Saona Island lies off the southeastern tip of the Dominican Republic. Saona is not a tiny off-shore key. The beach stretches as far as the eye can see. It’s beaches are protected from civilization because it is a National Park. Being part of the East National Park, the island is known for mangroves, coral reefs and palm-fringed beaches. The island’s shallow waters are home to starfish which draws in many visitors. The natural pool is so stunning, it’s unreal. Tour guides take you to a sandbar, far from the coast with clear, waist deep water. They let you get in the beautiful waters so that you may find a starfish or two (or 10) at your feet. Is turquoise, transparent ocean water your thing? Ocean water this color is found at only a few places on earth, including Saona Island. The island is home to the Caribbean waters. Actually, some of the scenes from The Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed on Saona Island! How cool is that?! Saona contains some of the most beautiful scenery; ivory sands lined with rows of swaying palms. The first tourist boat to dock at Saona was Christopher Columbus in 1494 and Saona has not ceased to amaze visitors for the last 500+ years!
We booked our excursion through Amstar, which is who we booked our transportation to and from our resort through as well. Our resort had about 5 or 6 different travel agencies in the lobby from about 9-5pm to help all travelers find the best (and safest) excursion for them. One tip when traveling to a different country, is to ALWAYS book your excursions through your resort. If you book them through someone or somewhere else, your safety is not guaranteed. As we were talking about seeing starfish to our travel guide with Amstar, he recommended Saona Island and informed us that it was the most popular excursion they have to offer. There are many different packages you can choose depending on what you are wanting out of the experience. We told our guide we also wanted to snorkel, so he recommended we do a snorkeling and Saona combination. We decided it would be best to just knock them out together. Jacob and I also thought it was a good idea because we got the VIP Saona Trip if we did snorkeling and Saona together. This means on the way to Saona we would be on a Catamaran with only 40 max people rather than 200 max on the regular cruise, and that we would also get served lobster (which completely sold us). However, we probably should have just did each separately. While I thought snorkeling was fantastic since I had never been before, Jacob had something in mind to compare it to. He snorkeled while he was in Cancun, and he said our snorkeling trip in the DR was nothing compared to Mexico. I think there were just better spots we could have went snorkeling in Punta Cana, but this trip was mainly focused on Saona Island. So, to our fellow travelers…we recommend doing them separately!
We started off our day with Amstar swinging by our resort to pick us up. We then picked up all of the other travelers who would spend the day with us. We then arrived at a docking port where all of the boats were heading out. The locals know that a ton of travelers go, so they take full advantage of this knowledge. There are Dominicans walking around everywhere trying to sell you anything from waterproof phone cases (which we were suckers and bought one), hats, food, or bottles of rum with your picture on it. Your tour guide will warn you before you arrive, and he will remind you which bus number you are to look for after the trip. There are a ton of different buses that look identical being that it is a huge docking port. From there, we could use the restroom quick, and then head to our boat. After getting on the Catamaran, they take you out a little ways on the blue water and dock the boat by the others. They then pass out the snorkeling gear, and you are free to get out of the boat and snorkel for about 30 minutes.
Part of our VIP experience to Saona Island was that we got to take a Catamaran Cruise to get to our destination. You get free drinks, and the tour guide comes around with sandwiches and crackers to hold you off until you get to Saona. The people on the boat try to give you the best experience possible. They play some tropical music, and get everyone to dance and have a good time. However, it’s super hard to dance on a boat without falling over and I have no idea how the people who were drinking stayed standing! We also got to meet some pretty cool people on the way to Saona. We first got to meet another couple on their honeymoon! It was so cool to see another young couple in love just as much as we were! They were super nice, and we even switched social media info to stay in touch since they are from Texas! We had a blast spending the day together and getting to know each other. We then met an older couple from Cincinnati, OH and they were also a joy to be around. They travel a lot, and gave us some awesome pointers. Lastly, we met a few other older couples from Fort Wayne, IN! It was crazy to us that we met quite a few people from or near Ohio! I mean being out of the country, you would think those chances would be low. We met some of the coolest people. Never be shy to introduce yourself and talk to new people from around the world!
