When we visited the Dominican Republic, we decided to enhance our experience by taking addition tours of the countryside. One of our excursions in the Dominican Republic was to beautiful Isla Saona. It’s a wildlife reserve off the coast of the Hispaniola, the main island housing both the Dominican Republic and Haiti. We soon learned 70% of visitors to the Dominican Republic will take a trip to Isla Saona. On our travels, we do some touristy things and spend some time traveling like a local. This was one of our touristy things. After all, 70% of visitors to the Dominican Republic can’t be wrong!
The day started at 7:20 am when we were picked up in a tour bus at our hotel lobby. We had stopped for an early breakfast, which came in handy since the tour doesn’t have lunch until 1 pm. Tip: Be sure to pack a snack. You’ll also want to wear your bathing suit and bring towels and sunscreen! You’ll be spending most of your day on the water, which is a recipe for sunburn.
After about an hour bus ride, we arrived in a small fishing village on the coast. We would depart from here to be taken to Saona. The village culture seemed to shock most people on the tour bus. Vendors aggressively try to hawk their wares, and a woman outside the bathroom handed out toilet paper. Unlike a previous trip, we made to Juarez, Mexico, the toilet paper was free, but the lady was fine with tips. Brittany had gastritis at this point during the trip, so if she had cash in her pockets, she would have purchased an entire roll. After the bathroom stop, we followed our guide to the coast. From here we boarded a speedboat for a two-minute ride into deep water, where our catamaran was waiting.
The catamaran ride to the island took about an hour and a half. On the catamaran, rum, beer, soft drinks, and mineral water were available. Music was provided, creating a festive atmosphere, along with the option to learn some dance steps, We didn’t dance, choosing to sit at the front of the catamaran and enjoy the ride instead. I was even adventurous enough to lay on the hammock between the two front parts of the boat where I may have taken a small nap. One thing to be wary of on the boats: you’ll probably have a skull cap plopped on your head without warning, then be asked for $5 per cap. This ate up our tip money, so you may want to carry extra cash- or be ready to emphatically say no.
Once we arrived at the island, we took another speedboat to shore. Tip: You’ll be amazed at how many people could fit into one speedboat. On we reached the shore, we were shown our tour group’s area and bar, where the bathrooms were located, and told where to meet back for lunch. We were also given the option of purchasing freshly caught lobster to be cooked on the beach or fresh coconuts which will they will cut open, allowing us to drink the water. We had a few dollars left so we bought a fresh coconut. It was easily one of the best purchases of the trip.
While we waited for lunch, we alternated between walking on the pristine beach and playing in the water. It was crystal clear, blue as can be, and filled with chunks of coral that had washed off the nearby coral reef. If we had brought our own goggles and snorkel, we could have easily swum out to the reef and looked around! Instead, we contented ourselves to stare at the reef from our view in the water.
When we finished playing in the water, it was time for a traditional Dominican lunch. There were fruits, veggies, smoked and grilled meats, and plenty of rice and beans. It was delicious! Lunch could be washed down with water, soda, beer, or rum. Once lunch was over, free time was available until 2:40, when a speedboat picked us up for a jet over to a natural pool. Located far from shore, this pool was ringed by coral and was only waist to shoulder deep. It was also a hangout for sea life, including starfish. We all got a chance to hold one, but we weren’t allowed to take them out of the water for more than five seconds because it would die.
We were able to spend around 30 minutes in the natural pool and then headed for shore. We took a speedboat back, which shortened the return trip to 45 minutes. We filed back onto the buses to return to the hotel. Along the way, we made a pit stop at an island gift shop. There’s a lot of stuff there, but it can be a bit overpriced. We had better luck purchasing from small locally owned shops. At the end of the day, we were all burnt and tired, but it was a memorable trip.
Tips to Have a Great Trip:
This is an all-day excursion, lasting from 7:20 in the morning until close to 6 PM in the evening.
Pack plenty of sunblock, a towel and a tube of sunblock for your lips. I bypassed severe sunburn on my body but got sun blisters on my lips.
Take plenty of small bills (like $1 bills) for tips. They accept US Currency.
Beverages will be available on the trip to the island and on the island, but none will be available after you leave the island. Bring a bottle of water.