4 eco-friendly experiences to have in Punta Cana

Dominican Republic

Punta Cana is thought of as a big brand resort destination, and while you’ve likely heard of its beautiful beaches and active water sport adventures, there’s also a rich sustainability culture. The good news for visitors is they can experience this ecotourism first hand, both on land and in the water.

Coral Gardening
Gardening is no longer an activity reserved for land-growing plants. Passionate eco-tourism operators and researchers around the world have taken to gardening coral to revive the world’s dying underwater ecosystem—including in Punta Cana. Through Blue Vision Adventures, situated on the white sand Playa Blanca, visitors can head out into the Caribbean Sea to where wire A-frames and hanging rope frames give coral fragments a place to regenerate. It takes approximately six months for them to grow to where they can live on their own, at which point they’re placed back into their natural habitat. According to Blue Vision Adventures, Punta Cana is the only place in the world divers can get a Coral Reef First Aid Distinctive Specialty, allowing them to hands-on help with the coral gardening.

Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park & Reserve
The 1500-acre Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park & Reserve is home to 12 freshwater lagoons that the indigenous Taino Indians believed looked like eyes when the sun shined on the surface. The lagoons, which sit along a winding woodland loop trail, are believed to have curative capabilities. Luckily, you can swim in five of them, including the 26-feet-deep Guamá Lagoon, which has a jumping platform for daring divers.

Tip: For a truly active experience visit one of the many water sport shops on Playa Blanca and book a stand up paddle boarding tour to the ecological park, a challenging workout worth the views.

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Indigenous Eyes lagoons. Photo: Jessica Festa.

Puntacana Ecological Foundation
For those wanting to understand a variety of local eco-projects, head to the Puntacana Ecological Foundation and wander its trails—either on your own or with a staff member—taking in gardens of well-labeled medicinal and desert plants, beehives in a chemical-free honey farm, a worm composting project where India Blue Worms turn organic waste into golf course fertilizer (which also helps eliminate toxic runoff), indigenous and threatened rhinoceros iguanas that are protected and bred, and more. Along with providing a glimpse into local sustainability efforts, it’s a scenic and peaceful experience.

Lionfish
Lionfish is an invasive species killing local reefs. In order to curb the population, divers have taken to spearing the fish for local restaurants to serve up. While the fish are venomous (meaning they can inject poison, but they’re safe to eat), the Omega-3 fatty acid-rich flesh is heart healthy, delicious and allows diners to do their part to help local ecosystems. Plus there’s no fishy aftertaste. The top place on the island to sample is Bamboo, currently serving it with a beet emulsion and fennel soup.