Island Saona in the south of the Dominican Republic is one of the most popular tourist attractions. It can be reached as part of a tour or independently. Further you will learn everything about this extraordinary beautiful paradise.
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Saona Island in the Dominican Republic
This place is especially popular with European tourists, that’s why. All planes from the Old World arrive, as a rule, at Punta Cana or La Romano airport. The resorts of Bavaro, Punta Cana and Cap Cana are located 20 km from this airport and most tourists take tours here.
By the way, these resorts have a wide selection of 4-star hotels, which are not much inferior to the 5-stars. Follow the link, ratings and reviews of 4 * hotels in the Dominican Republic.
And the island Saona, although far from the northern resorts or even the central part of the Dominican Republic, is very close to Bavaro and Punta Cana. Therefore, tourists love to visit this attraction so much. Well, because it is still very beautiful here.
On the map above, you can explore all the points and places available to tourists. Well, later in the article I will tell you more about each of them.
Island Saona: General Facts
- This is the largest island in the Dominican Republic. Well, not counting the fact that the Dominican Republic itself is an island.
- The area of Saona Island is 110 sq. km.
- For comparison, the area of the fourth largest island, Cayo Levantado (or Bacardi Island) is less than 1 sq. km.
- Read more about this paradise island, where the famous advertisement for Bacardi rum was filmed, and how to visit it, read the article at the link.
- By the way, on the snow-white beaches of the island of Saona, an advertisement was filmed for a product no less famous than Bacardi – Bounty chocolate in 1990. Below you can see it. Since that time, nothing has changed, only there are more tourists.
- Saona Island is officially an inhabited island. There is one village of Mano Juan. It is once a fishing village with about 150 people.
- Today, of course, fishing has given way to tourism.
- Local residents have opened shops with souvenirs and paintings, and are also trying to rent out their huts for tourists.
- The island is the Este National Park and is protected by the state. Therefore, any solid construction is prohibited on the island. There is not a single hotel or any other capital building.
- There are plenty of sun loungers on the beaches of Saona
- Canopies from the sun
- Bars and restaurants that are made from improvised materials
- These are, perhaps, all the buildings of the island
A Brief History of Saona
I don’t like reprinting Wikipedia, but knowing the history of the place you’re going to is important. Therefore, very briefly the history of Saona.
- In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered America on his first voyage. The first land he saw after crossing the Atlantic was the north of the Dominican Republic. On this journey, he did not swim to Saona.
- Saona was discovered by Columbus on his second voyage in September 1494. The official date is September 14th. One of the sailors on Columbus’s ship and his friend saw the earth through a telescope. This was Saona.
- Columbus later appointed this sailor as governor of the island.
- Until 1494, only Taina Indians lived on the island.
Good to know:Since a maximum of 300-500 people lived on the island for almost the entire history, and its location in the very east of the country saved Saona from big wars and conquests. Yes, there were conquistadors and the French, but there were no major historical events. The history of the island of Saona was calm and even for 500 years after the discovery by the Spaniards. And today, life also flows slowly and measuredly.
How to get to Saona Island
There are two options:
- On your own.
- As part of the tour.
It is important to understand:Surprisingly, it is a fact that an independent visit to the island is unlikely to be much cheaper than as part of an excursion. In any case, the savings for any option, if any, are insignificant.
To the island on your own
In order to get there on your own, you need two things:
- Come to Bayahibe beach (marked on the map at the beginning of the article)
- Finding a boat is not difficult. I would say, guys will find you faster and offer to take you to Saona. Here are a few things to know:
- sail from Bayahibe to Saona 30-40 minutes
- specify in advance which beach you are being taken to and when they will be taken back. Usually tourists swim here for the whole day.
- A boat round trip, when there are a lot of tourists, costs about $ 30-40 per person. But if there are few tourists, it can be more expensive.
- They can bring both to the beach in the western part of Saona Island and to the beach of the village of Mano Juan.
- Please note that with this option, sun loungers, drinks, lunch and snacks will all be at an additional cost. Only the boat costs $30-40.
It is important to know:Near the southern shores of Saona, about 1 km from the coast, there is a long sandbank. There is a maximum depth of no more than one meter. And there you can meet huge starfish. So, if you sail to the island on your own, then the boat does not sail here. And as part of the tour for half an hour they bring you there.
What is included in the tour?
