids have seen so far are Punta Cana’s beaches, they’ll be astonished at how wild the Dominican Republic gets, within a few short miles of the sea.
The local tour guides are breathtakingly knowledgeable, able to identify anything from tiny lizards to immense creepers; balance science and intriguing legends beautifully, and answer even the strangest questions in fascinating detail. Of course, Iguabonita is the showstopper on this expedition, and walking through the complex, stalactite strewn chambers is close to magical - and not just for kids: although kids tend to be a bit more excited about wearing safety helmets with lamps.
Bávaro Adventure Park is all natural, all outdoors and all about making the most of the Bávaro-Punta Cana region’s extraordinary, organic assets. Thrills are big, there’s masses of excitement, no shortage of white-knuckle action, but it’s all refreshingly free of the standard ride, chute and slide format.
The Waterfall Pool, right at the heart of the park, is a great example of Bávaro’s innovative style. A stunning lagoon, drenched with clear waterfalls, it’s incredible fun for older kids, soothing aqua-therapy for adults, and gentle enough to easily convert timid swimmers into bold little fish. There are wilder times to be had in the park, but for an easy-going slice of adventure, the pool’s perfect.
It takes hours of practice to master the art of even a single somersault on a trampoline; or no time at all to be doing aerial gymnastics like an Olympian on a Bungee Trampoline. Crazy Jumper is a pretty accurate description of the exhilarating experience, although there’s a high chance kids will be lost for words entirely after leaping 10m into the air, again and again and again.
Fortunately for spectating parents, it’s all very safe: trampolines are wide and the Ergomatic Harness system keeps kids secure, even at their bounciest. And if you’re up for more than just watching in awe, adults are perfectly welcome to have a go too – up to four jumpers can go crazy at the same time.
You might have tried zorbing in the UK, but you haven’t experienced the full thrill potential until you’ve plunged down a 150 metre long, 10˚ gradient slope, under a flawlessly blue and sun drenched, Caribbean sky.
Whatever the weather, the basic zorbing principal is the same: you’re encased in a giant, plastic ball. Only the way Bávaro sees it, you shouldn’t have to work too hard, or be thrown around too much, so there’s a comfy cocoon inside the big ball to cushion you against everything, except amazing fun.
Kids as young as eight can give zorbing a go, and if you want to roll in tandem, room for two in a ball makes that easy enough to arrange.
Cenote might translate as ‘sinkhole’, but in truth these magical, subterranean pools are more like fairy grottos. The indigenous Taino people of the Caribbean considered them sacred, as did the Mayan in Mexico, and after a few seconds gazing into the blue waters of Las Ondas cenote on the Hoyo Azul Eco Tour, you can understand why.
It lies at the foot of a 75m high cliff, final destination on a remarkable journey through lush, tropical jungle and over soaring aerial bridges (take a minute to admire Scape Park’s sensational eco-craftsmanship). There are spectacular panoramic views across Farallon from specially designed look-outs, and even staring down into the cenote itself is only possible thanks to an exquisitely crafted staircase.
The entire captivating tour is guided by locals, expert in all things natural to the Dominican Republic, and it’s easy going enough for kids of six and over.
The history of the Taino Indians spreads far and wide across the Caribbean, and it’s endlessly fascinating. Cultured, spiritual, creative and eminently practical, they were indigenous to several countries, including the Dominican Republic.
Take a culture tour through the jungle, learn about the Tainos’ use of medicinal plants, their rituals and ceremonies, art and craftsmanship, and way of life. Tales of how they traditionally settled arguments with a game (not unlike football) will definitely appeal to younger kids, and teenagers will be thrilled to see the intricate pictograms on stone cliffs surrounding the enchanting Las Ondas cenote.
A quick tour of Scape Park’s ranch is enough to convince even complete beginners that horse riding is the best way to really explore the interesting countryside trails that wind round this lovely part of Cap Cana.
Experts lead the trek, and you’re safely seated on gentle Paso Fino horses (the much admired Dominican Republic breed, known for their steady gait, hence the name). Kids as young as 10 love this adventure, and it’s an easy experience for families to enjoy together. Plus, inexperienced riders are just as welcome as those who know exactly what they’re doing.
Spend a few hours on Playa Juanillo with Scape Park in charge, and you may very well wonder how you ever organised a day at the beach by yourself.
Chill-out space for grown-ups comes in the shape of long, white sands and just the right amount of palm-tree shade, plus softer than soft sunbeds, and plenty of long cool drinks (or cocktails, if you prefer). Meanwhile, kids are beautifully entertained with sea kayaking, snorkelling, beach volleyball, SUP and other fun activities.
Naturally parents are more than welcome to be as active as they like too, and everyone’s invited to enjoy great Caribbean cooking: another fantastic tradition on legendary Playa Juanillo.
There are quite a few pirate tales swirling around the Dominican Republic, but nothing comes close to the real-life action of climbing around the stylised rope ‘pirate ship’ at Bávaro Adventure Park.
The aim is to capture the flag, and the rope-course to glory involves 26 challenges, at four different levels, up to a maximum height of 15 metres: demanding enough for the most daring adult buccaneers. It’s great fun, kids as young as eight can give it a go, and if you want to stir up a bit of healthy family competition, think about turning it into a team game.
There are ziplines, and then there’s Zipline Eco Adventures at Scape Park. Not only do kids get to soar on some of the zippiest and highest lines in the entire country, but they’re flying over dense tree canopies, gloriously lush jungle, and well within sight of the astounding Caribbean coastline.
On top of nine double cable ziplines, this unique course also includes cliff-side platforms, via ferrata routes, and hanging bridges. So it’s almost guaranteed that wherever you’ve zipped before, this will be the experience to match from now on.