A day trip to Saona Island is probably one of the most popular trips you can do from Punta Cana. As such, it was one of the trips we absolutely wanted to do during our holiday in the Dominican Republic.
Overall we enjoyed the trip and the time we spent on the island. We sailed a catamaran on the way there and came back on a speed boat on the way back. A highlight was seeing and touching starfish for the first time.
Read more about our experience below and what you should expect from a day trip to Saona Island from Punta Cana. This includes a summary of things to do on Saona Island from Punta Cana, booking your trip to Saona Island and our top tips for your day trip.
Saona Island has been on our list since we first visited the Dominican Republic. Sadly, due to a category 5 hurricane, we couldn’t visit the island on our first visit and we said to ourselves that this is a reason to return to the Dominican Republic again.
And so we did – we visited Punta Cana again and we knew a trip to Saona Island is a must. Most trips from Punta Cana to Saona Island are sold as day trips, so you should allocate around 8-9 hours of your day.
You can book a trip via GetYourGuide or Viator or a local seller. We booked our trip through a local agency from someone who was selling the tours at the beach. Usually your trip would include a pick-up from your hotel, lunch and drop off at the hotel.
All in all, the trip was about 10 hours from start to finish and we share our experience below.
How to get to Saona Island from Punta Cana
As Punta Cana is on the Atlantic Ocean and Saona Island is in the Caribbean Sea, most tour operators take you by bus to Bayahibe and from there by boat or catamaran to Saona Island. We were excited for the boat ride to Saona Island from Punta Cana but all in all we used different modes of transport to and from Saona Island.
We were picked up by a company representative and were driven from our hotel Caribe Deluxe Princess to a place in Punta Cana where we waited for other tourists. From there we all boarded a mini bus from Punta Cana to Bayahibe which seems to be the starting point for trips to Saona Island.
To get to Saona Island, we had the pleasure of riding a catamaran which was a nice experience. To reach the catamaran, we first boarded on a boat from the shore. Note to self – next time we need a waterproof bag as our bag got wet even though we had the best attempts to keep it dry when boarding the boat.
Saona Island Trip Highlights
Our Saona Island highlights from Punta Cana – catamaran ride, the beauty of Saona Island, starfish experience and speedboat ride just to name a few. More information about these below.
Catamaran Ride to Saona Island
On the way to Saona Island we sailed on a catamaran. A catamaran is a type of boat that has two parallel hulls, which makes it more stable on the water than a traditional single-hulled boat.
The experience of riding on a catamaran to Saona Island was enjoyable and offered a smooth and comfortable ride. We had on-board music, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks were included and there was entertainment from the staff. We danced a bit, relaxed a bit and of course took some photos of the beautiful sights we passed by.
You can choose to relax and work on your sun tan on the deck or sit down under the shade. We enjoyed the stunning views of the Caribbean Sea but wish there was some time to jump off the boat and swim in the crystal-clear waters.
Overall, the catamaran ride to Saona Island was a highlight and provided a unique and memorable way to reach the island whilst admiring the natural beauty of the Caribbean Sea.
Saona Island and Its Beautiful Scenery
After approximately 2 hours on the catamaran, we reached our destination – the beautiful Saona Island. Saona Island is located off the south-eastern coast of the Dominican Republic and is part of the East National Park, which is known for its diverse wildlife and natural beauty.
Saona Island is renowned for its pristine white sand beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and tropical vegetation. The highlight of our experience on the island was the nice beach and the amazing palm trees. The contrasts of the white sandy beach, turquoise waters, greenish palm trees and clear blue sky was what stuck in my mind.
With our tour, we had around 2.5 hours on the island to explore and enjoy the beautiful scenery. We didn’t feel this was enough time but it did give us a feel of this piece of paradise.
Similar to other tours we took in Alanya or Paphos, lunch is included and this is usually provided on the island. There are many places scattered around which offer food and drinks for the relevant groups of people. You can also purchase souvenirs, smoothies, fresh coconuts etc. so having cash on you might be a good idea.
We weren’t very impressed with the lunch but we didn’t go with high expectations about it either. Lunch was buffet style with salads, pasta, rice, bread, grilled chicken and fresh fruits. Drinks were also provided.
