Driving to Jarabacoa

Looking to take a break from the beach, or want to see what the rest of the Dominican Republic looks like outside Cabarete? Jarabacoa might be the place for you.

While you can get a taxi to this gorgeous town in the mountains, or even brave a long public transport trek, we chose to rent a car and drive for maximum freedom.

The journey to Jarabacoa in La Vega is absolutely stunning. The green, lush mountainous landscape is ridiculously beautiful, so have your camera ready at all times.

There are innumerable cute little places to stop at on the way, and lots of local culture to take in.

Driving in the Dominican is quite the experience. As long as you are cautious and stay safe, you are bound to have some good stories to tell from this road trip.

Safety Tips

You may have heard horror stories about driving in the Dominican Republic, but I’m happy to report our trip was a total success. As ever, you can’t account for other drivers on the road (or cows or goats), but as long as you go slow and stay switched on, you should make it in one piece!

Of course, be sure to wear your very best sensible hat.

It’s not advisable to drive at night, so be sure to set off with plenty of time before sunset. You do not want to have the stress of racing to get somewhere before it gets dark.

Be aware of motorbikes. I’ll say that again, BE AWARE OF MOTORBIKES. They will come out of nowhere. They will drive the wrong way up a one-way street. They will weave like crazy through any space they see.

Expect motos to be a big part of your hazard perception on a DR road, and stay super alert to them. Especially in cities, where there can easily be 20 motos elbowing their way through one traffic light.

Accept that potholes are a fact of life. Go slow.

Take your time, no matter how much you get honked by locals. It helps to remember than honks here don’t just indicate road rage.

In my experience, a Dominican car honk can communicate any of the following:

‘Hi, friend, how are you?’

‘I’m going to overtake you now, just a friendly warning!’

‘I’m gonna go slow, so you go ahead and overtake me!’

‘What a good looking lady.’

‘Hey man, you’ve got a puncture!’ (This one did happen to us)

These are just a few interpretations, since car honks are infinitely expressive.

Trust Google, but not 100%

Google’s estimate for our journey to Jarabacoa was a little over 2 hours. In reality, it took a little over 3 hours.

Google Maps, it turns out, is not super familiar with bumpy Dominican mountain roads.

The Cabarete to Moca leg of the journey is basically one long, winding, bumpy road. There are frequent inverted ‘speed bumps’, you know the kind where there’s a wide V-shaped break in the road. You make slow progress on roads like these, going at around 20mph.

The road quality improves as the journey goes on, and you even have some stretches on the autopista (motorway), but even still our top speed was around 50mph.

If Google offers you a shortcut when there is a clear main road that is around the same distance, take the big road. Save yourself the stress of driving several kilometers through a tight grid of residential blocks in Moca, for instance.

Driving to Jarabacoa

Fun Stops

What’s a road trip without some quirky stops? Go out and make some memories.


Stopping at a comedor is highly advisable. They are dotted along the whole route, and you may well have a memorable encounter with a Dominican with your pica pollo.

Fancy views

For outrageous panoramic mountain views, schedule a stop at El Molino de la Cumbre restaurant. It’s on Route 21 between Jamao al Norte and San Victor, about an hour out of Cabarete.

Even if you just pop in for a coffee, like we did, this place is well worth a little rest stop. And they sell local handmade artisanal products that are really cute and not overpriced.

Boulevard de Arepas

This is a rogue one. Towards Jarabacoa, there’s a long stretch of near-identical yellow stands selling two foodstuffs: arepas and yaniqueques.

Arepas are giant, sweet, sticky cakes made from corn. I bought a pound for 50 pesos. They are really massive, I would love to see the oven these arepas are baked in!

Yaniqueques are flat, fried dough crackers. The name is actually a Dominicanisation of Johnnycakes. Yup. Savoury and super tasty. Mine were 10 pesos each.

Many of the stands carry the brand logo of Mazorca, a corn products company, as they donated a bunch of the casitas. The view of all the corporate-stamped stands is a little dystopian!

Wing it!

Take advantage of opportunities and surprises. If you see a whole pig being roasted on the side of the road – jump on out and get a piece of the action!

Driving to Jarabacoa, or anywhere in the DR, is an adventure. It’s always best to approach such unpredictable adventures with an open mind and curious spirit. You don’t know exactly how it’s going to go, but that’s all part of the fun!

Enjoy yourself and stay safe!

Book your stay at the Extreme Hotel, and then go ahead and have a fun trip in Cabarete.