The 800 meters of Cueva de las Maravillas National Park are decorated with hundreds of Taíno cave paintings.
The Taíno people are the Indigenous residents of Greater Antilles. It was the Taíno who greeted Christopher Columbus’s arrival in Hispanola (now the Dominican Republic) in 1492. Throughout the Spanish colonial period that followed, their culture was ruthlessly suppressed, and through both violence and disease their numbers greatly depleted.
In 1561, colonist and early humanitarian Bartolomé de las Casas wrote: “There were 60,000 people living on this island [when I arrived in 1508], including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this?”
The caves are significant in Taíno mythology. Distinctive art made by the early Taíno are etched on rocks around the island and on stalagmites in caves across the island. Inside the cave you’ll find approximately 10 petroglyphs (engravings in the rock), and 472 pictographs (paintings on the walls). The art depicts a diverse range of subjects that includes humans, plants, animals, and abstract designs.
In one room, known as the Water Mirror Gallery, the roof of the cave and the Great Panel can be seen in the reflection of an artificial lake. The Great Panel features a cave painting that depicts a Taíno funeral ritual.
Cueva de las Maravillas was declared a national park in 1997, and the caves have been open to the public since 2003. Although the cave has come under criticism for the way in which paths and lighting were installed, possibly damaging some of the geologic features, it was awarded the 2003 Gold prize in the International Landscape Architecture Bienal Award.
Know Before You Go
Today, visitors can explore about 200 meters on footpaths that wind through the galleries. Visits to the cave are strictly controlled, in small groups with a guide. Tours take about an hour.