Next door there was a posher place for different groups of tourists where better food and champagne was offered as well. Of course, this is charged at a higher rate than what we paid for but if you are after a more luxurious trip, this is offered as well.
There are sunbeds on the island and we were supposed to have one guaranteed but this wasn’t the case. We chose to walk around the island and swim in the water, so didn’t really need one to be honest. We found some very interesting palm trees, perfect for a photo opportunity.
We did swim in the water and indeed the colour was stunning, however there were so many tourist boats around that we didn’t enjoy the swim as much. On this note, the island was exactly as expected but because we had a great beach at our hotel, it didn’t really feel that spectacular.
If you are interested to find out more about the hotel we stood at in Punta Cana, read our hotel review about hotel Caribe Deluxe Princess Punta Cana here.
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One of the most popular attractions on Saona Island is the natural pool that is home to a large population of starfish. In fact this is close to Saona Island but is by the Dominican coast – a shallow sandbar in the middle of the ocean.
It feels like you are in a swimming pool with sand underneath. The water is shallow and so clear that you can see everything.
We did see a lot of starfish from the boat but when we stopped for a swim, we were amazed to see starfish so close to the shore. I even touched one! Close to our boat, there were two starfish attracting attention, so I convinced Paul to hold them for a nice photo.
In a way, we enjoyed this stop more than Saona Island and loved the crystal clear calm water which was perfect for a swim. This, combined with the starfish spotting, made for a truly unforgettable experience.
I should also mention that during this stop drinks were also provided. As we boarded the speedboat, we had a well-deserved adult beverage.
Speed Boat from Saona Island
The journey back was much quicker as we were on a speed boat. This was a great experience which we will cherish as for both of us it was first time on a speedboat.
We arrived at Bayahibe and from there we were taken by a mini bus back to Punta Cana and then a private transfer back to our hotel. On the way back we were also offered to purchase a bottle of mamajuana (traditional Dominican drink) with a photo of us which was taken at the Bayahibe port on our way to Saona Island.
Book Your Trip to Saona Island
We did a lot of research for best tour operators for Saona Island from Punta Cana before booking our trip and compared prices on TUI (our travel agency), Viator and on GetYourGuide. Below are some of the trips we considered, however we negotiated a really good deal with a local seller at the hotel and decided to book with him.
From our research, a full-day tour to Saona Island will include return transportation from Punta Cana, a catamaran and/or speedboat ride to the island, a visit to the natural pool, and a lunch on the beach.
Most companies seem to be offering drinks as well but not all are offering alcoholic drinks. Here are some options for you to consider:
It’s always a good idea to research different tour operators and compare prices and inclusions to find the best value for your budget. As we mentioned above, some tours have a premium option if you want that extra luxury.
Also do keep in mind that some tours may have hidden costs or additional fees, so it’s important to read the fine print before booking your tour.
Top Tips for Your Trip to Saona Island
Here are our top tips for a day trip to Saona Island from Punta Cana:
- Bring your swimwear or even better, travel in your swimwear
- Have plenty of sunscreen and re-apply regularly
- Bring a camera for those amazing photos – you can get a GoPro camera or buy a waterproof phone pouch
- Pack in a waterproof bag to avoid belongings getting wet when boarding the speed boat
- Take cash, if you want to buy souvenirs or some food/drinks on Saona Island
- Bring a towel for the catamaran and for the sunbed on Saona Island. To save space, we brought these microfibre towels
- Stay hydrated
We loved the scenery and beautiful beaches with palm trees at Saona Island but for us Saona Island on its own is not worth the hype. Having said that, the whole trip is worthwhile as it includes transportation to and from the island, a catamaran and speedboat ride, drinks and lunch on the beach.
We really enjoyed the Punta Cana to Saona Island boat tour and different other modes of transport. The island is also accessible by private boat, for those who prefer a more personalized experience.
Overall, Saona Island is a must-see destination for anyone visiting the Dominican Republic, offering a chance to experience some of the most stunning natural scenery in the Caribbean and create lasting memories.
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