SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – As ecotourism rises in popularity, Dominican Republic is an attractive destination for travelers aiming to reconnect with nature. Numbers show that tourists are looking for vacations beyond the beach—Dominican Republic’s protected areas reported a total of nearly 1.38 million visitors in 2015, 80 percent of which were foreign visitors.
“Tourists are looking for new ways to disconnect from daily life and explore nature in an environmentally conscious way,” said Magaly Toribio, Marketing Advisor for the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism. “Dominican Republic is known for its natural beauty ranging from its famous beaches to lush mountains. We look forward to sharing it with travelers as we continue to develop ecotourism opportunities and welcome visitors looking for low impact trips.”
Seasoned scuba divers, casual bird watchers and overall lovers of nature are headed to destinations like these to explore Dominican Republic’s natural wonders:
• Jarabacoa is set against a breathtaking mountain backdrop in the Cordillera Central range. The area is home to picturesque waterfalls, including Salto de Jimenoa and Salto Baiguate (often explored on horseback). Pico Duarte, the highest peak in the Caribbean at 10,125 feet (3,087 meters), is accessible from Jarabacoa through two- to four-day trips where travelers can take in astounding panoramas from the top. For less rigorous exploration, a nearby garden hosts Dominican Republic’s first butterfly exhibit. The region is home to lodges and accommodations that offer a unique taste of rural life in Jarabacoa. Visitors can connect with the local culture by staying in rustic cabins and enjoying meals made with local organic produce.
• The Samaná Peninsula in the northeast is best known for lush jungle and world-class whale watching. Between January and March, tourists head to Samaná en masse to witness thousands of humpback whales in the Samaná Bay. The region is also dedicated to ensuring all area hotels are environmentally conscious. Guests can stay at everything from high-end luxury resorts to small tree house villages depending on their travel style, with most accommodations steps from the beach and activities including snorkeling, horseback riding and hiking. At Samaná’s Los Haitises National Park, visitors can explore the mangroves by kayak and tour the park’s caves to see immaculately preserved pictographs from the Taíno Indians. A horseback ride to the Salto El Limón waterfall is another can’t-miss natural attraction in Samaná, offering a rewarding dip in a calm pool beneath the falls.
• Puerto Plata, most well-known for its surfing and active travel activities, also offers visitors soft adventure options. Puerto Plata is known for its Cabarete Caves – a system of caves where travelers can swim and explore – as well as its series of waterfalls, the Saltos de Damajagua along with Ciguapa Falls. Visitors can also visit a local chocolate hacienda to witness cacao processing in action, from planting to the final product. Chocolate facials and mud baths are available for travelers looking to add on a spa-like experience.
• Barahona in the southwest offers unparalleled biodiversity and eco-activities such as bird watching, light hiking and surfing. While Dominican Republic is home to the Caribbean’s highest point, tourists can also find the region’s lowest point near Barahona at Lake Enriquillo. At 140 feet (43 meters) below sea level, Enriquillo is also the largest lake in the Caribbean. Here, and at nearby Isla Cabritos, visitors can observe American crocodiles, flamingos, iguanas and many more island species.
• The municipality of Constanza is nicknamed the “Switzerland of the Caribbean” and offers locals and tourists cool mountain temperatures that can drop into the single digits in the evening! Constanza is bordered by four national parks as well as the Ébano Verde Scientific Reserve, a hiking destination with more than 600 different species of flowers and plants and more than 100 different types of birds. A new, family-friendly bicycling route that showcases local plantations and educates visitors on the growth of local crops is also an ideal activity for travelers of all ages.
• In Bayahibe, scuba divers flock to the shore to explore the coral reef and the remains of the St. George and Atlantic Princess shipwrecks. Bayahibe’s calm, clear waters also appeal to snorkelers and stand-up paddle boarders. In addition to water activities, Cotubanamá Park, formerly known as the National Park of the East, is one of the area’s most popular attractions, delighting bird watchers and general nature enthusiasts alike. The park is home to sea turtles, dolphins, numerous species of fish and a spectacular array of flora and fauna.