Pico Duarte is the highest peak in all the Caribbean islands. It lies in the Cordillera Central range, the greatest of the Dominican Republic's mountain chains. The Cordillera Central extends from the plains between San Cristóbal and Baní to the northwestern peninsula of Haiti, where it is known as Massif du Nord. The highest elevations of the Cordillera Central are found in the Pico Duarte and Valle Nuevo massifs.
The Pico Duarte was allegedly climbed for the first time in 1851 by the British consul to the country, Sir Robert Hermann Schomburgk. He named the mountain Monte Tina and estimated its height at 3,140 m. In 1912, Father Miguel Fuertes dismissed Schomburgk's calculations after climbing La Rucilla and considering that it was the tallest summit of the island. A year later, the Swedish botanist Erik Leonard Ekman sided with the Englishman's estimate, thinking it was closer to the truth, and called the sister summits as Pelona Grande and Pelona Chica ("Big Pelona" and "Small Pelona", respectively). During the Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina regime, the taller of the two was called Pico Trujillo, only to be renamed later, after the dictator's death, with its current name of Pico Duarte, in honor of Juan Pablo Duarte, one of the Dominican Republic's founding fathers. An east-facing bronze bust of Duarte atop a stone pedestal sits today at the very summit, next to a flagpole that bears the Dominican banner and a cross.