- Where to Go
- The Best of the Dominican Republic
- A Nature Lover’s Dominican Trek
- The Sexiest Dominican Beaches
- Historical Dominican Road Trip
- A Dominican Culture Tour
- Carnaval and Its Masks
- Planning Your Dominican Wedding
- Dominican Adventures
- Golfing the Dominican Republic
- Dominican Music and Dance
- La Ruta del Mango
- Day-Tripping in Monte Plata
- The Best Small Resorts
Opulent tourism and bucolic Dominican life strangely coexist in the Southeast region of the Dominican Republic. It is still not uncommon to see a motorcade of tour buses slowing down on the highway behind an oxen-driven cartload of sugarcane. It wasn’t until the latter part of the 20th century that tourism really took off in this section of the republic, and the one-time rookie region quickly became the nation’s leading economic powerhouse, overthrowing the incumbent Puerto Plata on the north coast as the favorite destination for travelers looking for paradise. The agricultural, livestock, and sugarcane industries that once ruled the area have had to bow down to the powerful allure of the pristine beaches, which have become the livelihood of the area and the country.
The Southeast region’s main tourism areas—including La Romana and Bayahibe along the Caribbean coast and Punta Cana and Bávaro of the eastern coastline along the Atlantic—deliver what many visitors expect from a Caribbean vacation: exquisite beaches, catamaran rides, phenomenal golf courses, and luxurious accommodations. Their all-inclusive resorts are famous for being the best bargains in the Caribbean, and indeed, a good portion of the southeastern coastline is lined with these mega-complexes, boasting the largest number of hotel rooms in the country.
In addition to all of the tourist development, the Southeast is home to two of the nation’s larger national parks, Parque Nacional del Este and Parque Nacional Los Haitises, and ecotourism is enjoying a steady rise in popularity. Visitors can hike miles of unspoiled beaches and forests, paddle boats through mangroves in search of manatees, keep their eyes open for endemic and rare land animals (such as the rat-like solenodon), explore caves for Taíno drawings, and take bird-watching excursions. The Parque Nacional del Este, found where the waters of the Atlantic Ocean meet the Caribbean Sea, is an intensely hot and dry expanse, and the vastly different Los Haitises (as it is commonly referred to) is a mangrove-lined tropical sub-humid forest with a plush interior.
Limestone caves dot both of these parks, protecting the ancient Taíno drawings found within many of them. A day of exploration to these caves is a trip back to a time when the Spanish conquistadors and native inhabitants of the islands were making their first impressions on each other, some of which is documented on the walls within.
The Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Tourism is profoundly proud of the development of the tourism industry in this area, and it focuses much of its marketing attention on the maintenance and future of the area. Lately that has included the protection and development of ecofriendly tour options. Those looking for posh accommodations and isolation within the luxurious bubbles of all-inclusives will be perfectly satisfied with their choice to travel to the Southeast. While there are indeed other, more independent-traveler-friendly areas of the Dominican Republic, those who seek unique experiences will not be disappointed either.
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition