Saona Islands, National Reserve of the Dominican Republic

Saona Islands

The Saona Islands of the Dominican Republic are places where there is no civilization, where time loses its power and there is only you and nature.

In the southeast of the Dominican Republic are the Saona Islands. The largest of these is Saona, the country’s national reserve. The government, despite the significant profits from tourism, did not touch the island. Construction is not allowed there, there are no hotels, cafes or entertainment venues.

There are many uninhabited places, and in the residential part you can find fishermen living in small villages on the island. Excursions to the island are organized for tourists. You can sunbathe there: the amazing white sand, shining sun and turquoise waves. The attraction of the island is the lagoon, whose depth is one meter. You can imagine its beauty by watching Bounty commercials. This commercial was filmed on the island of Saone.

It is estimated that about 400 thousand tourists a year are placed in the reserve. Tour operators organize recreational trips to the island for them. Their beginning is at the port of La Romana. From it to the island of 15 kilometers, which is half an hour away. Less frequently the island is reached from Punta Cana, but the distance with this option increases to 5 kilometers. Most of the territory of the island is occupied by rocky caves. They have long been used by Indians to protect them from invaders who sought to bring civilization to the indigenous population.

Tourists are shown the coastline. It is a beautiful sight, the amazing nature takes your breath away. You can swim from a boat: the weather in the Dominican Republic pleases all year round. In winter, the island is above zero (23 to 25 degrees) and you can swim at this time of year without fear.

During the trip, guests are treated to a traditional drink of pirates who conquered the Caribbean for centuries. This is rum. But it’s not just alcohol that the guides limit themselves to. Tourists can see rare mangrove forests, flocks of starfish, which should not be touched because many of them are stinging and some are poisonous. You should not go into the jungle during the anchorage, it is dangerous. The time you can spend on the shore is limited. There you can see dolphins that frolic serenely in the waves of the Caribbean Sea.

Permanent residents of the island are turtles, which have settled on one of the beaches. There they live and breed, but for travelers, this beach is off-limits.

Being in a tropical climate zone, the Caribbean Sea is not as serene as it seems at first glance. The average air temperature remains unchanged (up to 28 degrees Celsius). The winds are dominated by trade winds moving from the northeast at different speeds. Some of them are forbidding, which leads to tropical hurricanes with speeds exceeding 120 kilometers per hour. Hurricanes are most often observed in October. But tourists do not need to fear hurricanes, they are not observed on the island.

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If the beauty of the planet does not leave travelers indifferent, this island must visit! And you can organize a wedding! For a corresponding fee, the romantic couple is picked up from the hotel, brought to the village of Baiaibe, and then sent to the island.

Some of its areas are closed to the masses of tourists, including the private beach called “Love Story. There the bride and groom will be able to do a photo shoot, enjoying their love and the wonderful scenery around them. The couple will be able to choose all the accessories for the wedding ceremony, options for its decoration, call guests, etc.

Visiting the Dominican Republic, with its developed hotel infrastructure and entertainment facilities, you should not forget the wonderful islands, which are nestled in the south-eastern part of the resort state.

Saona Island – Paradise in the Dominican Republic

Saona Island has been called the heart and soul of the Dominican Republic and the diamond of the Caribbean. Locals say that being in the Dominican Republic and not visiting Saona is the same as vacationing in Paris and not climbing the Eiffel Tower. Despite the fact that the island is considered the most tourist destination in the Dominican Republic, here you can always take pictures on the azure coast without the influx of tourists and vacationers. To be on the island, just buy a tour from a private guide or tour operator.

View of Saona Island

Photo: Saona Island, Dominican Republic

General information about the island of Saona

Discovered the island of Saona Dominica in the fall of 1494 by Christopher Columbus. There are various speculations and theories associated with the name. According to one version, Saona was a town in Italy where Columbus’s close friend Michele de Cuneo lived. He was the first person to see the coast and pointed out to Columbus. Michele de Cuneo later took over as governor of the island. By the way, the authorities of the Italian city and the island maintain friendly relations.

There is another version – the island is named after the daughter of the traveler, who traveled with the famous navigator – Bella Savonessa.

Saona island

Useful information for tourists:

  • The area of the island is 112 sq. km;
  • The length of the island is 12 km and its width is almost 5 km;
  • the island is 800 m away from the Dominican coast;
  • The depth of the sea near Saona is 100 m;
  • The island surface is a plain, the only elevation being Mount Punta Balaju.

