Saona Island

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canto de la playa

The Parque Nacional del Este, the National Park of the East, the gem of the La Romana – Bayahibe area has just been renamed, and from now on be know as the Parque Nacional Cotubanamá. 

The name was officially changed to Parque Nacional Cotubanamá on the 8th of October 2014 by the Dominican National Congress overseen by his excellency the president of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina Sánchez.

Who was Cotubanamá and why name the park after him?

According to Law 519-14, in which the Parque Nacional del Este is renamed Parque Nacional Cotubanamá, it states “The chief Cotubanamá was a great defender of his race, which is why the National Park must be named after him, in order to immortalize this great Taino chief and warrior”.  But who was he? And what did he do?

His story is quiet remarkable…

Cotubanamá was a native Taino Indian who was born and raised in the “cacicazgo de Higuey” or rather in the Chiefdom of Higuey, the chiefdoms being the primary political units employed by the Taíno inhabitants of Hispaniola. [When Hispaniola was “discovered” by Europeans in 1492, the island was divided into five chiefdoms or cacicazgos, each headed by a cacique or paramount chief – diagram below.]

Cacicazgos de la Hispaniola

The Cacicazgos of Hispaniola, cerca 1492

Cotubanamá grew up to be a cacique, the chief of the Chiefdom of Higuey, and in his role as chief he is credited with rebelling against the invasion of the Europeans, in defence of the members of his cacicazgo or chiefdom.

Actions of resistance led by Cotubanamá included:

  • Setting fire to the home of Juan Ponce de Leon on 3 separate occasions – a home which currently still stands in the town of Boca de Yuma on the far eastern side of the Parque Nacional Cotubanamá.
  • Evacuating women, children and elders to a safer area of the island.
  • Resisting and fighting against the Spanish who hunted the indigenous population with dogs.

Once caught, Cotubanamá was imprisoned on Saona Island, and then moved to Santo Domingo where he was hung.

About the Parque Nacional Cotubanamá

Saona Island

The Parque Nacional Cotubanamá (formerly Parque Nacional del Este), located just 4 miles outside of Bayahibe – and at the heart of the La Romana-Bayahibe area is one of the Dominican Republic’s most popular tourist destinations – most famous for it’s crystal blue waters and white sandy beaches at Saona Island.

This beautiful National Park, a nature reserve only since 1975, covers an area of 791.9km2; of which the main landmass is a peninsula covered with Subtropical Rainforest and Subtropical Dry Forest. This area, once settled by the Taino Indians can be visited at “Padre Nuestro” on foot or horseback along a 1.9km ecological trail – click here for details!

The most visited area however, is the maritime area of the park- the “Catuano Strait”, which separates Saona Island from the mainland, as well as Saona Island itself. Here the clear aquamarine Caribbean ocean gleans in the sunlight and offers tourists picture perfect Caribbean memories – whether you chose to relax on one of the many beaches, dive the reefs that line the shore or fish its bountiful waters.

The Parque Nacional Cotubanamá is home to has 112 different bird species, dolphins, marine manatees and turtles as well as the critically endangered Rhinoceros Iguana.


Giant Cacti at Padre Nuestro in the Parque Nacional de Cotubanamá