In the 1970s, ten percent of Dominican land was set aside for inclusion in a new state-run national park system. This foresight has resulted in the preservation of a diverse range of ecosystems, many of which seem out of place in the Caribbean, for example the karst moonscape desert of Jaragua National Park in the southwest, or the craggy, pine-forested alpine peaks of the Bermúdez and Ramírez national parks in the Cordillera Central, which are taller than any North American mountains east of the Mississippi River.
Other popular parks are the mangrove-laden cave system of Los Haitises in the northeast, and archetypal desert island Isla Saona in the southeast near Punta Cana. There are also lesser-known mountainous parks in the Sierra Bahoruco, arid desert in Jaragua National Park and a dozen different protected cave systems and lagoons.
The most popular parks, such as Bermúdez and Ramírez, have a reasonable amount of infrastructure with park offices, and marked trails with cabins for spending the night mid-trek. More secluded and better-preserved areas along the Haitian border or in the Sierra Bahoruco are less geared towards tourism, although every year a new crop of independent tourist operations springs up catering to those looking for no-frills wilderness. We’ve covered these at the appropriate points in the guide.