The Dominican Republic ’s geographical differences are reflected in its diverse landscape, where the roaring surf and sultry heat of the coastlines seem a world apart from the temperately cooler mountains in the center of the country. Here, tropical forests coexist with fertile valleys rife with rivers and fresh springs, only to collide with cactus-dotted semi-arid deserts. The highest point in the Caribbean tapers into the lowest point in the Caribbean. And all of this is on the 48,734-square-kilometer section of Hispaniola that the Dominican Republic occupies.
The island of Hispaniola is positioned in the middle of the Caribbean with the Bahamas to the north, Cuba and Jamaica to the west, Puerto Rico and the Leeward Islands to the east, and South America to the south. The Atlantic Ocean crashes into the northern coast and the southern shore is bathed by the Caribbean Sea. The Dominican Republic occupies two-thirds of Hispaniola, separated from neighboring Haiti by a 388-kilometer border.
Mountains and valleys are natural demarcations dividing the country into northern, central, and southwestern portions. In the northern region, plains hug the coastline from Monte Cristi  to Nagua and then rise dramatically to form the Cordillera Septentrional (Northern Mountain Range), situated just south of the plains and parallel to the ocean. The range’s southern face then drops down into the Valle del Cibao  (Cibao Valley). This valley scoops its path from the northwest corner of the country and stretches all the way to the Bahía de Samaná (Bay of Samaná). The connection of La Península de Samaná  (Peninsula of Samaná) to the mainland is a swampy area—perfect for growing rice—which then rises up to lushly vegetated mountains up to 600 meters high.
The central region mainly consists of the Cordillera Central (Central Range), the nation’s spinal column. It begins at 2,000 meters near the Haitian border, rises to the highest point of 3,087 meters at Pico Duarte  (Duarte Peak), curves southward by the Valle de Constanza (Constanza Valley), and finally dips its southern portion, the Sierra de Ocoa, into the Caribbean Sea. The Cordillera Central extends its reach with the Sierra de Yamasá through to the Cordillera Oriental. Just south of these ranges are the Caribbean coastal plains, which extend out from the mouth of the Ocoa River in the midwest to the eastern end of the island. These plains contain limestone terraces that rise to 100–120 meters at the northern edge. The Valle de San Juan (in the west) extends 100 kilometers from the Haitian border to meet up with the Bahía de Ocoa.
In the southwest corner of the country, the Sierra de Neyba extends from the Haitian border to the Yaque del Sur River, with peaks up to 2,000 meters high. On the eastern side of the river is the Sierra de Martín García. The Hoya de Enriquillo is a basin from the Haitian border to the Bahía de Neyba and from the Sierra de Neyba to the Sierra de Bahoruco, a ridge that extends from the Haitian border to the Caribbean Sea.
The Dominican Republic  enjoys a diverse topography in its 30 provinces, of lowlands and highlands, rivers and lakes, and includes some offshore islands as well. The islands of Saona, off the southeastern coast, and Beata, south of the Península de Pedernales , are the largest.
Even though the beaches make up only a small portion of the country’s 1,633-kilometer coastline and an even smaller portion of what the Dominican Republic has to offer visitors, they are (and justifiably so) the main reason people take their vacations here. Also a part of the coastline are limestone cliffs that reveal cozy coves with small, tucked-away beaches.
The Dominican Republic has rivers in both the mountains and the plains. The Yaque del Norte is the longest river in the country, at 296 kilometers long, and is used for much of the adventure tourism in the central highlands. It rushes and curves through dramatic cliffs and mountains from its home near Pico Duarte  in a northerly direction to its emptying point at the Bahía de Monte Cristi. The Río Yuna flows east, serving the Vega Real, and empties in the Bahía de Samaná. Together, these two drain the Valle del Cibao.
In the Valle de San Juan de la Maguana, the Yaque del Sur forms in the southern slopes of the Cordillera Central and flows to the Bahía de Neyba by Barahona , and the Río Artibonito crosses over into Haiti. Much of this water is used for irrigation in the otherwise very dry landscape of the southwestern region.
The Ríos Magua, Soco, Chavón, and Ozama drain the eastern portion of the country.
The very fertile and vegetated landscape of the rest of the nation begins to dwindle in the far western half of the country, where the closer you get to the Haitian border, the more the landscape is characterized by dry scrub and cacti. The Neyba Valley is home to Lago Enriquillo , which is the lowest point in the Caribbean and was once a strait of the Caribbean Sea. The lake has a high level of evaporation, but on average it is 40 meters below sea level and is four times saltier than the ocean. Its drainage basin is made of 10 minor rivers.