On the northeastern tip of Parque Nacional del Este sits Boca de Yuma, a pueblo that has been passed over by mass tourism because of its lack of accessible beachfront, though there is one fairly nice stretch of sand across the river. Boca de Yuma’s setting along squat, ocean-pounded bluffs is undeniably impressive and it makes a pleasant stop for independent travellers seeking to experience everyday life in one of the DR’s quieter corners. There’s also great fishing in the area, and the town makes a good alternate entry point to many of the sights within Parque Nacional del Este. From here you can also take in the former stronghold of conquistador Ponce de León.

Within the village it’s possible to wander along the shore, its rocks sculpted over time by the crashing surf, or pay a local fisherman RD$1200 to ferry you across the Río Yuma (and collect you later) to a pretty little beach called Playa Borinquen that you’ll share only with a couple of grazing cows. Most of the little boats lining the beaches are still used primarily for fishing; this is one of the best fishing grounds for marlin in the entire Caribbean. Renting a boat and captain for the day will cost around RD$5000, more if you want to head for Isla Saona.

A short walk west of town along the waterfront is the national park station at the eastern entrance to Parque Nacional del Este (RD$100), from where you can hire horses (RD$1000 per person) or walk for an hour along the water to a natural land bridge from which turbulent jets of sea water rocket into the air. Just a short walk north of the park station, the cavernous Cueva de Berna, a large cave once inhabited by Tainos, makes for an alternate, if less spectacular, goal than the caves near Bayahibe. Along with hundreds of bats and small birds, you’ll see Taino caritas (little faces) carved on the walls, though some have been defaced by graffiti.

A kilometre further inland from Cueva de Berna is another major Taino cave site, El Manantial del Guano, which includes three large underground lakes and a stone circle below a small hole in the cave roof, with dozens of petroglyphs representing Taino mythology, including the creation of humanity through the fertilization of the moon by the sun. Some anthropologists believe this may have been a Taino astronomical observatory, as the light through the chink in the ceiling hits a different petroglyph for every cycle of the moon. You can only visit the site with a guide (around RD$800) from the park station at Cueva de Berna.