The Dominican Republic is well-known for its lively all-inclusive resorts and the beauty of its white sand beaches. But this popular Caribbean destination is also home to incredible outdoor experiences in national parks. Whether hiking through tropical rainforests, swimming under cascading waterfalls, ziplining over cenotes or snorkeling in pristine turquoise waters fringed by coconut palms, the Dominican Republic’s national parks invite visitors to experience some of the best adventures that this spectacular island nation has to offer.
Here are six national parks you can’t miss:
27 Charcos de Damajagua
The 27 Waterfalls (Charcos) of Damajagua are one of the Dominican Republic’s most outstanding natural attractions. The trek and waterfall visits must be done through a guided excursion, which usually includes seeing 10 to 12 of the park’s 27 waterfalls, a great number for families. But if you have time and are physically ready for an energetic adventure, try canyoning, rappelling and sliding down waterfalls into refreshing chalky blue pools on a full day visit to the stunning Charcos de Damajagua.
Closest city: Puerto Plata
Situated on Dominican Republic’s north coast, Laguna Dudu’s network of freshwater lagoons offers an aquatic playground surrounded by steep natural cliffs and lush rainforest. Swim or paddle a kayak in the turquoise lagoons and try the makeshift zipline where guests can drop a few feet into the water below. Caving is a popular activity here; people come to view slow-growing stalactites and stalagmite formations and 30-metre-high walls decorated with pre-Columbian Taino art.
Closest city: Puerto Plata
Salto El Limón
One of Dominican Republic’s most beautiful waterfalls, Salto El Limón is a popular destination for adventurers. A short 2.5-kilometre hike (wear hiking shoes as there will be muddy sections and a small river crossing) through a thick forest of birdsong brings you to the impressive El Limon waterfall. The water tumbles down 40 metres from the top of Sierra de Samaná into a freshwater emerald-green pool. The area can get quite busy during high season, so start your adventure early in the day and pack a swimsuit for a post-hike dip.
Closest city: Samaná
Los Haitises National Park
Los Haitises, or ‘highlands’ in the Taíno language, consist of jutting rock formations stretching over 1,600 square-kilometres off the northeast coast of the island. One of the Dominican Republic’s largest protected areas, the karst mounds are covered in dense rainforest that is home to hundreds of bird species, including the cigua palmera, the country’s national bird, as well as mangroves and caves with some of the highest numbers of Taíno petroglyphs and pictographs in the country. Head out in a kayak or small boat to explore the park’s protected bay in this natural and cultural refuge.
Closest city: Samaná
The white sand island paradise of Saona Island is a 90-minute catamaran boat ride south of the mainland. Part of Cotubanamá National Park, the island’s azure blue waters are perfect for swimming and snorkeling among dolphins, manatees and coral reefs, while cool shade can be found underneath a large grove of ubiquitous palm trees. Pack binoculars along with your bathing suit to catch a glimpse of more than 500 species of flowers and hundreds of birds. The island’s proximity to popular tourist towns La Romana and Punta Cana means Saona can get quite busy during high season.
Closest city: Punta Cana
Bahía de las Aguilas
Leave the crowds behind and head to this stunning, remote beach in Jaragua National Park. Bahía de las Aguilas (Eagle’s Beach) is in the country’s southwest region and is reputed to be one of the most beautiful stretches of sugar white sand in the Dominican Republic. Find a spot in the shade under a coconut palm, dive into the pristine turquoise waters and let your worries float away with the tide. The beach’s remoteness means that you may have this paradise all to yourself, so be sure to pack in and out your supplies—there aren’t many services here.
Closest city: Santo Domingo
This article was sponsored by the Dominican Republic
Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the north and the Caribbean Sea on the south, our lush tropical island paradise boasts nearly 1,609 km of coastline, 402 km of the world’s top beaches, magnificent resorts and hotels, and a variety of sports, recreation and entertainment options.
Here you can dance to the pulse pounding thrill of the merengue, renew in our luxurious and diverse accommodations, explore ancient relics of centuries past, delight in delicious Dominican gastronomy or enjoy ecotourism adventures in our magnificent national parks, mountain ranges, rivers, and beaches.