Saona appears to be a deserted and uninhabited island, however, there are settlements inhabited mostly by local fishermen and there is also a military base here.

Good to know! Hotels cannot be built on the island, so tours are only for one day.

The island became famous thanks to the famous advertising of candy bars Bounty. The commercials promised an unearthly delight from the treats, but many people, above all, paid attention to the amazing nature and the azure colored water around the island. Not surprisingly, millions of tourists around the world wanted to visit this small island in the Caribbean Sea to see its amazing scenery, walk on the soft, white sand, lounge in the shade of palm trees and swim in the clearest, azure sea.

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Sailing near Saona Island

Photo: Saonaona, Dominican Republic

Interesting fact! Some people mistakenly think that the island was the filming of the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean”. The saga about the adventures of Jack Sparrow was filmed in Dominica.

Why visit the island

The length of the coastline with picturesque beaches is several kilometers, but tourists are brought to the equipped places for recreation, where there are sun loungers, you can organize a buffet. These areas of the coast are regularly cleaned and treated for insects.

If you want to be in a more exotic location, book a customized tour or photo shoot. Food and drinks are usually included in the price of the trip.

Good to know! If you are planning to go surfing, pay attention to the beach of Macau.

Snorkeling near Saona Island

Experienced tourists note that snorkeling on Saona Island is one of the best in the Dominican Republic – clean water, lack of algae and a rich marine life. Guides will tell you where the best places for snorkeling.

Saona can safely be called a nature reserve, because there are many unique plant species – 539 of them found only on the island. The density of vegetation is very high – almost the entire surface is covered with mangroves, there are areas with impassable jungle and swamps, grows a lot of coconut palms, banana trees, papaya, even have a rare mahogany and cedars.

Parrots live in the treetops, and there are 112 different species of birds on the island. From May to mid-autumn, turtles come to the shores of Saona to lay their eggs. In the waters around the island, you can find 120 species of marine life, more than 120 varieties of mollusks and a dozen different corals, you can also meet dolphins and stingrays.

On the shores of the island is the largest natural pool of only one meter deep, where starfish live. Each tour is sure to stop near this shoal for snorkeling. When choosing a tour, keep in mind that not all travel agencies know the “hot spots” where there are really enough sea stars and few tourists.

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Starfish near Saona Island

Photo: Saona Island

Important: There is a law in the Dominican Republic, which aims to protect and increase the population of starfish. According to the document it is strictly prohibited to take sea creatures out of the water, but you can take pictures and shoot video.

Excursions to Saona Island from resorts in the Dominican Republic

Of course, an excursion to Saona Island is a must when traveling to the Dominican Republic. Every travel agency will tell you that it would be an unforgivable mistake to fly to the Dominican Republic and not take pictures with the starfish. At first glance it is simple – buy an excursion, sail to the island and enjoy your vacation. But to the organizational aspects should be taken with great care.

Saona Island tours

The price of a tour to the island of Saona depends on:

  • selected tour operator;
  • tourist program.

The average price of a tour to Saona Island in the Dominican Republic ranges from $ 65 to $ 250 per person. Also in forming the price takes into account the location of the beach on the island – the cleaner and more beautiful the shore, the more expensive you will have to pay the guide, and the meals that are included in the lunch.

Be prepared for the fact that the beach, where you will be brought, is located near the swampy area, where there are a lot of mosquitoes and other insects. All beaches are equipped with sun beds, deck chairs and umbrellas. Of course, the quality of the beach is the main criterion for choosing the tour.

The number of people in the group varies from 25 to 60 people – the more tourists, the cheaper the cost.

Important! The optimal ratio of comfort and cost – 30-35 people.

Transport is comfortable – with air conditioning, the only difference – capacity. Buses can accommodate from 25 to 50 people, it depends on this – how many hotels the transport will pass, respectively, the time spent on collecting the group. As for water transport – to the island group is delivered to the high-speed boats, and for the return trip is given a comfortable catamaran, where you can dance, drink rum and relax.

Excursion bus

Every excursion to Saona in the Dominican Republic involves lunch. It is usually a buffet; the selection of dishes depends on the cost of the trip. The traditional menu includes chicken, fish, seafood, side dishes of potatoes, pasta, rice, salads, and seasonal fruit. If you wish, you may order lobster at a price from $25 to $40. The choice of drinks is quite diverse – local rum, Sprite, juices, beer, water.

