Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park (Parque Ojos Indigenas) preserves 45 acres (18 hectares) of tropical paradise, part of the larger 1,500 acre (600 hectare) Punta Cana Ecological Park.

The park is named for the crystal-clear freshwater lagoons (called ‘eyes’) that run underground to emerge here near the sea.

Trails lead around the park, or you can take a guided tour. Tours on horseback go through the park and along the coast.

the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park has more than 500 species of exotic plants on trails that snake along 11 natural lagoons.

It is open to the public from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM and guided tours are offered.

There are 11 lagoons that are freshwater and are home to turtles and fish.

The Ecological Reserve is a forest reserve with twelve freshwater lagoons, five of which visitors can swim in. Historians discovered that the Taíno Indians, the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the island, referred to the lagoons as “eyes” because of their distinctive shape. For this reason, the Ecological Park and Reserve was named “Ojos Indígenas” or “Indigenous Eyes.”

their water flowing underground from the mountains on its way to the sea.

You can take an unforgettable swim in just one of the dozen lagoons at this ecologically managed park, which takes its ‘leave no trace’ policy very seriously.

Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park runs along the coast, half a mile (600 meters) south of Punta Cana Resort

The Indigenous Eyes (Ojos Indigenas) are crystal clear, freshwater lagoons fed by the underground river Yauya. The Taino Indians referred to the lagoons as “eyes” because of their shape. They are part of a lowland subtropical forest situated on top of limestone, and home to over 500 species of plants and 100 species of birds.

Just outside the entrance to the lagoons is an area of beach lined with mangroves. The river Yauya flows underneath the beach and exits from an outcrop of limestone 2 meters from the shore. Standing in the shallow water there, you can feel (and taste) the cold, freshwater flow from the river. This beach is also a regular nesting spot for sea turtles.

At the entrance to the lagoons you’ll find an info booth for guided tours. Refreshments and souvenirs from the Eco Foundation are available here. There is also a large map showing a network of trails covering about 1.5km. Each trail is marked with the distance to the next lagoon. It takes about 40 minutes to walk the whole trail – you can do it in flip flops but watch out for toe stubbage on tree roots! It’s a good idea to bring swimsuit, towel and mosquito spray with you.

There are 12 lagoons, 3 of which you can swim in on the guided tours. The water is pretty cold but fine once you get in. You’ll see fish and small turtles living in these lagoons so bring a snorkel mask with you if you have one. It’s 2 minutes to the first swimmable lagoon Yauya which has a large wooden deck, entry steps and ladder. Laguna Guama is my favorite. It’s one of the larger lagoons with easy entry steps and, for the more adventurous, a platform to jump from. There is also a partly submerged tree which is nice to hang out on.

The reserve has twelve fresh water lagoons. An underground freshwater river known locally as Yauya feeds the lagoons and eventually makes its way to the ocean. If you walk to the beach directly in front of the reserve entrance and look closely amongst the remaining mangrove trees you can see Yauya emptying into the ocean. The ground in Punta Cana is primarily limestone coral made of fossilized oceanic material that has been pushed above sea level over thousands of years. If you look closely you can find fossilized seashells, sponges and other marine relics in the rocks throughout the reserve. The annual rainfall in Punta Cana can reach 1,300 mm, but the porous nature of the limestone causes the water to filter through quickly to the groundwater. For this reason there are few rivers in Punta Cana. Renowned historian and Dominican scholar Bernardo Vega has given each of the twelve lagoons a unique name from the native Taino language.

The reserve is categorized as a “Transition Zone Sub-Tropical Forest,” since flora and fauna characteristic of both the Dry and Humid Sub-Tropical Forests can be found. Reptiles from the Anolis genus are abundant in this area, as well as small green snakes, frogs and other lizards. But not to worry, there are no venomous snakes on the Island of Hispaniola. The reserve has over 500 plant species, 36% of which live nowhere else in the world but the Dominican Republic. Red Land Crabs are common in the Ecological Reserve. Once a year, these crabs climb up from their protective crevices by the thousands to mate. Over 100 different species of birds have been identified in Punta Cana during the winter migration season. Wasps, butterflies, ants and termites are common in Indigenous Eyes. As you are walking, you will see large brown nests in the trees. These are signs that the forest is healthy because the termites that live in the nests break down the dead and dying materials and transform it into fertile habitat.

The reserve is guided by a Leave No Trace policy, visitors are asked to help maintain the natural beauty of Indigenous Eyes by disposing of trash in designated containers and being respectful of the plant and animal life that you encounter. Visitors are also asked to swim only in lagoons that are accessible for swimming and be careful as you enter and exit the lagoons. The reserve is open daily from sunup to sundown.

How to access The Indigenous Eyes: Guests of the Puntacana Hotel and Tortuga Bay Villas and Puntacana Village owners have free, unlimited access to both the Ecological Park and the Indigenous Eyes Lagoons. If they wish to take a guided tour the cost per person is 10$US for 1 hour, 25$US for 2 hours.

For others staying in Punta Cana: Segway Caribe now handle all tours of the Ecological Park and the Indigenous Eyes Lagoons.

Bring your bathing suit as you will have an opportunity to swim in at least one of the freshwater lagoons.