Many visitors who come to Punta Cana Bavaro look for a keepsake to forever remember their vacation. But what to choose with so many knickknacks, paintings, cigars, magnets, t-shirts; the list goes on and on. What if we told you that the ocean could come home with you? That those penetrating bluish-turquoise waters of our shores could be captured in an object that fits in the palm of your hands.
This keepsake is called Larimar – a rare semiprecious blue pectolite only found in the Dominican Republic. Chances are your resort jewelry store will have plenty of Larimar pieces for purchase, but if you’re up for an adventure, why not go to the source? To the Larimar mines in Bahoruco.
Bahoruco, in the Dominican Republic’s Southwest, is the only place in the world where Larimar is found. The name Larimar comes from Miguel Méndez, a peace corps voluteer, who in 1974 is credited for bringing Larimar to the world. Larimar was already known to locals, who believed the stone came directly from the sea. Méndez combined his daughter’s name, Larissa, and the Spanish word for sea (mar) and formed Larimar.
The Larimar mines in Bahoruco are a must see for those who have the grit to escape their resort and arrive in the Dominican Republic’s rugged Southwest. The mines are the lifeline for many locals in the area who depend on mining Larimar to make a living. Local miners spend eight to nine hour days mining this stone deep in the mountains of Bahoruco. With only an aged oxygen pump, connected to make-shift electrical wiring and held up by sticks (literally), these miners are lowered to depths of up to 700 ft. in incredibly dark, humid and claustrophobic spaces. The job is to mine Larimar, the hope is to find a slab of deep blue colored Larimar, the most sought after and expensive. For a miner, this is like winning the lottery.
These mines are the source of Larimar, so be ready for great prices and unique pieces no gift shop or jewelry store could ever offer you; such as crude Larimar, polished pieces and even pieces already set in jewelry. Local miners are very friendly and will have no problem taking visitors inside a mine or two since this gives them the perfect opportunity to sell direct to potential buyers.
Remember that the mines are cramped, hot and muddy. You’ll have the opportunity to walk into the mines about 20 meters and then take a peek down the mine’s plummeting shaft. If you’re claustrophobic or don’t feel like getting muddy, stay outside. In any case, entering the mines is an up-close chance to see the life-threatening work these miners perform on a daily basis to bring us this precious stone that captures the radiant blue colors off our Dominican shores.
Thousands of tourists bring home Larimar as a keepsake, but only a select few make the trip to the stone’s source and have a great story to tell when others back home ask: Where did you buy that?
Allot approximately seven hours to arrive from Punta Cana Bavaro to Bahoruco. Take the highway from Punta Cana to Santo Domingo. You will enter Santo Domingo at 27 de Febrero Avenue. Take 27 de Febrero Avenue to its end at the Plaza de la Bandera Circle. Make the second right on the circle on Prologación 27 de Febrero. After the first traffic light, bear to the right for the Autopista 6 de Noviembre. This highway will take you from the capital to Barahona (approximately 3 hours).
Traveling east-west from Barahona towards Bahoruco, the turnoff for the Larimar mines is just past Hotel Pontevedra on the right hand side. It is recommended that you rent a 4×4 vehicle for this trip. If you cannot, park your car in the Hotel Potevedra lot. At the mine’s road entrance, across the street, there are numerous motoconcho drivers (motorcycle taxis) that will take you up to the Larimar mines.
Hotel el Quemaito is an excellent choice if you need to spend the night close to the Larimar mines. They have spacious rooms, superb restaurant and grounds on a seaside cliff overlooking the ocean.
TJ MurrayBavaro, Dominican Republic
TJ Murray is a writer/photographer and an expert on travel in the Dominican Republic. He has wandered the country's furthest reaches and smallest corners and has a passion for highlighting his favorite destinations through travel articles and photography. When TJ isn't traveling in the Dominican Republic, he is trekking in South America or surfing where he lives in Bavaro, Dominican Republic.