The standard excursion program to Saona Island in the Dominican Republic is as follows.

– Tourists are picked up from the hotel at about 7:30, as the bus arrives at several hotels, the road to the port takes about 1.5 hours, Russian-speaking guide.

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– At the port, the group is transferred to a speedboat and goes to the island.

– After a quarter of an hour, the boat stops in a natural pool for tourists to swim and take pictures with starfish. Many tourists note that in sunny weather, the color of the water in this part of the sea is extraordinary. The duration of the stop is approximately 30 minutes. Remember that it is strictly forbidden to pull starfish out of the water, without water they quickly die.

Boat with tourists

– After a quarter of an hour, the group arrives on the island and until lunch, tourists are walking, enjoying the beauty, taking pictures. Visitors to Saona Island are greeted by loud music, but you can find a secluded, quiet area if you wish. There is a beach bar on the shore, where you can buy drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The lunch table is served on the beach at about one o’clock in the afternoon. In the afternoon, animators begin their work – tourists are taught to dance salsa and bachata.

– At 3 pm, tourists leave the island. The way back is always more fun, because tourists are already familiar with each other, also affected by alcoholic beverages drunk during lunch. At the request of tourists catamaran stops at the reef. With fun music, dancing and drinks the road to the hotel will fly by unnoticed.

When choosing a tour, you should first clarify the program and know the maximum number of people in the group. Be sure to choose a program with a Russian-speaking guide, as there are guides who speak only Spanish and English, they work with the locals.

Also specify – whether a visit to the sea pool with the stars is planned. Some programs provide an excursion to the City of Artists – Altos de Chavon.

Useful information! Capacity of a catamaran is 100 people, so often sightseeing buses are combined and several groups go by sea.

Specify the route the group will take. Traditionally, tourists are offered a visit to a natural pool with starfish and the City of Artists, but there are also extended programs that include a visit to cane plantations and mangroves.


The next question that is important to ask the guide is what the beach will be like. It is from the quality of the coast and sea depends on the impression of the entire trip, it would be a shame if it would be spoiled by the nearby swamp, midges. On the island of Saona is enough exclusive beaches where you can relax comfortably, take beautiful pictures, enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Tip: If you find yourself in a large group of tourists, once on the island, immediately take a deckchair or sun lounger – after dinner, you want a quiet and comfortable rest.

When it comes to photos, huge lines of tourists line up to take pictures near the palm trees leaning into the water. If you walk along the shore, you’re likely to find other equally picturesque places to take pictures where you won’t have such an influx of guests.

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Another important criterion is lunch. If we are talking about a budget, standard excursion, lunch is served only on the island in a buffet format, and in a more expensive program, tourists dine on a boat or catamaran.

Dish in a cafe

Many tourists note that the locals do not know how to cook pork, so it is better not to try meat dishes, and choose fish or seafood. It is also not recommended to take a salad, seasoned with mayonnaise, because in the heat they quickly deteriorate. If you really want to remember the taste of mayonnaise, be sure to take the local rum, it will have antibacterial effect.

In expensive excursion programs there is a separate dining area only for one group and personal waiters.

The City of Artists is a gated community located in the upscale Casa de Campo complex. The look of the medieval artisan village was recreated by specialists from Paramount Pictures. The Chavon River, next to which the town is located, flows into the Caribbean Sea and was the location for the filming of the movie Anaconda.

City of Artists

If you want to fully enjoy the experience, spend your time in comfort, book a Saona Deluxe tour. Advantages of the trip:

  • small group;
  • Lobster is included in the price of lunch;
  • photo session is provided;
  • Mandatory visit to the City of Artists;
  • Separate dining area.

In addition, a personalized tour for two or a helicopter program can be booked for Saona Island.

Helpful Hints


  1. Have a hearty breakfast before your trip.
  2. Be sure to take sunscreen and insect repellent.
  3. Do not forget the beach accessories – swimsuits, towels, you can not buy them on the island. Swimsuit better put on before the excursion, as in the port to do it nowhere.
  4. If possible, do not take a very expensive equipment on the island – you will have to constantly monitor it, so as not to lose it.
  5. Take money for extras – buying lobster or coconut oil.

Saona Island is a rare corner of the world where the amazing nature has remained untouched by man.

The most popular excursion in the Dominican Republic:

Author: Julia Matyukhina

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