Punta Cana Ecological Park
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About a kilometer from the Punta Cana Resort and Club, Punta Cana Ecological Park (tel. 809/959-8483, www.puntacana.org, 8 a.m.–4 p.m. daily) is a natural refuge for local flora and fauna, including many rare plants and endangered animals. A guided tour (US$10 adult, US$5 child) through the portion of the park called the Parque Ojos Indígenas (Indigenous Eyes Park) takes you through thickly vegetated trails of natural and cultivated gardens.
You’ll pass natural freshwater lagoons, and kids especially will like the petting farm, where Dominican domesticated animals are available to touch and feed. The iguana habitat has examples of the rhinoceros iguana, which is a species endemic to the island of Hispaniola. Agricultural exhibits have Dominican crops like the cacao bean, coffee, and tobacco, including a display of a traditional Dominican farm or conuco.
Guided tours are given in English, Spanish, German, and French. Self-guided tours are possible by purchasing a booklet at the visitor’s center.
Horseback tours (US$20 for one hour, US$30 for two hours) are a fun way to see Punta Cana Ecological Park and all it has to offer, along with an extended ride along the coast. They must be arranged ahead of time.
Supporting Punta Cana Ecological Park is a great way not only to have fun and learn something about the country you are visiting, but also to give back through sustainable tourism. The Punta Cana Resort and Club created the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation and the Coastal Marine Project. They are nonprofit organizations that work to protect the ecosystem and sustain the health of the coastal zone and coral reefs. It has made significant headway in promoting the growing sustainable tourism industry in the Dominican Republic.
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition