Nestled in the heart of the Caribbean, Saona Island is a Dominican gem waiting to be discovered by those seeking a tropical paradise.

With its pristine beaches, diverse wildlife, and enchanting landscapes, Saona Island is the epitome of Dominican attitude, offering a glimpse into the unspoiled beauty of the Caribbean.

With our travel tip, we’ll take you on a journey to this remarkable island, exploring its stunning beaches and intriguing spots that make it a must-visit destination.

Check out: Travel Tips for Visiting the Dominican Republic

Here is an overview:

Caribbean beach on Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.

Cotubanama National Park

Saona Island is part of the Cotubanama National Park, a protected area that showcases the natural wonders of the Dominican Republic.

In the Cotubanamá National Park you will find a unique landscape of tropical and subtropical forests, characterized by majestic mahogany and cambron trees. The combination of exploring the mainland and relaxing on the island makes this place a true paradise.

In the midst of this breathtaking natural paradise are some 400 fascinating caves with underground springs that supply fresh water to the surrounding villages. Each of these caves is a true work of nature’s art – each room tells its own story.

This park is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, including vibrant coral reefs, lush forests, and intriguing wildlife.

As you step onto Saona Island, you’ll immediately feel a connection with nature, thanks to the pristine environment that has been preserved here.

The protected waters are home to numerous species of animals and some of the most breathtaking dive sites in the world. You’ll have the chance to swim with large schools of exotic fish, as well as dolphins and manatees.

Fregate bird in mangroves Cotubanama National Park  on Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.
Fregate bird in mangroves Cotubanama National Park on Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.

El Penon

One of the standout features of Saona Island is El Penon, a towering limestone cliff that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding azure waters.

This natural wonder is a must-visit spot for those seeking Instagram-worthy moments and a chance to marvel at the island’s rugged beauty.

El Penon is as well a true paradise for divers of all levels. In the midst of a pristine coral reef, you’ll be surrounded by a variety of reef fish that color the water in vibrant colors.

Keep your eyes open and be surprised, because who knows what you’ll see underwater? During your dive you might see eagle rays, turtles swimming by, or even the occasional majestic hammerhead shark!

The Mangroves and Wildlife

Saona Island is also renowned for its mangrove forests, where Paletuvier trees flourish, providing a vital habitat for an array of creatures.

Mangrove trees are special plants that have adapted optimally to life in the intertidal zones of tropical coastal regions. Together, these woody salt plants form true forests – a unique form of vegetation called “mangrove”.

As you explore the mangroves, you may encounter small fish, turtles, and rays gracefully navigating the labyrinthine waterways. Look up, and you might spot frigate birds soaring through the sky, adding a touch of exotic charm to the island’s atmosphere.

Aerial View of the mangroves at the Catuano Channel in the Dominican Republic.
Aerial View of the mangroves at the Catuano Channel in the Dominican Republic.

Snorkeling at Catuano Piers

For underwater enthusiasts, Saona Island offers an opportunity to explore the mesmerizing world beneath the waves.

Catuano Piers are renowned for their crystal-clear waters, making them a prime spot for snorkeling. Dive in and discover the vibrant coral reefs teeming with colorful fish, creating a surreal underwater paradise that will leave you spellbound.

Catuano Piers at Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.
Catuano Piers at Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.

Mano Juan: Turtles Nursery and Fishermen’s Haven

Mano Juan is a picturesque fishing village on Saona Island where time seems to stand still.

The village has a special charm and has become a unique tourist attraction in its own right. Wander through the village’s narrow streets, admiring the typical fishermen’s houses and immersing yourself in the authentic Dominican way of life.

The village has a population of about 500 people. The inhabitants are mainly fishermen and sell their products to tourists. The bright colors of the wooden houses catch your eye and give the place a unique atmosphere.

You can book a tour directly with the owner of the tours, who will show you the charming fishing village of Mano Juan away from the crowds.

Fishermen Village Mano Juan at Saona Island, Dominican Republic.
Fishermen Village Mano Juan at Saona Island, Dominican Republic.

Saona Island Turtle Sanctuary

In Mano Juan you should visit the turtle nursery, where conservation efforts are in full swing to protect these magnificent creatures.

It’s unfortunate that the hawksbill turtle and its cousins are threatened with extinction in the Dominican Republic. However, about a decade ago, the Dominican government and representatives from the tourism and fishing industries joined forces to protect these wonderful sea creatures.

Their common goal: to enable as many sea turtles as possible to successfully return to the water after nesting.

