Parque Mirador del Este
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Faro a Colón
Located in the Parque Mirador del Este (Eastern Lookout Park), the Lighthouse of Columbus (tel. 809/591-1492, 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Tues.–Sun., RD$100) cost a lot of money to build, was built in controversy, and houses controversy within as well.
On the eastern bank of the Río Ozama, this gigantic structure stands 10 stories high and is in the shape of a cross. When there is sufficient power (almost never) or on special occasions, the high-powered lights along the top shine into the night, forming a white cross in the sky. With one flick of a switch, the faro can cause a blackout throughout Santo Domingo and has become a rather tired joke among the locals.
However, inside the structure is what is truly interesting. In the midsection of the cross is a tomb, guarded by soldiers in all-white uniforms, containing what is thought by many to be Columbus’s remains. This is a controversial topic, as Spain and Italy both claim to have his remains elsewhere.
Throughout the rest of the long structure are various displays of the indigenous people from many different nations—an ironic juxtaposition with the highly glorified and proudly displayed remains of Columbus.
Los Tres Ojos
The Three Eyes (Parque Mirador del Este, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, US$1.75) have been a tourist draw for a very long time. Many tour groups stop here. Inside are caverns containing limestone sinkholes. A very steep staircase leads down to the underground caverns. Inside it is not a claustrophobia-inducing cave, but rather very tall and wide open.
While it is called “The Three Eyes” there are actually four pools (sinkholes) with stalactites all around. The pools are filled with very clear and frigid water. In the deepest pool the “Dominican Tarzan” will do a demonstration, climbing to a high point and jumping off into the depths, for a tip of course.
You can cross the third pool for an additional US$0.35 to the fourth hidden “eye.” It is quite a tourist trap, but a rather pretty one at that. The Taínos are said to have used these caves as places for religious ceremonies.
Just south of the Parque Mirador del Este is the National Aquarium (Av. España, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Tues.–Sun., US$1.50), which is best visited if you have kids to entertain. There is a tank with a Plexiglas underwater walkway where kids love to see the rays, turtles, and huge fish “fly” above them. Also on-site is a shark tank and turtle-breeding project. Kids have fun; adults may find it unimpressive.
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition