los haitises national park

Los Haitises National Park: Ultimate Visitor’s Guide

It’s no wonder that the crew of Jurassic Park chose the lush Los Haitises National Park as one of the destinations to shoot their feature film. This mountainous coastal region of the Dominican Republic is largely undeveloped and supremely beautiful, known for its rich biodiversity and dramatic landscapes.

For many visitors staying at all-inclusive resorts and enjoying built-up beaches lined with shops, hotels, and restaurants, a day trip to this national park offers a peek at a totally different, untouched side of the country. Our ultimate visitor’s guide to Los Haitises National Park has all the details you’ll need to enjoy this memorable destination, frequently ranked among the best things to do in the Dominican Republic.

parque nacional los haitises

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Los Haitises National Park

Lush jungle, hidden caves, untouched beaches, and an incredible diversity of flora and fauna define Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic. First granted protected status in 1976, this area has become one of the nation’s premier ecotourism destinations, with everything from birding and snorkeling to beach hopping to draw visitors to the park.

Los Haitises National Park is located in the province of Samaná, in the northeastern corner of the Dominican Republic and on the southwest shores of the Bahía de Semaná, or Samaná Bay. The thick forest and jungle that fills the area mean that much of the park is largely inaccessible, though there are several popular access points via land and sea.

While the jungle heart of the park is largely inaccessible, it’s one of the most beloved day trip spots on the island, accessible from some of the country’s most visited spots.

Travelers can expect to find everything from centuries-old indigenous cave paintings to white sand beaches with clear waters. Birders will love spotting the undisturbed colonies of the more than 110 species of birds that flock here.

Tours to Los Haitises National Park are exceedingly popular day trips or half-day trips from several destinations around the island. Here are some tours with reputable tour guides that we recommend:

Due to the island’s remote location and challenging terrain, it isn’t somewhere that most travelers can access on their own, even with a rental car. Booking a spot on a Los Haitises day trip will mean you’ll get to see the best of the area, whether you travel by car or boat.

Read More: Samaná, Dominican Republic: Ultimate Travel Guide

samana los haitises national park

Why is Los Haitises National Park Famous?

Los Haitises National Park is famous for its natural beauty and is home to mangrove forests, caves, and dramatic limestone mountain-like “karsts” that dot the landscape. Looking for cool fun facts about Dominican Republic? Los Haitises was once used as a filming location for the Jurassic Park movie.

Visitors can enjoy everything from exploring dark caves and spotting Taino cave art from centuries past to swimming on untouched, protected beaches or spotting rare species of birds. It’s truly a destination with a little something for every kind of traveler, which makes it one of the most popular day trip destinations in the eastern part of the Dominican Republic.

Los Haitises National Park Map

Get a feel for Los Haitises National Park with this interactive park map we’ve created to accompany this article. Click around – here you’ll find every recommendation in our story both within the park and beyond (with nearby favorite stops like Cayo Levantado, Sabana de la Mar, and Samaná marked for convenience as well). You can even download this map for your trip!

cayo levantado beach

Things To Do in Los Haitises National Park

Most travelers visit on an organized day trip on a guided itinerary, but it’s important to get an idea of the many things to do in Los Haitises National Park so you can pick the right excursion for you. These are some of the most popular activities for travelers visiting the area.

1. Visit Cayo Levantado (Or Stay There!)

A popular addition to many Los Haitises day trips is an excursion to the pristine beaches of nearby Cayo Levantado. Just a 30-minute boat ride from the park, this island boasts some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the Dominican Republic, with equally impressive crystal-clear waters. Make sure your day trip includes a stop here – you won’t want to miss it!

Cayo Levantado is home to Cayo Levantado Resort, a stunning luxury resort that recently underwent extensive refurbishment and reimagination. Boasting two beautiful pools, eight restaurants and bars, gorgeous rooms, and one of the most extensive wellness experiences of any resort in the region, it’s easily among the best resorts in the Dominican Republic.

If you haven’t booked your resort in the Dominican Republic yet, I couldn’t recommend Cayo Levantado Resort more! I had a truly unforgettable stay and can’t wait to get back with the family in tow. Plus, the resort even offers its own excursions to Los Haitises National Park, just a short boat ride away.

Reviews and Bookings: Los Haitises and Cayo Levantado Day Trip from Samaná

taino los haitises national park

2. See Taino Cave Paintings and Carvings

One of the most famous areas within Los Haitises National Park is the coastal zone replete with ocean-carved caves. Several of these caves contain centuries-old paintings and carvings left behind by the Taino indigenous people, who were the first residents of this area.

The Taino people believed that the first people on earth emerged from caves, so caves were places of importance and spiritual significance to them. Guides walk visitors through the history of the paintings and provide background on the area.

Checking out these incredible cave paintings and carvings is one of the best things to do in Los Haitises National Park, and an obligatory part of a day trip to the area. The most impressive cave paintings can be found in Cueva de la Linea – you’ll see everything from shamans and sharks to birds and handprints.

Nearby Cueva de la Arena has some impressive carvings at the entrance of several of the caves (see the photo above!) and winding chambers that open onto Samaná Bay.

