BASILICA DE HIGÜEY NUESTRA SEÑORA DE LA ALTAGRACIA
Higüey’s concrete basilica was built in 1972, and is characterized by its representations of oranges, symbolic of the nearby orange grove where a vision of the Virgin Mary has become legend. There’s a shrine depicting an orange tree and stained-glass windows with cutouts shaped like oranges inside the cathedral. The pinched arches of the facade stretch 250 feet (76 meters) high. The basilica is the site of annual pilgrimages on January 21 and August 16. If you want to go to mass, call first as the hours are subject to change
Address: Agustin Guerrero 66, Higüey
Hours: Masses Mon – Fri: 6:30, 8:30, 10 am, and noon; Sat: 6 pm; Sun: 5 pm
DOLPHIN ISLAND PARK
The adventure starts with a short boat ride as you leave the beautiful shore of Bávaro in the background. The main program includes instruction, a show, and a 25-minute swim with snorkel gear in calm, protected waters with the adorable dolphins or sea lions.
Children must be at least eight years old to swim, and no pregnant women are allowed. Snorkeling gear and a flotation vest are provided. Reservations must be made at least one day in advance through one’s resort’s activity desk. Free shuttles will depart from the hotels and bring you to the park. It’s expensive but it is a vacation memory to be underwater and hear these gentle creatures sing and “talk,” and when they surface they give wet kisses.
Address: Av. Estados Unidos, Bávaro
Cost: Programs from $115 to $195 for Royal Dolphin swim; $80 for sea lion swim
Hours: Daily 9–5:30
MANATÍ PARK BAVARO
This zoo and cultural park showcases local animals, which include iguanas, crocodiles and tropical birds. The daily schedule includes a Taino cultural show, a horse show and a dolphin and sea lion show. Ducks and flamingos roam the tropical gardens which are beautified by orchids and Dominican art. A brief swim or an encounter with the dolphins is an option, but advance reservations are required; don’t forget to bring your swimsuit and a towel. (Dolphin Island, run by the same owner, offers a more extended swim program.) Free shuttles on a colorful guagua (local bus) depart from the hotels.
Address: Carretera Manatí, Bávaro
Phone: 809-221–9444; /
Cost: $35; $125 for admission and dolphin swim
Hours: Daily 9–6
PUNTACANA ECOLOGICAL FOUNDATION
This eco-reserve is on a private 1,500-acre tract in Puntacana Resort that encompasses tropical forest, natural lagoons, cold water springs, gardens, a petting zoo, and an iguana habitat. This non-profit foundation’s mission is to promote sustainable development throughout the country by fostering cooperation between economic development and environmental protection, as well as involving the community. The foundation works with various research institutions to document all of the island’s biodiversity. It also maintains an organic vegetable garden that supplies the resort’s restaurants. Guided tours of the reserve are available by appointment. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit foundation. There is a platform with ladders that makes it easier to take a swim in the cold, freshwater lagoon.
Address: Puntacana Resort & Club, Punta Cana
Cost: $12 for non-hotel guests
Hours: Daily 8:30–5