DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – With a heaping 25 percent of its lush green land and pristine coastal areas protected as national parks, reserves and sanctuaries, the DR is the most bio-diverse country in the Caribbean and is a major destination for ecotourists, most notably for whale watching in Samana Bay. Since 1962, the DR has led the Caribbean in preserving sensitive eco-systems through partnerships with leaders like the Nature Conservancy, the United Nations and the Smithsonian to establish powerful environmental protections. In turn, the DR offers an array of eco-friendly activities for travelers pursuing adventures that best promote conservation and preservation issues.
The DR’s reserves and sanctuaries are a vital tourism draw to the DR’s fabled lush green surroundings. The Sanctuary for Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic is one of the most renowned and at 200 square miles (518 square kilometers) it surrounds the Peninsula of Samana. Considered one of the first whale sanctuaries in the world, it was established in 1966 and has been expanded since then to ensure the best protection for whales.
Each winter, 3,000 to 5,000 whales migrate to the warm crystalline waters of the Bay of Samana. Whale-watching season begins in mid-January and continues through the end of March, however, excursions are available as long as whales remain in the bay.
These gentle creatures migrate with intentions of mating and giving birth. While the males assertively romp in the outer bays competing for females, the females reside along the shallow waters of the inner bay to provide a nursery for their young. Explore and enjoy these top 10 ecotourism activities and hotspots according to each region of the DR:
Northeast Coast Region
Whale Watching on Samana Bay – Whale watching tours are offered for guests to observe the humpback whales and listen to their song at a close range without endangering them or risking their safety. Nestled among the Caribbean mountains on the Northeast Coast of the DR, the Samana Peninsula is famous for its quiet, unspoiled beaches, radiant turquoise ocean waters and lush green mountains, making it an “off-the-beaten-path” destination for eco-tourists.
Discover Los Haitises National Park – Known for tropical mangrove forests and rich biodiversity, Los Haitises National Park offers visitors a chance to explore its natural splendor by hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding through the subtropical forest. Furthermore, this national park boasts impressive caves once inhabited by the Taino Indians who left behind ancient cave drawings and pottery on the dusty cavern floors.
Cascade the 27 Falls – There is nothing more thrilling than jumping, sliding and cascading down 43 foot rushing waters into a plethora of sparkling pools. A mere 30 minutes away from Puerto Plata, adventure travelers will discover the 27 Waterfalls of Damajagua.
Kite Board on Kite Beach – The Kiteboard Capital of the World, Cabarete Bay, is located a half an hour east of Puerto Plata and is the premiere destination for tourists seeking adventure. Cabarete Bay possesses temperate weather and perfect trade winds, making for an ideal location for water sports like kiteboarding, cascading, scuba diving, surfing, boogie-boarding and more.
Hike to the Salto de Jimenoa Waterfall – Hikers are sure to enjoy the climb to Salto de Jimenoa in Jarabacoa, a 131-foot-high magnificent waterfall, which offers unequivocal views of the canyon below. Unparalleled in beauty, the open canyon is surrounded by verdant flora and marvelous rock formations.
Climb Pico Duarte – Seasoned hikers flock to climb Pico Duarte, which as 10,560 feet, is the highest mountain in the Caribbean. Pico Duarte, in addition to other impressive peaks, lies within the Central Cordillera Mountain Range in Jarabacoa. Hikers, campers and mountain bikers alike frequent this region for some of the country’s most sensational outdoor experiences and views.
South Coast Region
Explore Tres Ojos – Los Tres Ojos National Park, a national park of the Cave of Three Eyes, is located on the South Coast and is a perfect destination for ecotourists in search of an unparalleled caving adventure through magnificent limestone caves and fresh springs. Further east in La Romana, adventurers can uncover Cueva de las Maravillas, or Cave of Miracles, another series of brilliant caves with Taino drawings encrypted on the inner walls.
Catamaran to Isla Saona – A prime destination for island-hopping, Isla Saona lies just off of the Southeast Coast of the DR, nestled in the National Park of the East. Stretching 42 square miles, Isla Saona is the country’s largest off-shore island and boasts 112 species of birds, turtles, sharks, bottle-nose dolphins, whales and manatees.
Cruise Lake Enriquillo – At 15 feet below sea level, Lake Enriquillo is the lowest point in the Caribbean and is just one of the many stunning areas that make up the Jaragua-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve. In addition to Lake Enriquillo, the Southwest region features a plethora of rich biodiversity, which includes highlands, arid deserts, mud banks and lagoons. Visitors can also spot mesmerizing crocodiles, wild iguanas, colorful flamingos and other exotic reptiles and birds.
Dive and Snorkel DR Waters – Home to 1,000 miles of pristine beaches, the DR has endless snorkeling and diving opportunities. From Sosua to Punta Cana, travelers can find dozens of prime spots with clear waters and beautiful sea life, including bygone shipwrecks, schools of colorful fish, ancient caves and vibrant coral reefs.