3. Go Birdwatching

Any visit to the park is sure to include encounters with impressive birds, especially for those who come along the coastline. Herons, frigates, and large colonies of pelicans flock amongst the coastal mogotes, the limestone karsts that pop out dramatically from the sea.

However, if you’re a birder, look for a specialized birdwatching tour through the national park – this is one of the best destinations for birdwatching in the Dominican Republic, after all. Over 110 species of birds inhabit Los Haitises National Park, including species such as parrots, hummingbirds, and endemic species such as Ridgway’s Hawks and Ashy Faced Owls.

Reviews and Bookings: Birdwatching Excursions to Los Haitises National Park

beach los haitises national park

4. Swim at Untouched Beaches

The coastline of this national park is dotted with more than just caves and mangroves; it’s also home to hidden cove beaches and white sand peninsulas jutting into crystal clear waters. Beach hopping from spot to spot is a particularly memorable way to enjoy the area.

Located near the coastal caves that are home to many of the most famous Taino petroglyphs, Punta Arena is a particularly popular (and beautiful!) option for swimming among starfish and alone white sands.

Different excursion providers will stop at different beaches, especially considering that the dimensions of different boats may allow for stops at certain beaches and not others. Wherever you stop, you’re in for a great experience, complete with a “desert island” feel that’s hard to replicate elsewhere.

Many day trips to Los Haitises National Park also include visits to Cayo Levantado, so if you’re looking to experience some truly impressive spots, you’ll definitely want to make sure this spot is on your itinerary. Spend the night at Cayo Levantado Resort for the complete experience.

Read More: Cayo Levantado Resort | A Luxury Wellness Haven in the Dominican Republic

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5. Go Ziplining

Not far from one of the few outposts within Los Haitises, Caño Hondo, visitors will find a small ziplining course that takes them souring through the trees among the forest canopy. While this isn’t a part of most day trip itineraries that visit the park, it’s a great addition to an itinerary for travelers visiting the park via Sabana de la Mar.

Truthfully, this isn’t the best ziplining course in the Dominican Republic – for that, head to the north of the Samaná Peninsula to the beaches at El Valle, or to the giant ziplining course not far from Punta Cana. However, if it’s convenient for your trip, it’s definitely a memorable way to see the park from a totally different perspective!

Best Zipline Courses in the Dominican Republic:

mogotes los haitises national park

Los Haitises National Park Tours

Los Haitises National Park is a great day trip destination, meaning you’ll find day trips visiting the park from most of the popular tourist destinations on the eastern side of the island. These are some of the day trips to Los Haitises National Park, from reputable companies worth considering:

These small group day trip options are all-inclusive of food and drinks along the way and transportation to reach the park, so they’re some of the best options you’ll find as you plan your Los Haitises visit.

Be aware that day trips from Punta Cana can be a bit long if you travel by water (around two hours by boat just to reach the park!), so we recommend the day trip from Punta Cana that travels overland via the new highway to the area. You’ll hop in a boat once you arrive at the park, so you’ll still get the coastal experience without the lengthy ride across all of Samaná Bay – it makes for a much easier day!

Of course, you can also book a private trip to visit the park if a group excursion won’t fit into your schedule or isn’t your style. You’ll find lots of private excursions that depart from Sabana de la Mar that are quite affordable, though transportation-inclusive options from Santo Domingo or Punta Cana can be quite pricey.

Hiking in Los Haitises National Park

If you’d prefer exploring the interior of the park rather than the area’s coastal regions, look for a hiking-based Los Haitises tour departing from the small town of Sabana de la Mar at the edge of Los Haitises National Park. Much of the park is quite inaccessible due to its dense jungle, but there are some popular and beautiful hiking paths, especially near Sabana de la Mar.

Many of these hiking tours also include kayaking portions to visit some of the waterfront caves along the route.

Reviews and Bookings: Hiking Day Trip Through Los Haitises National Park

cayo levantado resort
Cayo Levantado Resort

Los Haitises National Park Hotels

Technically, it is possible to stay within Los Haitises National Park at one of the park’s few hotels. However, it’s not common even for locals, and with the abundance of Los Haitises day tours and excursions, it’s generally not usually something most visitors gravitate towards.

Those who stay in the park generally stay at Paraiso Caño Hondo, a simple, rustic ecolodge surrounded by forest that is accessible via Sabana de la Mar. While the installations are nothing simple, they include comfortable and clean accommodations, a restaurant, and everything you might need to enjoy the park – including expert guides.

Or, stay at Cayo Levantado Resort, located on a private island just a short distance from the park. While Cayo Levantado Resort isn’t located inside the park, it’s just across Samaná Bay and is one of the nearest resorts to the park.

This luxury all-inclusive resort is one of the best resorts in the Dominican Republic. I had such a memorable experience staying at Cayo Levantado Resort, which offers everything from healing wellness treatments to delicious international cuisine. Plus, the resort offers its own day trips to the national park! I can’t say enough about this incredible destination.

carley rojas avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.