Dunes of Baní (Las Dunas de las Calderas), Dominican Republic

The Large Dune of Dunas de Baní

photography by: Ronny Medina/ Wikimedia Commons

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It is so often the case where we automatically associate large sand formations with desert environment when in fact, they exist throughout much of the world, including in some unexpected regions. Stretching across the Las Calderas Peninsula, along the Dominican Republic’s southern coast, Dunas de Baní is an isolated cluster of majestic dunes, whose extremely soft sand offers an alternative experience to the island’s tourist-infested beaches.

Away from the world-class resorts and crammed beaches of the Dominican Republic, lies one of the country’s least known attractions, a series of gilded dunes that boast their own unique eco-system. The Dunes of Baní (aka Las Dunas de las Calderas) stretch for 15 kilometers along the shores of Las Calderas Peninsula, in the island’s southern half. With nearly 120 million cubic meters of sand, this Saharan enclave is home to multiple striking dunes, including a 35-meter-tall knoll, aptly named the “Large Dune”.

 

Formed over millennia when sand deposited by nearby rivers and streams was beautifully sculpted by the area’s relentless winds, the dunes date back all the way to the epoch of the Pleistocene. Thanks to its high content of feldspars and quartz, the sand across the field features an incredibly soft texture, somewhat akin to a fine powder.

 

As this sliver of powdery sand vastly differs from the rest of island, it thus has a distinct biome that exists nowhere else across the country. Among the species of flora one can find here are guao, seagrape, harrisia, prickly pear, spiny melon and cotinilla, just to name a few. The gobs of endemic plants serve in turn as a habitat for numerous small-sized lizards and birds, including black-winged stilts, gulls and flamingos, the latter of which can be found at the flooded pools in the low-elevation areas.

 

Visitors who wish to explore these ancient sand formations can reach the site via the main entrance along the coastal road of Carr. Máximo Gomez. It costs 100 Dominican Pesos (roughly two USD) to enter the dune field, which can be traversed by a single 1.5-kilometer route, known as the Santanilla trail. If you wish to experience the place in full swing, you can bring a boogie board and sled your way downhill. Take note that the sand conducts heat exceedingly well, and therefore, barefoot walkers or flip-flop wearers will find the hike an extremely difficult endeavor to pull off.