Canto de la Playa and Its Coral Reef

You have the opportunity to make your Caribbean dreams come true. If you’re looking for a secluded and natural beach experience, Canto de la Playa is the answer.

Just by looking at the pure white sand beach from the boat, you know this place is special. Majestic palm trees line this natural patch of earth and the deep blue waters of the Caribbean Sea create the perfect setting.

This hidden gem boasts a pristine shoreline and a vibrant coral reef, perfect for snorkeling. The underwater world here is teeming with marine life, making it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts seeking tranquility and untouched beauty.

The visibility in the water is optimal and if you’re lucky you might even see a turtle.

This beach is also perfect for relaxing: at the top of the beach you will find masseuses who will pamper you in comfortable beds in the middle of the sand.

Insider tip: The beach of Canto de la Playa – translated as “the song of the beach” – is a place where the locals and a few visitors to enjoy paradise on earth. This insider tip is also ideal for couples who want to get married under the bright sun – where better than here?

The paradisiacal Canto de la Playa beach is also part of this excursion, which you can book directly with the tour operator.

Canto de la Playa on Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.
Canto de la Playa on Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.

The different tour options to explore Saona Island

Take a motorized catamaran to Saona Island

Get ready to board a motorized catamaran, also suitable for excursions with the whole family.

The excursion starts from Bayahibe in a small group to the island of Saona. During the trip, your English-speaking guide will first give you some information about the history and the famous native Taino people, before you sail through the mangroves – palétuvier trees directly in the sea water.

Finally, you will reach your first destination on this paradise island: the village of Mano Juan. Here you can take a walk and get a glimpse into the life of the friendly inhabitants with their colorful houses and small shops. You will also visit the local family’s turtle hatchery, where they do their best to hatch newborns. Please note that depending on the season and hatching cycle, newborn sightings are not 100% guaranteed.

After this experience, it’s time for a delicious Dominican lunch at a restaurant near the stunning Canto de la Playa beach (lobster available in season from $25 per person). After lunch, relax or snorkel on the beautiful beach.

Your last stop is the natural pool where you can see giant starfish (please don’t touch!). Like true Dominicans, enjoy a drink in the shallow waters of the pool before heading back to Bayahibe Harbor – but certainly not without lasting memories!

Price: $99 (children 3-12 years: $55)
Duration: 8-9 hours
Free cancelation

Book this tour directly with the owner here

Motorized Catamaran Salamanca to Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.
Motorized Catamaran Salamanca to Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.

The tour includes:

  • Transportation from hotels in the Bayahibe – Dominicus area (Pickup from Punta Cana, Bavaro, Uvero Alto, Juan Dolio, Boca Chica, Casa de Campo, Bahia Principe La Romana will cost extra.)
  • Comfortable 40 feet motor catamaran
  • Friendly captain and crew for a wonderful day.
  • English speaking guide
  • Snorkeling gear (fins, mask and snorkel)
  • Beverages: Coca Cola, Sprite, water, rum and beer
  • Typical Dominican lunch
Small group tour to Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.
Small group tour to Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.

Sail with a Catamaran to Saona Island

Join this tour on a sailing catamaran. This fun day trip is great for families and starts in Bayahibe.

The first stop on this trip is the Cotubanama National Park on the island of Saona in the Caribbean Sea.

You’ll sail to Catuano Jetty, which was devastated by Hurricane George in 1998. Today, this site offers breathtaking underwater views while snorkeling (masks provided) as well as beautiful flora and fauna.

You will then sail to the paradise beach of Saona with turquoise waters and a glass of champagne to welcome you. A delicious meal of lobster or crab and squid skewers awaits you – accompanied by a choice of side dishes such as rice, potatoes, pasta salad to meat dishes such as pork chops or chicken as well as fish dishes! Salads are not forgotten either!

At the end of your meal you will be offered premium drinks such as rum, whisky, etc., but also soft drinks and all kinds of other options including red and rosé wines at no extra charge!

At the end you can relax, take a walk along the shore or swim in the crystal clear waters.

The highlight of the trip is the famous natural swimming pool on site – here you will find giant starfish as an eye-catcher during your swimming break with small snacks, just like the locals do!

Back in the port of Bayahibe, you will have many unforgettable memories of this fascinating trip!

Price: $149 (children 3 – 12 years: $90)
Duration: 8-9 hours
Free cancelation

Book this catamaran sailing trip directly with the owner here

Sailing Catamaran to Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.
Sailing Catamaran to Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.

