Dominican Republic // The southeast //

Isla Saona

Most boats pull in to Isla Saona at the tiny village of Mano Juan, a picturesque strip of pastel wooden huts with a 4km hiking trail that leads inland, an expensive restaurant run by Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach and a long line of beach chairs and umbrellas; or Piscina Natural (known locally as Laguna Canto de la Playa), a sand bar with a clear lagoon behind it that makes a good snorkelling spot (you’ll see lots of giant starfish trundling along the sea bed, but resist the urge to pick them up). If you visit with an independent boat, avoid the hordes and head to one of the more isolated stretches of beach that dot the entire island, such as Canto de la Playa, where you’re more likely to get the white sand and transparent water to yourself, though in high season that’s not guaranteed even here. Another option is to have your boat captain skip Saona altogether, head into the Catuano Canal that separates Saona from the mainland, and stop off at the small island of Catalinita (not to be confused with Isla Catalina, see p.000), which gets less tourist traffic and has some excellent reefs for diving (less so for snorkelling). Its beaches are littered with large conch shells and during the winter months you may be able to spot humpback whales and dolphins and even, if you’re really lucky, an elusive manatee.

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