I had never been on a cruise before, and I didn’t know what it would be like. I do get motion sickness from being in the car, so I wondered what this Catamaran would be like. I told Jacob, “It’s okay, I’ll be fine.” At first it was alright (pictured above), but as we continued to Saona I definitely started to feel super sick. Our trip to Saona on the Catamaran was 3 hours!!! Super beautiful and exhilarating but a little harder to enjoy when you’re trying not to get sick. The only thing that kept me from getting sick was the sips of cranberry juice, and the complimentary crackers! Also, my sweet friend Sara (the fellow honeymooner) gave me some Chex-mix which really helped, and I am eternally grateful for – thanks again beautiful! Despite trying not to get sick, we still had so much fun! For those of you who know you enjoy cruising, it’s an awesome concept and a great idea. If you have never been on a cruise before and don’t know how you’ll do, I would definitely just take a speedboat this time around. We thought the speedboat would be worse but they took our group back to Punta Cana on one and it was SO much better. Honestly you could barely even tell you were on the water. Super smooth, and super fast. We got back in less than half the time it took us to ride the Catamaran! Just a little heads up for you adventurous travelers!
About halfway to Saona, your boat will stop at this natural swimming bar only about waist deep. The water is crystal clear and you will be able to look down and find a starfish or two by your feet. Look hard enough, and you can find a ton more than that. You feel like you’re in pool water. Super warm, and so clear you can see your feet on the bottom of the ocean floor. Some starfish are bigger than others, and you can find as many as you please! Going in, Jacob and I thought that the starfish would be super sticky and soft. You know, we thought they would stick to us and maybe make us freak out a little. Nope! They honestly feel just like they do in the store all dried out, except obviously living starfish are wet and SUPER heavy compared to the store-bought ones. I was so giggly the WHOLE time because this was the one thing I was looking forward to the most. I could have stayed there for the rest of my life, and been okay with that. Such a paradise, and such a joy seeing God’s beautiful creations first hand. As we were getting back onto the boat, everyone sat their starfish down before leaving and of course I snatched about four of them up for a quick photo-op!
The locals call Saona Island ‘Punta Cana’s Hawaii’. Coming up on the Island, the waters shift from a bright sea blue, to a turquoise blue, to a see-through sky blue, and finally to a crystal clear blue! The transition is CRAZY! As we arrived at the island, there were palm trees all along the shore. If you’ve ever seen the series ‘Lost’, that’s kind of what you should picture. It’s crazy that places like that actually exist. We felt like we were in a movie the entire time. As we got off of our boat, our guide took us to a little gazebo where we were served a delicious meal barbecue style. There was chicken, pork chops, lobster, salmon, rice, pasta, salad, and so many more delicious sides! Beat part: it was all you can eat! SCORE. The food was delicious, especially after boating for 3 hours! We then got to explore the island for a few hours and pretty much do whatever we wanted! Jacob immediately following lunch, went to find a coconut in the wild. He found a few and they were no good, he then came across one that looked fairly decent. He tried hitting it against a rock to break it open. After failing miserably, a local who was helping with the barbecue ran over and offered us help. He didn’t speak any english, but he knew what we were doing and was bound and determined to help us find a good coconut. After searching through coconuts scattered all over the ground, he looked up to find a bundle of perfect ones in the tree. He stopped right then and there and CLIMBED A PALM TREE FOR US. He knocked the coconut he wanted down, and then proceeded to whip a machete out of his pocket and start cutting it open for us. Such a sweet and loving man! We were so grateful for him! We then walked the beach while enjoying our very own, fresh-out-of-a-tree coconut. It felt like we were on a deserted island, and we were in a paradise. After walking the beach, we swam in the clear water for a while. Then we took a rest under a little hut, and snapped some pictures that looked like they should be on a postcard. It was crazy and we couldn’t believe we were actually there!
We had so much fun on this excursion, and would definitely recommend it to anyone. You truly feel like you’re on another planet, and the experience is out of the world. The trip was from about 8am-5pm and is definitely worth the money! Just a little tip: make sure you pack sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses! You will thank me later! Adios amigos!