National Park of the East or Cotubanamá National Park
“From the Bosque Seco and Padre Nuestro Springs to the Beaches of the Saona Island, the most visited and profitable Protected Area of the Country preserves an Extraordinary Biological Variety, Numerous Marine and Terrestrial Species Threatened or Endangered and Exceptional Historical-Archaeological Remains“
Adolfo López, Scientific Consultant
The National Park of the East was founded in 1975 and is considered one of the main resources of the National System of Protected Areas – it is the most visited and profitable in the country, receiving more than 300 thousand tourists a year, attracted mainly by the wonderful beaches of Saona Island and the number of visitors continues to increase. In addition, the sustained tourist flow maintains thousands of direct and derivative jobs.
The territory (land and sea) of the Eastern Park extends for almost 800 Km2, between the provinces La Romana and La Altagracia, from the end of the hotel zone of Bayahibe, east of Boca de Yuma; includes the maritime area that surrounds the entire protected area and the Saona Island (110 km2), where there are two small villages: Mano Juan – picturesque fishing village on the sand, with about three hundred inhabitants – and Catuano – tiny village born around of a small detachment of the Military Navy. Between the two villages there is an ecological trail – 11 km on foot or by bicycle, passing through the tropical forest and the beaches.
The Park preserves an extraordinary biological variety and numerous marine and terrestrial species threatened or endangered; it hosts the main preserved tropical forest of the Eastern Region of the country, as well as different ecosystems and habitats – such as beaches, mangroves, several wetlands and coral reefs, among others. There are no rivers or streams because of the high soil porosity; but several superficial springs (an example of comfortable access, just outside the confines of the Park, in the village of Bayahibe) and underground (as in the contiguous zone of Padre Nuestro, included in Protected Area territory). It is currently planned to submit a proposal to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Committee to declare the Park a World Heritage Site.
How do tourist arrive to the park?
The vast majority of visits to the Park are made by boat sailing along the coast from Bayahibe to Saona Island; the magnificent landscape is characterized by beaches with coconut trees, rocky areas (such as El Peñón, where you can see the rhinoceros iguana) and mangroves (as in Bahía Las Calderas).
An obligatory stage of this itinerary is the scenic Palmilla beach, famous for its Natural Pools – a shallow sea area and transparent waters, where you can see large red and orange starfishes. * They must be treated with care because they are very delicate and can die if they are kept out of the water for a long time or left on their backs in the sea.