Know Before You Go
Discovered in 1926, the 800 meters of Cuevas de las Maravillas cave system are decorated with hundreds of Taino Indian cave paintings.
The Taino people are the indigenous residents of Greater Antilles. It was the Taino who greeted Columbus' 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. Colonist and early humanitarian Bartolomé de las Casas wrote in 1561: "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 Taino origin mythology. Distinctive petroglyphs made by the early Taino are etched on rocks around the island and on stalagmites in caves across the island.
The Cuevas de las Maravillas 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 caved geologic features, it was awarded the 2003 Gold prize in the International Landscape Architecture Bienal Award.
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.