Claims to be the first Blue Flag beach in the Caribbean. The truth is that it is a magnificent beach, located near Bayahíbe, on which you can do all kinds of water sports and sailing and diving and snorkeling, because in this area there is a coral reef. Its calm and crystal clear turquoise waters are washed by the Caribbean Sea. The sand is white and fine, and, as in many other beaches in the country, the coastline is crossed by palm and coconut trees. It is surrounded by hotels and resorts.
Bayahibe is a small town of about 3,000 inhabitants located in the province of La Altagracia, about 25 km from La Romana Higuey...you go down the road and take the turn headed south. It is a coastal fishing town which in recent years has been boosted by tourism. Its beautiful coves and beaches are washed by the Caribbean Sea. From the small jetty, you can take excursions out to the islands.
This National Park is a protected natural environment of 42.000 acres, situated at the southeast end of the island. It has two areas, one peninsular is formed by a coral rock (where you can find the [poi = 109961] Palmilla beach) [/ poi]), and one island (which includes Catalina and Isla Saona Island), is separated by the [poi = 109977] Catuano Channel [/ poi]. It is home to 112 different species of birds (some endemic to the country and the Caribbean Sea), manatees (endangered mammals) and sea turtles. The vegetation consists of mangrove trees (beware of gnats). Almost all tourists visiting this park take part in an excursion to Isla Saona or Catalina Island, two islands that are part of this peninsular. They are uninhabited so their main attraction is the wonderful beaches, although due to all the tourist development, they are not as "pristine" and they used to be. There are also some small markets, areas with sunbeds and beach bars where you can eat. The boats and catamarans depart from [poi = 110002] Bayahíbe [/ poi]. The peninsular area is also interesting, there are several visitor centers and hiking trails.
After stopping [poi = 110008] Snorkel [/ poi] in the area of The Wall, our [poi = 110005] catamaran [/ poi] went to the west of [poi = 110010] Catalina Island [/ poi] to take us to the beach (we went by a small boat). It was a pristine beach which some people say it is paradise on earth. The truth is that it is an incredibly beautiful place and the color of this water is indescribable, palm trees, sand ... it has everything!. There we had sun loungers and parasols, and we had free time for a swim in the Caribbean sea and rest a while before taking off again towards the mouth of the [poi = 110063] Chavon River [/ poi], where we changed boats and took a [poi = 110064] river cruise [/ poi]. (Be careful if you explore the mangrove, as it is full of mosquito gnats and their bites are really itchy!)
The excursions which leave from [poi = 110002] Bayahíbe [/ poi] to Isla Saona, usually use two means of transport: [poi = 109965] catamaran [/ poi] on the way out, and a speedboat for coming back, or vice versa. We first went on a catamaran, stopping before reaching [poi = 109961] Playa Palmilla [/ poi] (where we spent most of the day and had lunch) and then we took the speedboat to go to Isla Saona Palmilla, where we landed on [poi = 109980] Catuano Beach [/ poi]. The catamaran is much more relaxed and it is great fun because it´s like a party, but the boat was also very fun because it was going very fast and bouncing on the waves. In the boats you have to wear a life jacket. After spending a small amount of time in Playa Catuano, we returned to catch the boats back to Bayahibe, but not before making another stop at some natural pools to see and touch the [poi = 110001] starfish [/ poi].
One of the main attractions of Catalina Island is the diving, and for the less initiated into diving, the snorkel. Our catamaran launched at anchor in the area known as "The Wall" (on the shore of the island septendrional) and the crew began to remove the snorkel equipment (goggles with snorkel, fins and life jackets ), so that, once equipped, we dove to see the myriad of small fish of all colors. It was awesome! Deep sunken galleons are so old, so to see them you have to dive with tank.
Another excursion that we took during our stay in Punta Cana was to Catalina Island and it was infinitely better than the more popular Saona Island (that we did the next day). Although they are similar, it has many more things to see and is more diverse and not so crowded (for now ...). Catalina Island is a pristine island. The tour was a full day (including food) with "Club Caribbean" based in the hotel lobby for a price of 85 USD per person. The catamaran started at Bahahibe at 7.30am in the morning and it takes about two hours to get from Punta Cana to Bayahibe by bus. There are other tours that leave from the marina of La Romana and that takes about 20 minutes to get to Catalina. The catamaran cruise is like the trip we made to Playa Palmilla. It was like a real party on board, with an open bar ("vitamins" or rum), snacks, loud music, dancing ... And even a masseur (on this occasion, he did not charge the usual 10 USD). Also, it was a beautiful day. We sailed for about 2 hours and, in the vicinity of Catalina Island, we stopped for our first Snorkel practice.
Catuano Canal is part of the Eastern National Park and is the channel that separates the mainland (in the southeast of the country) from Catuano Beach, Saona Island, between these two places it measures 1250 meters wide. If you make the trip, by boat or catamaran to the island will pass very close to it. Its waters are the Caribbean Sea, and under them there is a complete coastal reef where people usually go diving and snorkeling, they even say that there is a sunken galleon there. The channel was discovered by Michele Savonés Cunneo, a companion of Columbus, who was unaware of its existence and thought Saona Island was the mainland. In his honor, Columbus named the Isla Saona - "Bella Savonesa''.
This was one of the organized tours we hired during our stay in Punta Cana. They picked us up from our hotel very early, at 7.30am in the morning, and then we hopped on a bus to Bayahibe (it took about 2.5 hours to arrive). In the small pier Bayahíbe is where we boarded a catamaran that would take us to Playa Palmilla. The truth is that the navigation (which lasted about two hours), was a blast, especially when unfurled the sails and we lay in the sun on the bow net. There is a fabulous vibe on the boat: The crew act as animators and shipped mounted around a party, with music (salsa) at full volume, you can choose to dance, and are constantly offered drinks and snacks, as there is an open bar. It's funny because they call the rum "vitamin", and boy were we vitaminamos! We even had a great massage! At Palmilla we landed on a boat that took us to the beach, where we had free time to enjoy the beach and we ate there. Later we rode on some fast boats to reach a lovely island called Catuano (Isla Saona). During the tour we walked by a reporter who was filming, and at the end I offered to buy the video which I think cost around 25 dollars.
After lunch at Playa Palmilla we took a speedboat to Saona Island, the largest island of the Dominican archipelago(about 110 km2) and above all, the best known most famous for being a virgin island. It is integrated in the National Park of the East, so it is a protected natural area and virtually uninhabited, in which there are only two small towns: Catuano and Mano Juan. However, it is visited by thousands of tourists every day, and the truth is that very little is left untouched ... Each tour operator has an assigned piece of beach, to avoid overcrowding. The beach seemed like Palmilla (white sand and clear blue sea, palm trees, hammocks, pool bar and dining tables ... and gnats!), But it was also a market for souvenirs. Honestly, it is not the idea I have of a pristine beach, although I can not say it was ugly, but I was quite disappointed.
On Catuano Beach, set back from the decking area and the sea, there was a market where you could buy all kinds of souvenirs, from small beach sarongs ceramic figurines, bracelets, or typical boxes of Taino art. Mind you, you always have to haggle to get a good price! The truth is that when you spend a few days in the country you realize that in all places frequented by tourists it's the same, this market was very similar to Cortecito Square, so we didn't have anything on us.
When we returned to the Bayahibe dock after our trip to the Catuano and Palmilla beaches, we were surprised by an impromptu street performance of traditional Dominican music. There were three children who were playing and singing on the beach to earn some money from the tourist boats that dock there.