BAYAHIBE is feeling the pressure. Formerly a pleasant, low-key seaside fishing village, its idyllic setting round a sheltered bay and proximity to the Parque Nacional del Este, which offers the country’s best diving and snorkelling, have helped to turn it into a significant tourist destination in recent years. Where once a handful of fishing boats bobbed in the water, serried ranks of motorized launches and catamarans waiting to transfer tourists to Isla Saona pack the harbour.
Despite ambitious construction on all sides, from the all-inclusive resorts along the surrounding coast – in particular the resort zone of Dominicus Americanus to the east – to the work of the burgeoning Italian expat community on the village’s fringes, which includes a new residential project that is likely to alter the complexion of the place, Bayahibe retains its appeal and laidback vibe. There is a good selection of budget accommodation, as well as a row of atmospheric restaurants dotting the waterfront and miles of beach stretching out on either side of the village although Bayahibe’s own strip of sand is rather scrubby and uninviting. Moreover, this is the best base from which to explore the beaches, caves and dive sites of Parque Nacional del Este.