From inside Del Este State Park in the Dominican Republic is a little paradise called the Saona Island A familiar Caribbean Travel & Life Magazine named it one of the 8 Caribbean Dream Islands. And not without reason. It is one of the biggest islands in the country with 110 square kilometers of palm groves and long, soft beaches with white sand and turquoise, crystal clear water.
Its popularity grew in the direction of several years, and now it is one of the most popular tourist spots in the country. As a consequence, it is not strange that every day authorized groups to come from nearby resorts, to enjoy its beaches.
The island’s history
Christopher Columbus arrived on the island of Saona on September 14, 1494, during his 2nd voyage. He named it “Bella Savonesa” after Michele da Cuneo, the first man to realize that it was not the peninsula “La Española,” today’s Dominican Republic. For the natives, who always called it Adamanay, the name was not easy to pronounce, so they called it Saona Island.
It is said that Cotubanama, the original leader of the area, tried to hide from the massacre of the Spanish conqueror in one of the caves of the island. Unfortunately, he was eventually discovered. Even though this peninsula has lost much of its original essence, it is still as unspoiled and authentic as ever, and its inhabitants have adequately preserved their surroundings. Let’s take a look at what is so special about this island.
What to do?
There are a million things to do on this island; I will leave some varieties for you in the following.
Walking Mano Juan
Mano Juan is a small fishing village on Saona Island. There are only 2 streets with brightly colored wooden dwellings, some restaurants and a large number of souvenir shops for tourists.
Visit the Turtle Recovery Center
This is a space dedicated to defending area species of turtles, preserving their eggs for 3-4 days before releasing them, and conducting studies on them.
Take a hike around Los Flamencos Lagoon
This lake is considered home to many area bird species and is only a 30-minute drive from Mano Juan. One of the best times to go is early afternoon, at sunrise, because this is when there are a large number of birds.
Swimming at Canto de la Playa Beach
The best the Saona Island beach is in the southeast of the island and to get there you have to walk a dirt road through a forested area near the Canto de la Playa lake.
It’s a short walk (an hour’s drive) from Mano Juan (the village), but you can still rent a motorcycle taxi driver, a more frisky and lesser-known option. It’s a long beach with white sand and a gorgeous palm grove, perfect for a day of sunbathing, snorkeling, or reading a book in the shade of palm trees.
Saona island snorkeling
The Caribbean Sea stands out for its beautiful sea appeal and perfect water temperature. Much colorful fish await you beneath the waters of Saona Island and you simply have to wear goggles to enjoy the crystal-clear waters.
Enjoy the regional food
Enjoy fine regional fare at one of the beachfront restaurants: fish, chicken, rice, potatoes, or coconut juice from island palms. If you order, they also have a chance to grill upright lobsters, elementally savory.
Advice for the traveler
To begin with, when you arrive at the dock of Saona Island, you will see that there are several boats with groups of people from different tour operators. In case they come for a day trip, they tend to stay in the same region where the boats are present because they have a sincere bar with food and drinks (rum in general). In case you want to be more measured and dismissed from the tourist groups, you have to walk within 50 meters, to find this secluded beach with palm trees just for you.
Secondly, the bulk of people tend to buy a day trip to Saona Island and combine it with a stopover during the trip, to catch a glimpse of snorkeling. Even though not everyone has a lot of time to visit the Dominican Republic, a perfect option is to spend at least one night on the Saona Island to enjoy its tranquility, when tourist groups leave to discover the neighborhood atmosphere and some delightful spaces.