An excursion to Saona Island can be bought at almost any resort in the Dominican Republic. But we will consider the most popular among European tourists and tourists from the USA, Canada.
Remember:The further your resort/beach/hotel is from Bayahibe, the more expensive the excursion. Read about all excursions in the Dominican Republic in a separate article.
An excursion to Saona usually costs about $100 from Bavaro hotels. The price depends a lot on the services included, on the agency, on snacks and drinks, and so on. For example, a very popular full day excursion: Saona Island + Altos de Chavon, the city of artists. There are excursions only to Saona for the whole day.
- The bus picks up from the hotel between 8-9 am.
- Transfer to Bayahibe beach – from Bavaro 1 hour
- Boat transfer about 30-40 minutes to the starfish beach and for snorkeling
- For about 30-60 minutes you swim and take pictures with the starfish
- In 2018, a ban on raising starfish from the water was introduced. Now you can pick them up, but only under water.
- There are very few stars in 2023, and I’m afraid they will soon be banned from raising them even under water
- At about 12-13 o’clock you will be brought to the beach and will be given free time until 16 o’clock to swim, sunbathe, take a walk.
- The beach on the island of Saona is long, more than 8 km. There is fine white sand and a million palm trees.
- Tours often include lunch and soft drinks. Always check this point in advance.
- Important: sun loungers are at an additional cost sometimes. Usually price 2-3$ for each. To sunbathe on a towel on the sand is free.
- At 4 pm you are picked up and taken back to Bayahibe beach and then to the hotel.
Good to know:The island also has mangrove forests and remote deserted beaches, as well as beaches for wedding ceremonies. But as a rule, you can get to these places only as part of VIP excursions.
Saona Island Tours
I recommend looking for an excursion to Saona Island at the link below, there is the largest selection of offers in the Dominican Republic:
- Saona Island and the City of Artists – there are excursions on a catamaran, with a buffet and drinks, with and without a visit to Altos de Chavon. There are over 50 options from various agencies.
There are many advantages of such excursions:
- They bring to Saona Island to a private beach, where there are few tourists, and there are enough sunbeds (free) for everyone
- The price includes not only lunch and snacks, but often alcohol as well.
- You can find an excursion with a visit to Altos De Chavon (city of Artists), which is also a big plus
- It is better to read the program from the links. Ideal for those who live in Punta Cana and Bavaro, pick up immediately from the hotel then.
- Even if you bought a tour with food and drinks, take money, alcohol and even a snack with you. All day in the sun and in the water, and you will have only one meal. Everything else is for money.
- But it depends on the tour. On good programs, two or three meals can be included. Always check everything in advance.
- Sea turtles can be found off the coast of Saona and on the beach. Their migration season is from late May to late August. But there are not so many of them here and no one guarantees that you will meet them even in the season. But in the season, you will definitely meet whales, though in Samana, and not in Saona. And these are completely different places in the Dominican Republic.
- Please note that there can be a lot of people during the high season. But long beaches save the day. Even if there are several thousand tourists, they can all disperse throughout the territory.
- The first boats leave Bayahibe Beach at 9 am. If you want to catch Saona with deserted beaches without tourists at all, swim here early.
- And if you dream of spending the night on the island without tourists at all, there are literally a couple of options. These are huts that the locals have converted into apartments. Comfort is not enough, but is it needed? Palm trees, beach and caribbean.
Good to know:The choice of spending the night on the island is only from these three options. There is nothing else. The occupancy of these bungalows is 95% throughout the year. If you find a free date for the period of your trip – you’re lucky. Caribbean, little paradise island, no tourists and overnight in a bungalow on the beach – what else do you need?
In conclusion: a trip to Saona Island in the Dominican Republic will definitely be one of your brightest memories. And it doesn’t matter how you get here. This heavenly picture from the bounty advertisement and the color of the water will be remembered for a long time.
Resources to help you plan your dream trip to Dominican Republic
- Flights at the best prices with discounts
- Car rental in Dominican (cheaper – only by bus):
- Discovery Cars – a largest international resource
- Hotels and apartments all over the country: Booking
- Vacation packages:
- Tours, excursions and activities (including extreme ones):
- GYG – more than 150 tours (whales tours)
- Comprehensive travel insurance: EKTA
- eSIM virtual sim card with internet in Dominican
- Taxi and transfers from Dominican airports: Intui.Travel