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Jungles of the Dominican Republic

Away from the immaculate white sand beaches that embellish the Caribbean coastline, the Dominican Republic offers another layer to its stunning landscape with a jungle packed interior nothing short of a tropical utopia.

From the popular resort of Puna Cana you can enjoy guided excursions into the flourishing nearby hills, while further north, Sosua and Cabarete give you easy access to El Choco - the newest addition to the island's national parks.

Whether you prefer exploring off the beaten track with a private guide or taking part in a group tour with plenty of creature comforts, no trip to this diverse country would be complete without stepping foot into the rich rainforest, abundant with wildlife.

Hike into untouched rainforest

As you leave the picture-perfect resort of Samana, expect to drive through fields of sugar cane and palm oil plantations, past locals working in rice paddies, and up to the Karst Mountains of Los Haitises National Park.

Home to caverns adorned with Taino cave drawings, secret pirate hideouts and a majestic waterfall, access to the park is only granted through an organised tour.

You'll start your trek into the protected park on board a small catamaran, winding through the canals of the untouched mangrove forest before emerging out onto San Lorenzo Bay. Watch turkey vultures circle high above and pelicans diving for their lunch as brightly coloured crabs scuttle away.

Here you can explore dark caves and stumble across secluded beaches before enjoying lunch at the park's ranch. Then while away the rest of the day swimming in refreshing rivers or cliff jumping from the waterfalls above.

Hop on a Catamaran to Saona Island

Sitting on the edge of the tranquil fishing village of Bayahibe and within easy reach of laid-back La Romana, you can't miss the enormous East National Park which incorporates the protected Saona Island.

The East Park can be accessed on foot from Bayahibe and you'll soon discover a wealth of interesting vegetation - from cacti over six metres tall to underground caves full of rock carvings.

Once you've docked on Saona, relax on the brilliant white sand beach or explore the ocean floor, brimming with colourful marine life and a blanket of starfish.

You'll find traditional, brightly coloured houses along the tiny village's sandy main street where you can pick up handmade local crafts or take a stroll down to the turtle sanctuary.

The Dominican's newest arrival

A short drive from the coastal resort of Cabarete, El Choco National Park is one of the newest on the island, spanning over 77 square kilometres and comprising of thriving jungle, magical lagoons and open back country.

With easy hiking trails and well-informed guides, this is an enjoyable hike for all the family.

The main attraction at El Choco are the spectacular caves which, as well as being full of fascinating stalagmites, underground springs and cave drawings, are a welcome retreat from the relentless sun.

Take a dip in one of the refreshing pools found inside the cave system before emerging back into the sheer natural beauty of the hills.

The ultimate day trip

Around a three to four hours drive from the east coast, Jose Armando Bermudez National Park and Jose del Carmen Ramirez National Park sit side by side in the centre of the island.

As you drive through sugar cane fields and winding mountain roads you'll be met with geysers, sub-tropical forest-filled mountains and swamps. While these natural wonders may require an early start, you can easily explore via the many trail routes with a local guide.

One of the main attractions in Jose del Carmen Ramirez National Park is the Caribbean's highest peak, Pico Duarte, which stands at 3,402 metres and is covered in cloud forests.

If the three days needed to hike to the summit doesn't appeal, you can enjoy the variety or flora, fauna and endemic bird species before relaxing in one of the many restaurants located near to the park's entrance.

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