Dominican Republic // The southeast //

Parque Nacional del Este

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Bayahibe sits on the northwest edge of expansive PARQUE NACIONAL DEL ESTE, a peninsula jutting south into the Caribbean and also encompassing Isla Saona, just across a small bay and easily accessible by boat. The national park features a maze of forests, mangroves, trails, caves and cliffs, an impressive array of birdlife and, on the cultural side, some signs of early Taino activity. Not much of the park, however, is conveniently accessible; in fact, no roads lead directly into its interior, and the best method of approach is to hire boats from Bayahibe to hit specific points along the rim, from where you can hike inland. Wherever you go in the park, wear plenty of insect repellent against the ubiquitous mosquitoes and a sizeable population of wasps. Watch out, too, for tarantulas, though they won’t bother you unless they’re antagonized.

The most popular part of the park – and rightfully so – is Isla Saona, an island off the southern coast lined with alternating stretches of idyllic, coconut tree-backed beachfront and mangrove swamp, unpopulated except for one fishing hamlet of around three hundred families. That said, the tourist traffic on Saona has increased exponentially in recent years and it has begun to feel more like high season at Miami’s South Beach in parts, prompting the more discerning operators to look for alternative spots, such as Isla Catalinita.

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