Geography of the Dominican Republic
Dry part of the Dominican Republic
Lush green and rivers where it rains a lot
The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola. At 48,921 sq. km, it is the second largest country in the Caribbean, after Cuba. The Dominican coastline stretches for 1,633 km, and is bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the north.
The geography of the Dominican Republic is greatly diverse, ranging from arid semi-desert plains, to lush valleys, to tropical rain forests with 27 different climatic zones; resulting in a wide variety of incredibly beautiful vegetation. The topography of the Dominican Republic consists of a diverse range of highland and lowland areas, offshore islands, rivers and lakes, all of which contribute in some way or another to the varied beauty of the country and the adventure travel options to explore. Most visitors come for its magnificent gold or white sand beaches of the country's 1633 kilometers of coastline. But the interior of the country has an amazing amount to offer the visitor as well. There are five mountain ranges that run through the country. The Cordillera Central, the runs through the center of the country, is the highest mountain range on the island, and includes Pico Duarte, the highest mountain in the Caribbean, at 3087 meters (10,128 feet).
The Dominican Republic is divided into 30 provinces. The capital city, Santo Domingo, is the oldest city in the Caribbean and the New World. Other major cities include Santiago de los Trenta Caballeros (Santiago), La Vega, San Francisco de Macorís, San Cristóbal, San Pedro de Macorís, La Romana, Puerto Plata and San Juan de la Maguana.
Detailed (from DominicanAdventures.com)
The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola. At 48,921 sq. km it is the second largest country in the Caribbean, about the same size as the combined area of the US states of Vermont and New Hampshire. The Dominican coastline stretches for 1,633km, and is bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the north. The topography of the Dominican Republic consists of a diverse range of highland and lowland areas, offshore islands, rivers and lakes, all of which contribute in some way or other to adventure travel in the country.
Rivers and Lakes
Four major rivers drain the numerous highland areas of the Dominican Republic. The Yaque del Norte carries excess water down from the Cibao Valley and empties into Monte Cristi Bay. Likewise, the Yuna River serves the Vega Real and empties into Samana Bay. Drainage of the San Juan Valley is provided by the Yaque del Sur, which empties into the Caribbean, and the Artibonite River, which crosses the border into Haiti. The Yaque del Norte is the longest and most important river in the Dominican Republic.
Although it lies only 85km to the southwest of Pico Duarte, Lago Enriquillo is 40m below sea level and the lowest point in the West Indies. Other than this, the Dominican Republic is not blessed with many natural lakes. The only other one of any size is Laguna del Rincon in the Enriquillo Basin.
Like Haiti, a large proportion of the Dominican Republic (about 80%) is mountainous; but unlike Haiti, much of the country's four main mountain ranges continue to enjoy forest cover, relatively fertile soils, and a degree of agricultural production. The most northerly of these ranges is the Cordillera Septentrional, which extends from the coastal town of Monte Cristi near the Haitian border to the Samana Peninsular in the east, running parallel to the Atlantic coast. The highest range in the Dominican Republic - indeed, in the whole of the West Indies - is the Cordillera Central. Connected to the Massif du Nord in Haiti, it gradually bends southwards and finishes near the town of Azua de Compostela on the Caribbean coast. The Cordillera Central is home to the four highest peaks in the West Indies: Pico Duarte (3,087m), La Pelona (3,085m), La Rucilla (3,049m) and Pico Yaque (2,760m). In the southwest corner of the country, south of the Cordillera Central, there are two, largely dry and rocky ranges. The more northerly of the two is the Sierra de Neiba, while in the south the Sierra de Bahoruco is a continuation of the Massif de la Selle in Haiti. The other main highland area, the Cordillera Oriental, is lower than the other mountain ranges. It is really a series of rolling hills extending west along the Atlantic coast parallel to the southern shore of Samana Bay, disappearing in the foothills of the Cordillera Central.
With mountain ranges running parallel to each other, the Dominican Republic boasts a number of highland valleys. Variously described as the 'bread basket' or 'food basket' of the Dominican Republic and a 'paradise' by Christopher Columbus, the Cibao Valley is the most fertile area in the country. Almost everything is grown either here or in the Vega Real (Royal Meadow), another fertile valley at the eastern end of the Cibao. Rather less productive is the semi-arid San Juan Valley south of the Cordillera Central and extending westward into Haiti. Still more barren is the Neiba Valley, tucked between the Sierra de Neiba and the Sierra de Bahoruco. This valley is also known as the Cul-de-Sac, although geologists often refer to this area as the Enriquillo Basin. Much of the land in the Enriquillo Basin is below sea level, resulting in a hot, arid, desert-like environment.
The Coastal Plain of Santo Domingo is the largest and most economically important of the lowland areas in the Dominican Republic. Stretching north and east of Santo Domingo it covers the area left by the Cordillera Oriental, extending as far as the Atlantic Ocean. West of Santo Domingo its width is reduced to 10km as it hugs the coast, finishing at the mouth of the Ocoa River. A few other small coastal plains can be found around the towns of Puerto Plata and Azua, as well as around Samana Bay and the Pedernales Peninsular in the southwest.
The two largest offshore islands are Saona and Beata: the former lies off the southeastern coast and the latter off the southern tip of the Pedernales Peninsular. Two smaller islands, Catalina and Alto Velo, lie to the west of Saona and Beata respectively. Otherwise there are three islands in Lago Enriquillo (Cabritos, Barbarita and Islita), and some sandy keys off the northern coastal town of Monte Cristi.