The Dominican Republic is home to a surprising number of tropical islands. Although on the surface they may seem similar, each one is unique: While some are known for their pristine national parks and untouched beaches, others are home to quaint towns and reef diving sites. Here are some of the top islands to include on your next visit to this Caribbean destination.
Spread around the Dominican Republic’s extensive coastline, the country’s islands offer respite from packed resorts and mainland beaches. Many of the islands can be reached easily from popular resort areas like Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, and Bayahibe.
Undoubtedly one of the country’s most popular island destinations, Saona is famous for its extensive protected areas which include plenty of calm tropical beaches and crystal clear waters, perfect for snorkeling or diving. Its palm-tree-lined coastline is the perfect piece of Caribbean paradise, and Saona is easily reached by boat from nearby Bayahibe or Punta Cana.
The country’s largest island, Saona is part of Cotubanamá national park. Visitors can find several of the country’s most popular beaches there, such as Canto de la Playa and Playa el Toro. If you’re looking for small-town charm, head to Mano Juan, a picturesque fishing village.
Some of the top Saona tours include this 9-hour day trip from Punta Cana. At $73 per person, the popular tour includes early morning hotel pick-up as well as transport on board a state-of-the-art speedboat. Visitors from Santo Domingo can also visit Saona on this tour.
Isla Catalina is a paradise for snorkelers and divers. It’s a safe choice for beach enthusiasts as well, thanks to its soft, white sand beaches. Some of the country’s most colorful reefs can be found there, and the “Living Sea Museum” – found around a shipwreck off the island – is a particularly trending location for divers.
Isla Catalina is best visited by booking a tour from La Romana or the capital Santo Domingo, and a limited number of tours operate from Bayahibe and Punta Cana. Due to the island’s protected nature, it only has basic infrastructure meant to handle several hundred visitors per day.
Although smaller than Saona or Isla Catalina, Cayo Levantado shouldn’t be overlooked. This cozy island is a little slice of tropical paradise and is informally known as Bacardí island after a commercial for the brand was filmed there in the 1970s. An ideal destination for a day trip, Cayo Levantado is only 5 kilometers from Samaná bay and is a must-see for travelers in the Caribbean resort area. The island is home to one luxury resort, Cayo Levantado Resort, a 5-star adults-only property, where guests can unwind in ultimate luxury.
Cayo Levantado can be reached easily by boat from Samaná, with several daily departures from Simi Baez Ferry Dock, weather permitting. A return trip costs around $30 per person, but visitors can also hop on board small boats carrying hotel staff to the island (but only if there’s space left!).
Also known as Paradise Cay for its idyllic beaches and soft sands, this island features shallow waters that are perfect for an afternoon of swimming or snorkeling. Located just 25 minutes by boat from Punta Rucia just northwest of Puerto Plata, Cayo Arena is a tiny island that tourists can walk across in just a few minutes. Some of the Dominican Republic’s best marine wildlife – colorful schools of fish and corals – as well as some unique species like octopus are known to inhabit the surrounding waters. This 10-hour snorkeling tour is a great choice for visitors staying in the Puerto Plata area.
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