Saona Island was named by Christopher Columbus, who discovered it in 1494 during his second trip to the Americas. This 42 square mile island has almost 30 miles of coastline and is populated by 300 individuals, mainly fishermen and their families. To say that Isla Saona, as it is known among locals, is a little piece of heaven is actually an understatement. Many movies and commercials were filmed here thanks to the island’s natural beauty and exotic wildlife.
However, none can portray the warm tropical breeze and the aroma palm trees let out in the air accurately. It’s just one of the things you need to experience in order to truly cherish.
Planning Your Saona Island Vacation
Before going through the activities and excursions available for this fantastic destination, we want to emphasize how important having respect for nature is. The island is not only paradisiac for travelers, it’s also one of the few places where many species of plants, birds, and land & sea animals harmoniously coexist. It is currently a government-protected natural reserve, part of the East National Park.
When to Visit Saona Island?
Given it’s so close to the Dominican Republic, Isla Saona has its summer in July and August, and its winter between December and February. However, temperatures hardly vary between seasons and you will find that winter might pose more advantages.
First of all, the water is just as warm but the air is comfortably cooler. Secondly, the prices will be significantly lower for all types of services. And last but not least, there will be fewer tourists hence you will be able to relax and have some privacy, which is, in our opinion, a must when visiting this wonderful place.
What to Take with You when Visiting Saona Island
Here are some basics you will need to pack (or wear) when heading towards this natural paradise:
- Bathing suit & towel(s).
- Beach clothing to cover your shoulders with and a hat, the latter being highly advised.
- Slippers or sandals.
- Sunscreen & sunglasses.
- A camera.
- Cash for tipping the guides or buying souvenirs.
Traveling to the Saona Island
You can get to the Isla Saona by boat only. Depending on how fast you want to get there and how much you are willing to spend, you can choose either a speedboat or a catamaran ride.
The speedboat will be, of course, faster and will leave you more time to enjoy the dreamlike environment of the island. However, given that traveling by speedboat can be a pretty bumpy ride, it is not suitable for families with infants, pregnant women, elderly tourists, or those who have back problems.
Traveling by catamaran will give you more time to enjoy the fresh, salty sea air while sipping from a delicious rum – just like the pirates used to do while taking a break from looting and plundering. If you want to really pamper yourself, you can also choose a private catamaran excursion.
However, you can also get to Isla Saona by helicopter, seaplane, or floatplane. This will obviously cost significantly more, but for about 30 minutes you will be able to enjoy the beauty of these lands and seas from high up in the air.
What to Do Once You Get to the Saona Island
If you purchase your Saona Island excursion from your travel agent, your resort’s concierge, or a local agency, you will generally get your money’s worth. These typically include:
- Transportation from your hotel to the Punta Cana port or pickup location.
- Traveling by speedboat or catamaran, the latter also including at least one complementary drink.
- At least one meal on the island and local drinks.
- Multilingual tour guides, sometimes animation staff as well.
- Extra activities like snorkeling, visiting the fishermen village, etc.
However, these almost never include souvenirs and tips for guides. While the latter expense is not compulsory, it is highly recommended and frowned upon if not practiced. Also keep in mind that different hotels have deals with different agencies, so your concierge will not be able to book any tour – just those available through her company.
If these don’t sound exactly your dreamlike vacation, you can also create your own personalized Saona Island tour. Here’s how to make your time on Isla Saona worthwhile supposing you already have transportation figured out:
Visiting the Fishermen Village
A must-have in any Isla Saona tour, spending just a few hours with the locals will clear your mind. Seeing how this group uses time-tested and environmentally-friendly techniques to only get what they need out of their environment will most likely change the way you look at our society. The locals are welcoming and eager to communicate with foreigners, and you can also visit the nearby turtle habitat they care for.
If you are lucky, you might be able to observe them hatch and instinctively find their way towards the sea. It truly is an amazing experience that needs to be tried out by any nature lover who finds themselves in Punta Cana.
Isla Saona is the perfect destination for snorkeling thanks to its clear and shallow waters that go as far as a few hundred feet away from shore. As mentioned before, the aquatic life is diverse and extremely colorful. If you have a waterproof camera, you will be able to take great photos that will be worth framing no matter where you point it. You can either buy or rent snorkeling equipment from Punta Cana hotels and shops.
This will obviously require more preparation, but it’s definitely the most exciting thing to do for sports enthusiasts. Not only will you observe the island and its beauty from a distance, but you will also get some exercise.
The Canto de la Playa Beach
Although the island has a few miles of beach, not all of them end up in travel guides. The Canto de la Playa one, however, definitely is the most popular and the most beautiful. The beach has fine white sand and clear turquoise waters at just the right temperature. It is guarded by coconut trees that gently lean towards the sea and create just enough shade to comfortably take a nap after a healthy swim.
Isla Saona’s Natural Pool
The natural pool is nothing more than a shallow sandbank that goes far into the sea. However, it is the perfect place to relax and drink some rum while observing starfish and other marine life forms that find their way so close to the shore.
If you visit the piscina natural as the locals call it, you just have to make a short detour and go into the mangroves. The tangled roots of shrubs and trees host plenty of life forms that exclusively live in this environment. Since most areas with mangroves are considered endangered and protected, this is a unique experience you should not skip when visiting Saona island.
Many say the color palette you typically see in the Caribbean are enough to calm your nerves and clear up your mind, and we couldn’t agree more. But Isla Saona is one of a kind in its fauna, flora, landscapes, and people – not to mention how convenient it is to get there.