Saona Island, reminiscent of a piece of paradise, is called the heart and soul of the Dominican Republic, as well as the diamond of the Caribbean. Locals say that visiting the Dominican Republic and not visiting Saona is tantamount to the fact that you, while vacationing in Paris, will not climb the Eiffel Tower. Despite the fact that the island is considered the most tourist destination in the Dominican Republic, here you can always take photos on the azure coast without the influx of tourists and vacationers. To be on the island, it is enough to buy a tour from a private guide or tour operator.
General information about Saona Island
The island of Saona in the Dominican Republic was discovered in the fall of 1494 by Christopher Columbus. Various speculations and theories are associated with the name. According to one version, Saona is a city in Italy where a close friend of Columbus, Michele de Cuneo, lived. He first saw 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 a traveler who traveled with the famous navigator – Bella Savonesa.
Useful information for tourists:
- the area of the island is 112 sq. km .;
- the length of the island is 12 km, and the width is almost 5 km;
- the island is 800 m away from the coast of the Dominican Republic;
- the depth of the sea next to Saona – 100 m;
- the island surface is a plain, the only elevation is Mount Punta Balaju.
Saona seems to be a deserted and uninhabited island, however, there are settlements where mainly local fishermen live, in addition, the military is based here.
Good to know! You cannot build hotels on the island, therefore, excursions are only one-day.
The island became famous thanks to the famous advertising of Bounty bars. The advertising video promised an unearthly pleasure from the treat, but many, first of all, paid attention to the amazing nature and azure water around the island. It is not surprising that millions of tourists around the world wanted to visit a small island in the Caribbean Sea to see amazing landscapes with their own eyes, stroll along the soft, white sand, soak up the shade of palm trees and swim in the clear azure sea.
Interesting fact! Some people mistakenly think that the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” was filmed on the island. The Jack Sparrow saga was filmed in Dominica.
Why visit the island
The length of the coastline with picturesque beaches is several kilometers, however, tourists are brought to places equipped for recreation, where there are sun loungers, you can organize a buffet. These areas of the shore are regularly cleaned and treated for insects.
If you want to find yourself in a more exotic place, book an individual excursion or photo session. Typically, food and drinks are included in the price of the trip.
Good to know! If you are planning on surfing, check out Macau Beach.
Experienced tourists note that snorkeling on Saona Island is one of the best in the Dominican Republic – clear water, no algae and a rich marine world. The guides will definitely tell you where the best places for snorkelling are.
Flora and fauna
Saona can be safely called a nature reserve, since there are many unique plant species – 539 of them are found only on the island. The density of vegetation is very high – almost the entire surface is covered with mangrove groves, there are areas with impenetrable jungle and swamps, there are many coconut palms, banana trees, papaya trees, there is even a rare mahogany, cedars.
Parrots live in the tree crowns, and there are 112 species of birds on the island. From May to mid-autumn, turtles come to the shores of Saona to lay eggs. In the waters near the island, there are 120 species of marine inhabitants, more than 120 species of mollusks and a dozen different corals, you can also meet dolphins and stingrays.
The visiting card of the island is starfish
Off the coast of the island is the largest natural pool, only one meter deep, where starfish live. Every excursion is sure to stop at this shoal for snorkeling. When choosing an excursion tour, keep in mind that not all travel agencies know “hot” places where there are really enough sea stars and few tourists.
Important! On the territory of the Dominican Republic, there is a law that is aimed at protecting and increasing the population of starfish. In accordance with the document, it is strictly forbidden to get marine life out of the water, but you can take pictures and shoot videos.
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Excursions to the island of Saona from the resorts of 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 photos with starfish. At first glance, everything is simple – buy an excursion, swim to the island and enjoy your vacation. But organizational issues should be treated with great attention.
The price of an excursion to Saona Island depends on:
- the selected tour operator;
- tourist program.
On average, the price of an excursion to Saona Island in the Dominican Republic varies from $ 65 to $ 250 per person. Also, when forming the price, the location of the beach on the island is taken into account – the cleaner and more beautiful the coast, the more expensive the guide will have to pay, and the dishes that are included in lunch.
Organizational moments of the excursion
Be prepared for the fact that the beach where you will be brought is located next to a swampy area, where there are many mosquitoes and other insects. All beaches are equipped with sun loungers, sun loungers, umbrellas. Of course, the quality of the beach is the main criterion for choosing an excursion.
The number of people in a group varies from 25 to 60 people – the more tourists, the cheaper the cost.
Important! The optimal ratio of comfort and cost is 30-35 people.