The tour includes:

  • Transportation from hotels in the Bayahibe – Dominicus area (Pick up and drop off from Punta Cana, Bavaro, Uvero Alto, Bahia La Romana, Juan Dolio and Boca Chica costs extra.)
  • Very comfortable 50 foot sailing catamaran
  • Friendly captain and crew to spend a wonderful day
  • English speaking guide
  • Snorkeling equipment (fins, mask and snorkel)
  • Beverages: Coca Cola, Sprite, water, rum and beer are included. Premium drinks are available on the beach and a glass of wine with lunch.
  • Lobster meal. Please note that lobster is only available from July 1st to February 29th, as the rest of the year it is a protected period for reproduction and fishing and consumption is prohibited. Outside of these dates, shrimp and squid will be served instead of lobster.
Lobster meal on Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.
Lobster meal on Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.

Saona Island with a Speed Boat

Welcome to an unforgettable experience.

Your daytrip will start in Bayahibe where you will board a speedboat (please note: this tour is not suitable for children under 3, pregnant women or wheelchair users).

On the way to Cotubanama National Park you will stop at Penon where the guide will give you interesting information about the cliffs and the Taino natives.

Then you will continue through mangrove forests full of Palétuvier trees growing directly in the seawater – a fascinating sight!

The next stop is Canto de la Playa beach on Saona Island. Here you can relax or snorkel while enjoying the white sand beach surrounded by coconut trees (2.5 hour stop).

After these wonderful experiences, you will return to the village of Mano Juan for a lunch of typical Dominican dishes.

Afterwards, you will have the opportunity to learn about the lives of the locals as your guide takes you on a tour of the village; visiting wooden huts, local shops and sports facilities.

A highlight of the trip is the turtle hatchery run by a local family, where they lovingly care for the turtles until they are released into the sea after a successful breeding season.

Before you head back, there will be time to take a nap by the water or shop in the small local shops.

Finally, you will visit the famous natural swimming pool and marvel at the giant starfish in the turquoise Caribbean waters (please note: touching is prohibited).

You will return to Bayahibe with wonderful memories. Your transportation will take you directly to your hotel – an unforgettable tour comes to an end!

Price: $79 (children 3 – 12 years: $45)
Duration: 8-9 hours
Free cancelation

Book directly with the owner of the tour here

Speed boat tour to Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.
Speed boat tour to Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.

The tour includes:

  • Transportation from hotels in Bayahibe – Dominicus area (There is an extra charge for transportation from Punta Cana, Bavaro, Uvero Alto, Bahia La Romana, Juan Dolio and Boca Chica.)
  • Speed Boat
  • Friendly captain and crew to spend a wonderful day
  • English speaking guide
  • Snorkeling gear (mask and snorkel)
  • Beverages: Coca Cola, Sprite, water, rum and beer
  • Typical Dominican lunch
Beach on Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.
Beach on Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.

The Difference: Crowded vs. Natural

As you explore Saona Island, you’ll notice a stark contrast between its more popular, crowded beaches and the serene, natural beauty of Canto de la Playa and Mano Juan.

While the former can be lively and bustling, the latter offers a quieter, more untouched experience. Saona Island, with its diverse range of beaches, caters to all kinds of travelers, from those seeking vibrant social scenes to those in search of unspoiled paradise.

Starfishes at the Saona - Natural Pool - Dominican Republic.
Starfishes at the Saona – Natural Pool – Dominican Republic.

Saona Island, with its diverse landscapes, pristine beaches, and vibrant marine life, is a testament to the Dominican attitude of embracing nature’s wonders. Whether you’re exploring the mangroves, snorkeling at Catuano Piers, or basking in the untouched beauty of Canto de la Playa and Mano Juan, this island promises an unforgettable experience.

Saona Island invites you to indulge in the best of both worlds, offering a glimpse into the lively and the serene, making it an absolute must-visit destination for those seeking an authentic Caribbean adventure.

So pack your bags, embrace the Dominican attitude, and embark on a journey of a lifetime to Saona Island.

Map with mangroves of Saona Island and Cotubanama National Park, Dominican Republic.
Map with mangroves of Saona Island and Cotubanama National Park, Dominican Republic.

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Harmony Evans is an award-winning author of Harlequin Kimani Romance, African-American romance, and so on. Harmony Evans is an award-winning author for Harlequin Kimani Romance, the leading publisher of African-American romance. Her 2nd novel, STEALING KISSES, will be released in November 2013. Harmony is a single mom to a beautiful, too-smart-for-her-own-good daughter, who makes her grateful for life daily. Her hobbies include cooking, baking, knitting, reading, and of course, napping and also review some of the best-selling and popular brands and services in the market and also write comprehensive blogs.

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