Parque Nacional Del Este

The National Park of the East lies in the southeastern part of the island, comprising some 310 sq. km (120 sq. miles) of dry forest, one of the largest such forests in the Caribbean. The park is home to 112 known species of birds, a total of eight endemic to the Dominican Republic including the Hispaniolan lizard-cuckoo, the black-crowned oriole, the black-crowned palm tanager, the limpkin, and the red-legged thrush.

This is a most intriguing park to explore as it is the site of trails, cliffs, caves, mangrove estuaries, sandy beaches, and even Taíno Indian ruins. Traversing the park is hell, however, as no roads lead into its luxuriant interior. The usual method of exploring it is to hire a boat in Bayahibe and travel in a direction that's parallel to the shoreline, checking out the terrain along the water's edge. Often you'll see trails where, if you can convince the pilot to moor his craft for a while, you can hike into the interior.

The road leading into Bayahibe ends at a car park, often filled with tour buses. If you're not part of a group, you can negotiate with one of the captains for a tour of the park, going as far as Peñón Gordo on the park's western coast. A 2-hour trip usually costs RD$2,100 per person.

At one of two park ranger stations you must pay a RD$105 entrance fee. The ranger station is at the park's western entrance near Bayahibe. It is from this point that tours are offered along a marked trail leading to a nearby cave filled with bats and owls. This trail is the most visited because it is the most scenic on the island, although there are several wilder trails as well, but one should hire a guide or sign up for an organized excursion before attempting to explore in the wilderness. Note: You should not try to visit this untamed park on your own.

Yet another ranger station is set near the town of Boca del Yuma on the eastern side of the park. Rangers here will guide you along the most scenic trail, which runs parallel to the coast.

Although nothing is particularly organized here, if you are an adventurous person you can usually negotiate with one of the local boatmen at the dock to take you to Isla Saona, where you'll find good beaches, a handful of fishermen's cottages, and lots of sand flies. Speedboats, catamarans, or trimaran take passengers over, but there is no central booking station.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.