The transport is comfortable – air-conditioned, the only difference is its spaciousness. Buses can accommodate from 25 to 50 people, it depends on how many hotels the transport will pass, respectively, the time spent on collecting the group. As for water transport, the group is delivered to the island by high-speed boats, and for the return journey, a comfortable catamaran is provided, where you can dance, drink rum and relax.
Every excursion to Saona in the Dominican Republic includes lunch. As a rule, this is a buffet, the set of dishes depends on the cost of the trip. The traditional menu is chicken, fish, seafood, potatoes, pasta, rice as a side dish, salads and seasonal fruits are always served. Optionally, you can buy lobster, cost from $ 25 to $ 40. The choice of drinks is quite varied – local rum, sprite, juices, beer, water.
The standard excursion program to the island of Saona in the Dominican Republic is as follows.
– Tourists are picked up from the hotel at about 7-30, since the bus calls into several hotels, the journey to the port takes about 1.5 hours.
– At the port, the group changes to a speedboat and goes to the island.
– After a quarter of an hour, the boat stops at the natural pool so that tourists can 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 sea stars out of the water; without water, they quickly die.
– In a quarter of an hour the group arrives on the island and before lunchtime tourists walk, enjoy the beauty, take pictures. The island of Saona welcomes guests with loud music, but if you wish, you can find a secluded, quiet area. There is a beach bar on the shore where you can buy drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Dining is served on the beach at approximately 1pm. After lunch, animators begin their work – tourists are taught to dance salsa and bachata.
– At 15-00 tourists leave the island. The way back is always more fun, because tourists are already familiar with each other, and alcoholic drinks drunk during lunch also affect. At the request of tourists, the catamaran stops at the reefs. With cheerful music, dancing and drinks, the road to the hotel will fly by unnoticed.
How to choose a good excursion
When choosing an excursion, first of all, you need to clarify the program and find out the maximum number of people in the group. Be sure to choose a program with a English-speaking guide, as there are guides who speak only Spanish and they work with the locals.
Also check if a visit to the starfish pool is planned. Some programs include an excursion to the city of Artists – Altos de Chavon.
Good to know! The catamaran has a capacity of 100 people, so often sightseeing buses unite and several groups travel by sea.
Specify which route the group will take. Traditionally, tourists are offered a visit to the natural pool with starfish and the city of Artists, but there are also extended programs that include visiting reed plantations and mangroves.
The next question that is important to ask the guide is what the beach will be like. The impression of the whole trip depends on the quality of the coast and the sea, it is a shame if it is spoiled by a nearby swamp, midges. There are enough exclusive beaches on Saona Island where you can comfortably relax, take beautiful photographs, and enjoy the picturesque landscapes.
Advice! If you find yourself in a large group of tourists, once on the island, immediately take a sun lounger or sunbed – after lunch you will want to relax and relax comfortably.
As for the photographs, there are huge queues of tourists lining up to be photographed near the palm trees leaning towards the water. Walk along the coast, for sure you will find other equally picturesque places for pictures, where there will be no such influx of guests.
Another important criterion is lunch. If we are talking about a budgetary, 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.
Many tourists note that locals do not know how to cook pork, so it is better not to try meat dishes, but to choose fish or seafood. It is also not recommended to take salads seasoned with mayonnaise, as they quickly deteriorate in the heat. If you really want to remember the taste of mayonnaise, be sure to take the local rum, it will have an antibacterial effect.
Expensive excursion programs provide for a separate dining area for only one group and personal waiters.
A few words about additional impressions during the excursion
The City of Artists is a closed area located in the elite complex Casa de Campo. The exterior of the medieval village of artisans was recreated by specialists from Paramount Pictures. The Chavon River, next to which the city is located, flows into the Caribbean Sea. here the shooting of the film “Anaconda” took place.
If you want to fully enjoy the impressions and spend time comfortably, book the Saona Deluxe excursion. Benefits of the trip:
- small group;
- the price of lunch includes lobsters;
- a photo session is provided;
- obligatory visit to the city of Artists;
- separate dining area.
In addition, you can book an individual excursion for two or a helicopter program to Saona Island.
- Have a hearty breakfast before your trip.
- Be sure to bring your sunscreen and insect repellent.
- Do not forget beach accessories – swimwear, towels, it is impossible to buy them on the island. It is better to put on a swimsuit before the start of the excursion, as there is nowhere to do it in the port.
- If possible, do not take very expensive equipment to the island – you will have to constantly monitor it so as not to lose it.
- Take money for extra expenses – buying lobsters or coconut oil.
Saona Island is a rare corner in the world where amazing nature has been preserved, untouched by man.