When you think of the Dominican Republic, you are likely to think of its idyllic beaches with crystal clear waters framed by rows of coconut palm trees. Lovers of natural tourism, however, will view this Caribbean destination from a different perspective: a perfect spot for ecotourism, yet to be exploited
Mangrove forests, tropical jungles, lush green natural parks and coffee and cocoa fields are just some of the attractions which allow visitors to enjoy nature in its purest form. The Dominican Republic has a claim to being one of the Caribbean’s best ecotourism destinations.
The country is located on the second largest Antilles island, with 25% of its surface area covered by beautiful national parks and scientific reserves. The Dominican Republic is home to 128 protected areas—including 15 nature reserves and 32 national parks—with a diversity of ecosystems that is unrivalled in the Caribbean.
Hiking is one of the favourite activities for ecotourists in the Dominican Republic, as it algives them the opportunity to discover the country’s unique topography. It offers several easily walkable trails, some of which are tree-lined and others which open up onto beautiful beaches; other trails are more demanding, requiring greater preparation and base levels of fitness.
The Cotubanamá National Park—also known as the Eastern National Park—is one of the country’s natural treasures and is one of its most popular parks in the Dominican Republic. It is home to the Padre Nuestro Ecological Trail, comprising a two-kilometre route through a tropical wet forest.
This National Park is the habitat of 500 different plants and 300 species of birds. Visitors can also find stretches of white sandy beaches, as Catalina Island and Saona Island are also considered as Dominican territory. With regards to Saona Island, visitors should note that this is the most popular excursion in the entire Dominican Republic.
Staying in the east, we recommend discovering other natural attractions in the Altagracia province such as the Hoyo Azul, a cenote that will tempt you into taking a refreshing dip; and the Ojos Indígenas Ecological Reserve, boasting a stunning series of natural swimming pools surrounded by dense, leafy plants.
Other magnificent natural spaces also await tourists in northern Dominican Republic. In the El Seibo province, the Lagunas Redonda y Limón Natural Scientific Reserve is home to several indigenous plant and animal species. Meanwhile, the Los Haitises National Park, located in Samaná Bay, dazzles with its spectacular karstic islands that emerge from the water, entirely covered in plants and mangroves.
One of the most authentic experiences offered by the Dominican Republic is the chance to feel the heartbeat of its local communities. Being a safe country, the Dominican Republic encourages visitors to explore its inland provinces, enjoying its charming rural way of life. Some cocoa and coffee plantations offer guided tours to visitors, giving tourists a first-hand look at how these products are grown and prepared for trade: a great opportunity to learn from the hands of local agricultural experts.
The inland areas of the Dominican Republic comprise its beating green heart, offering all the authenticity that an ecotourist could possibly ask for. The excursion par excellence may well be the climb up Pico Duarte—the country’s highest point—lying at 3,098 metres above sea level. At this altitude, the temperatures diverge greatly from those associated with tropical Dominican climates, reaching lows of zero degrees Celsius.
The trip to Pico Duarte and the Valle del Tetero, offered by many different tour companies, can be undertaken at all times of year. Tourists will usually depart from Jarabacoa, with the trip being completed in 2, 3 or 4 nights depending on the itinerary of choice. “Climbing” to the Dominican heavens won’t leave any ecotourists disappointed, as the views are simply spectacular.