Though development may eventually cover every inch of the Dominican coastline, for now there are still large areas of pristine coastal plains and mangrove forests. About 500m south of (and part of) the Puntacana Resort & Club, this ecological park covers over 6 sq km of protected coastal and inland habitat and is home to some 100 bird species (27 of which are indigenous species native only to the DR), 160 insect species and 500 plant species.
Visitors can take very worthwhile three-hour guided tours in English, French or Spanish through a lush 30-hectare portion of the reserve, with 12 freshwater lagoons (three of which you can take a dip in) all fed by an underground river that flows into the ocean. Additional tours also include visits to the park’s botanical and fruit gardens, iguana farm (part of a conservation program) and a farm-animal petting zoo.
The visitor center has a great collection of insects that was compiled by entomology students from Harvard, and interesting maps and photos of the area. The park is operated by the Puntacana Ecological Foundation, a nonprofit organization created in 1994 that works to protect the area’s ecosystems – including 8km of coral reef along the reserve’s shoreline – and to promote sustainable tourism and hotel practices. Nearly 4 hectares of the reserve are dedicated to the Center for Sustainability, a joint project with Cornell and other American universities to survey and study native plants, birds and insects. Guests of Puntacana Resort & Club get in free and can do self-guided tours; otherwise transportation from local hotels is included in the guided-tour prices.