Jarabacoa Flower Festival Parade

It was a tough one last weekend. I was either going southwest of the DR to cover the Mango Festival in Bani, which I attended last year, or to the center of the country for the Jarabacoa Flower Festival in the mountains. There was also a seafood festival in Sanchez, but I didn’t feel the need to return to that one.

In the end, mountains, fresh air, horses, and flowers won me over!

The Jarabacoa Flower Festival takes place every year in June, stretching over a four-day weekend. It’s a celebration of all that represents the beautiful, small mountain town of Jarabacoa: flowers from the numerous local nurseries, lots of horses and avid riders, traditional merengue tunes, and a stunning great outdoors of mountains, pine trees, waterfalls, and cool air that comes with being at over 1,000 feet above sea level. Aaah! Every time I come up to Jarabacoa, I wonder why the heck I don’t live there instead.

But that’s for another post.

I had a great time capturing the rancho scenes of a Jarabacoa lifestyle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many fierce looking male and female horseback riders, or horses, in one place. It was like being in an old western movie scene.

Jarabacoa Horse Parade

The Market Place

The center of the action was the festival’s main marketplace, featuring flower nurseries, vendor booths, art galleries, a zumba stage, ziplining, food, and drinks. And beautiful flower frames ready for portrait or selfie snapping.

I was dying to buy a few flower pots for my place–I still kick myself– but wouldn’t have been able to carry them all because I didn’t have my own car to head back to Santo Domingo.

The Horse Contest

The winning rider and horse.

There was a paso fino horse contest–these horses first came to the island with the Spanish–with participants including women, men, and one fierce young boy.  Unfortunately, the contest took such a long time to kick off (scheduled for 10am in the official program, but started at 1pm), that the audience was sparse. I stuck around and got some nice footage–see the video recap at the end of this post.

The Flower Umbrella & Hat Contest

Anyone was welcome to register on site to complete in the flower and umbrella hat contest. To be eligible, your hat or umbrella had to be made from at least 50% fresh flowers. These three stood out from the pack.

Flower umbrellas and hats contest at the festival. They had to be made with at least 50% fresh flowers.

Flower umbrellas and hats contest at the festival. They had to be made with at least 50% fresh flowers.

The Parade

The main Jarabacoa Flower Festival parade took place on the Saturday, kicking off around 5pm. Don’t miss it to glimpse just how much Jarabacoans love their horses and ranch lifestyle. They go up and back down Avenida La Confluencia. It’s short, but it’s packed with horses, flower action… and of course, some riders taking a swig or two of Presidente.

Real men love flowers.

It’s small, but Jarabacoa’s Flower Festival is worth catching while you’re in town. And if you love horses or flowers, you won’t be disappointed.

A Weekend Escape

If you’re visiting from nearby in Santo Domingo or Santiago, make a weekend out of it, like I did, as well as many other locals I met who were staycationing. From Santo Domingo, you can hop on Caribe Tours bus–it goes direct to Jarabacoa for just RD$300 (US$6); or rent your own car.

On Sunday, I hiked to a waterfall, because you can’t come to this mountainous region and not enjoy the great, green Dominican outdoors. If you’re up for a greater challenge, head on a two-day Pico Duarte mountain climbing expedition.

I stayed at my usual digs while Jarabacoa, my favorite place to stay in the area–check out the video for more about Jarabacoa Mountain Hostel (It’s one of my top picks in Moon Dominican Republic and I previously wrote about it for ShermansTravel.

For more details on where to eat in Jarabacoa, and additional excursions–including hiking Pico Duarte with my recommended tour guide–be sure to grab a copy of Moon Dominican Republic.

Enjoy, and share the post if you love it. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel, join me on Instagram, Facebook, and hop on the Dominican Republic Visitor caravan.

Lebawit Lily Girma

A former corporate attorney, Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning travel writer, photographer, and author of several Caribbean guidebooks for US-publisher Moon Travel Guides, including Moon Belize, Belize Cayes, and Moon Dominican Republic. Originally from Ethiopia, Lily calls herself a “culture-holic”–fluent in four languages, she has lived in eight countries besides the U.S., including Belize, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. Her articles and photography focusing on the Caribbean region have been published in AFAR Magazine, CNN, BBC, Delta Sky, The Guardian, and others. She is the recipient of the 2016 Marcia Vickery Wallace Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism from the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

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