Located on the east coast of the Dominican Republic in La Altagracia province, sunny Punta Cana keeps travellers returning year after year, especially to explore its natural wonders. Here are the top places to go if you love the outdoors. 

1. Parque Nacional del Este

Located on the southeastern corner of the island, Parque Nacional del Este spans 310 square kilometres and includes extensive marine park and wetland areas, as well as semi-humid forest. Enter on foot or by boat at the town of Bayahibe to pay the park fee of DR$200 per person and then hike the trails to see some of the park’s 400 caves. 

2. Isla Saona

Also within Parque Nacional del Este is Isla Saona. Take a day trip (via speedboat) there to enjoy the island’s soft, white-sand beaches, well-placed hammocks and excellent snorkelling—you’ll spot a variety of fascinating sea life thanks to the calm waters of a nearby reef. 

3. Scape Park at Cap Cana

For a very different swim experience, head to Scape Park at Cap Cana, where you can take a refreshing dip in Hoyo Azul, a bright-blue freshwater cenote. The park also features a variety of hiking trails that offer stunning views of the rainforest. 

4. Laguna Bavaro Wildlife Refuge

Rent a kayak to explore the wetlands of the Laguna Bavaro Wildlife Refuge in Punta Cana’s Cabeza de Toro. Covering three square kilometres, this spot also boasts a nature museum where you can learn about the four varieties of mangrove trees and different animal species.

[A version of the article appears in the January 2015 issue of WestJet Magazine and has since been updated]