Los Tres Ojos — which translates in English to The Three Eyes — is a national park in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. It is an open-air cave system, inside of which are three crystal clear cave lakes. Three lakes, three eyes. You get it.
In this post, we’ll take you to Los Tres Ojos National Park. We’ll explain what the experience is like, plus all of the logistical information you need to plan a perfect visit. Keep reading to learn more about Los Tres Ojos!
What is Los Tres Ojos?
Los Tres Ojos National Park is an open air cave system, meaning that it is not completely enclosed by rock (there is not a “roof”). The caves have stalactites hanging down and stalagmites rising up from the rock, which makes it feel unmistakably like a cave even as daylight shines in.
There are three cave lakes inside, which are fed by an underground river. The lakes are located about 50 feet below the surface, and can be accessed via stairs and pathways. (You cannot swim in the lakes.) The lakes and caves are home to a small ecosystem of fish, turtles and bats.
There is also a fourth freshwater lake accessible from the cave via a small pulley boat. It also requires walking about 40 feet through a covered portion of the cave to reach the fourth lake on the other side.
The caves at Los Tres Ojos were formed from limestone thousands of years ago. Posted signs in the park state that the cave was once fully covered, but the ceiling collapsed at the end of the ice age and created the sink holes we see today.
Evidence also suggests Indigenous peoples used the caves for religious ceremonies long before Columbus arrived on the island in the late 1400s. The caves were “discovered” in 1916 and were named a national park in 1972.
Above ground, Los Tres Ojos National Park also has a few walking paths. The paths circle the perimeter of the cave system and the fourth lake from above.
Can you swim at Los Tres Ojos
There is no swimming allowed in the lakes at Los Tres Ojos.
Where is Los Tres Ojos
Los Tres Ojos is located on the far east side of Este Park in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. You can only enter Los Tres Ojos national park from the main entrance on the north side of the park. You can view the official address and get directions here.
How to get to Los Tres Ojos from Zona Colonial
Zona Colonial is the historical center and main tourism district of Santo Domingo — aka where most tourists are coming from. Fortunately, Zona Colonial is only about 4 miles away from Los Tres Ojos, so it’s pretty quick and easy to get to.
There are a few different ways to get to Los Tres Ojos from Zona Colonial, but here are the two best options:
- Take an Uber. When we checked, rides were listed at about $4 USD. In most cases, this is the best option. (IMPORTANT: There is no wifi at Los Tres Ojos. You will need to have cellular data available to request your return ride from the park.)
- Schedule private transport. The best way to do this is to work with your hotel and ask them to schedule it for you. If you’re traveling with a child who needs a car seat, requesting a car service that has a car seat is likely you’re best/only option. This option is most expensive, costing us $78 USD round trip, plus tip.
Other transit options
There is also a public bus which runs from north of Zona Colonial to the Los Tres Ojos entrance (route). To the best of my knowledge, this should cost about 20 DOP (30 cents USD). While we are very pro public transportation over here, the schedules aren’t posted in advance and wait times are known to be long.
Taxis are also available, but aren’t always ideal for tourists. Drivers typically only speak Spanish, rates can be inflated, and they usually only take cash. Many will take USD as well as DOP, but you better believe your USD prices are going to be higher.
There’s also free parking in a small lot near the entrance if you happen to be driving yourself.
How much does it cost?
Entrance to Los Tres Ojos costs 200 DOP for non-locals (100 DOP for Dominicans). They accept cash and major credit cards. The ticket office is located beside the main entrance.
The boat to the fourth lake costs an additional 50 DOP (25 DOP for children). You don’t need to buy a ticket in advance or at the ticket booth. Simply take the boat to the fourth lake, and then you will be asked to pay in cash on the ride back.
When is Los Tres Ojos open?
Los Tres Ojos is open every day from 9 AM to 5 PM. The last entry is usually around 3 PM.
How much time do you need at Los Tres Ojos?
You can quickly see most of Los Tres Ojos in about one hour. We suggest planning for two full hours.
That will ensure you have time to see all three cave lakes, plus have time to take the boat to the forth lake. You’ll also then have time to walk the pathways around the lakes and caves from above and grab a snack and drink if you need it.
Amenities & Services at Los Tres Ojos
- Bathrooms: Free bathrooms are available inside the park (follow posted signs)
- Food & Drinks: There is a small snack stand that has a few food & beverage options. Cash only.
- Wifi: No
- Shops: There is a small handicraft market at the exit. Sales people can be a put aggressive, but just smile and move along.
- Parking: Free parking is available near the entrance
Tips for Los Tres Ojos
- Go early. Plan to arrive within an hour of open to beat the tour group crowds. That’s also the coolest time to visit.
- Bring cash. The boat to the fourth lake and the snack stand only take cash (DOP)
- Know how you’re getting back. If you’re planning to use Uber, be sure you have international data on your phone because there is no wifi. If you have a car service, make sure you confirm when and where they are picking you up.
- Don’t skip the fourth lake. The boat ride and the forth lake were my favorite part. It’s one of the most beautiful views and the cave-iest cave experience. Don’t skip it!
- Bring a baby carrier. If you’re visiting with a baby or toddler, bring a baby carrier. You will not be able to use a stroller in the caves. I cover some of my favorite baby carriers for travel here.
- Visit early in your trip. If visiting Los Tres Ojos is important to you, plan it for the first morning of your trip. That way if it rains or something goes wrong with your transportation that day, you have another morning to try again. There’s nothing worse than planning something for your last day, then something goes wrong, and you miss out.
- Be prepared for bugs. While we didn’t notice any mosquitos or biting bugs during our visit, other people have reported that. Bring bug spray or wear (cool) long sleeves and pants.
- Negotiate with tour guides. There will be tour guides near the entrance offering their services. I’ve read that they do know their stuff, and have interesting facts to share. If you choose to hire one, be sure to negotiate and agree on the price in advance.
What to wear
The most important thing is to wear cool, comfortable clothes. It can be hot and humid in the caves, particularly in the afternoon and during summer months. It can also be buggy, particularly in the summer, so consider wearing light long sleeves and pants or packing bug spray for exposed skin.
There are lots of steps and the rocks are uneven, so wear comfortable shoes with decent traction.
All that said, it’s still not a particularly physical activity. Our family dressed in full athleisure and sneakers, but plenty of other people there were wearing dresses and sandals. I did regret not wearing a cuter outfit, as I think I would have been just fine in a skirt and white sneakers.
Our Experience at Los Tres Ojos
During our recent three day trip to Santo Domingo, we visited Los Tres Ojos on a Saturday morning. We were a family of three, with two adults and one 2-year-old (Zoe). Here’s how it went.
This trip taught us something we never realized before. Traveling with a child who needs a carseat is really tricky — and expensive.
While car seats are not legally required in the Dominican Republic, we were not comfortable with our child in a car without one. We could have brought our own and installed it in an Uber, but then we didn’t have anywhere to keep the car seat when we got there. That wasn’t going to work either. Typically we rely on public transportation in this scenario, but we didn’t want to deal with long bus waits with a toddler.
Instead, we arranged a car service with a driver and car seat through our hotel. This cost us $78 + tip (another 1000 DOP or $18 USD). Going through our hotel was helpful because they spoke English and many drivers don’t. It was very helpful for them to be able to translate and make all the plans for us.
Our pickup was scheduled for 9 AM and our driver was outside our hotel when we walked outside. The 20 minute drive ended up taking over 30 minutes due to a road closure, but we got a nice drive around the park.
Arrival & entry
We arrived at 9:37 and went straight to the ticket office, which had signage in Spanish and English. There was a large tour group arriving at the same time as us, but they let us purchase our tickets first. We easily purchased our tickets with cash, but credit card was an option. They gave us each a wristband as our ticket.
There were a few tour guides around, which I had been warned about, but no one tried particularly hard to sell us.
The entrance was just a few feet from the ticket booth. They checked our wristbands and we walked right in. We immediately saw the marked entrance to the caves, a few signs with information (in Spanish & English), and sidewalks leading off in other directions. From the sidewalk, we could see down into the caves and lakes.
We decided to do the caves first, and then explore the walking paths and beyond.
The three eyes
We followed the stairs down into the caves. It didn’t really feel like caves at this point, but more like just taking the stairs down a steep hill. There were quite a few stairs down and around the lakes, but they weren’t too bad. Our toddler handled them fine with a firm hand hold.
The steps were covered at the beginning as they went under the sidewalks, but the space pretty quickly opened up to direct sunlight. The lakes themselves were set back deeper into the caves and more covered by hanging stalactites, but it still felt very open and not claustrophobic.
The paths were all clearly marked and lead to different viewing points around the three eyes. We visited all three eyes in 30 minutes. The lakes were all pretty close together and just took a few minutes to walk between.
The first one was our favorite, but they were all beautiful. We spotted bats and a few fish, but didn’t see any our turtles. Our toddler loved climbing on the rocks, checking for bears (didn’t find any!) and finding spider webs. It wasn’t a place you’d want your toddler running/climbing solo, but we felt comfortable letting them climb a bit while we held their hand.
The fourth lake
When we reached the third cave lake (La Nevera), we saw the small boat carrying people across the fourth lake. Originally, we weren’t sure if we’d do the boat, but once we were there, we figured “why not?”
The “boat” was really just a raft, with seating for 8-10 people. It was pulled across the small pond by hand using a pulley system. There was a line for the boat, but we only waited about 10 minutes.
This was the cave-iest part of the cave. The boat ride felt very mystical as we floated through a covered portion of the cave. It only took a few minutes to reach the other side.
When we got off, we took a short walk over a rocky pathway to reach the lake. There was lots of stalactites and stalagmites in this area, and it felt way more adventurous than it was. The dark cave gave way to the bright green and blue of the fourth lake and it was truly beautiful.
I’m so glad we went on this extra adventure because the view of the fourth lake from inside the caves was the most beautiful scene of the trip. We spent 20 minutes at the lake, which included a toddler snack break and some playtime on the rocks.
There was no line for the boat on our return. We paid for the journey in cash, which cost 100 DOP. The sign read 50 DOP for adults and 25 DOP for children, but they didn’t charge us for our 2 year old. I’m not sure what the official age cutoff was for that.
Snacks & bathrooms
I had read in a different review that there were no food or drinks available, but I was happy to find that was not the case. There is indeed a snack stand at Los Tres Ojos that sells food and drinks. It was easy to find by following the brightly colored signs around the walking paths.
Most importantly, the snack stand had beverages. I got a coffee with cream, which turned out to be a microwaved instant coffee concoction. It wasn’t great, but I knew what I was in for. Kenny made a better call and got a local Presidente beer. They also had water and a couple other things.
They had a few food items too, including a warmer with empanadas and hotdogs, muffins, and packaged chips and cookies. I wouldn’t plan to have a full meal there, but it was nice to have a few options.
On our way to the snack stand, we also passed the bathrooms which were perfectly acceptable indoor bathrooms.
There was walking paths that looped around the caves and three eyes below, as well as a big loop that followed along the fourth lake.
The first loop around the main caves and lakes was hard to miss. It was right near the entrance, and we walked it without even trying just following signs to snacks or bathrooms. It was cool to see the caves and lakes we’d just walked through from a new perspective.
Then we took the path around the fourth lake. We’re fast walkers and it took us about 10 minutes. I suspect most people could do it in less than 20 minutes. The walk was just okay. We could see the lake below in a few places, but most of the time the pathway just looked like this:
I was expecting this to be a bit more impressive than it was. If you have extra time, do it. But if not, it’s fine to miss.
Exit & return to Zona Colonial
After two full hours at Los Tres Ojos, we were ready to head out. They cut off our bracelets at the exit, and then we had to walk through the handicraft market to leave.
There was a handful of stalls selling things from hats to painted flamingos to MLB team baseballs. Nothing was particularly unique, and certainly not different from anything we’d seen in souvenir shops in Zona Colonial. The sales people were a bit pushy (by American standards), but they easily let up when I said “No thank you.”
Our driver was scheduled to pick us up at noon. He arrived right on time, we strapped our kid into their car seat, and we were on our way back to the hotel.
Closing thoughts on Los Tres Ojos
Los Tres Ojos is a beautiful, unique natural park. It gives you the chance to experience caves and cave lakes without having to actually go too far under ground. There are stairs, but it’s not an overly intense physical activity, so it’s something people of many ages and abilities can enjoy.
Los Tres Ojos is a great activity and I’d recommend it to anyone visiting Santo Domingo. It’s easy to get to, doesn’t take too much time and is a great change of scenery from the old town. I don’t know that it’s necessarily worth a day trip from Punta Cana, though.
I was really excited about Los Tres Ojos, and it lived up to my expectations. I hope you enjoy it as well!