Natural Heritage and Science Education - Dominican Republic

The Cave of the Wonders is located west of La Romana on the San Pedro de Macorís-La Romana highway, near the Soco River and Playa Nueva Romana. It has some of the best and most numerous examples of indigenous Taino rock art (dating back 500 to 800 years) found in the eastern part of the island. Around 500 paintings and engravings on rock have been counted and many can be seen on the 787-foot (240-meter) trail inside the cave.

Students and teachers can learn about stalactites and stalagmites...
We can trace the words stalactite and stalagmite back to the Greek word "stalassein," which means "to drip". This is fitting because it describes how both are formed in nature. Although they look lifelike and a little creepy, stalactites and stalagmites grow simply because of water running over and through inorganic material.

Limestone caves, where most stalactites and stalagmites are found, are mainly composed of calcite, a common mineral found in sedimentary rocks. Calcite molecules are made of calcium and carbonate ions, and are referred to as CaCO3, or calcium carbonate. When rainwater falls over a cave and trickles through rocks, it picks up carbon dioxide and minerals from limestone. If we add water, carbon dioxide and calcium carbonate together, we get this equation:

H20 + CO2 + CaCO3 = Ca (HCO3)2

Ca (HCO3)2 is known as calcium bicarbonate, and the water carries the substance, basically dissolved calcite, through the cracks of the roof of a cave.

The caves are significant in Taino origin mythology. Distinctive petroglyphs made by the early Taino are etched on rocks around the island and on stalagmites in caves across the island.

The Cuevas de las Maravillas have been open to the public since 2003. Although the cave has come under criticism for the way in which paths and lighting were installed, possibly damaging some of the caved geologic features, it was awarded the 2003 Gold prize in the International Landscape Architecture Bienal Award.