Exploring the Dominican Republic: Excursion to Saona island

Why Saona?

Let's start at the very beginning. I have been living in the Dominican Republic for more than a year now (yes, I live where you vacation) and this is the second time that my mom visits me. I am originally from Budapest, Hungary, a beautiful European country. On my days off I always organize some trips or excursions so I can take her to different places to discover this beautiful country. This time we are going to Saona island that is a natural park as well, meaning that there are no buildings, no electricity, no water… All natural surroundings. This excursion is normally sold in the hotels and resorts by the tour operators (Punta Cana Tours, Colonial Tours) but since I live here, I have my contacts. And once you have them, you need to use them, right? So we have a deal with Francisco (a local tour guide and my neighbor BTW) that in exchange for the trip, we will invite him over to a typical Hungarian dinner that my mom cooks. Deal. 😉  

Caribbean timing

Now you need to know about Dominicans that they have a really special interpretation of timing. They say 'I will be there in 5 min' means that in half an hour they will LEAVE THEIR HOUSE. Or we have a meeting at a certain time and it's completely normal that they show up one hour later like nothing happened, and of course they don't let you know that they are gonna be late. It's the most natural thing for them, and if you mention that you don’t like this, they are like… ‘Tranquila mami…calmate…’ – hey don’t care at all. I was really upset about this at the beginning, but now I know how to handle this. Just always be prepared that you are gonna wait for eternity. They call it 'tiempo dominicano' and they are fully aware of this – I would even risk it that they are proud of this, but anyways, you got my point. For my biggest surprise Francisco is the first Dominican who shows up at the time we agreed (even though it is early in the morning). I confirm that he still has this habit, I tested him several times later on. After picking up the tourists from the hotels and then after about an hour bus ride we arrive to Bayahibe to board to a catamaran that takes us to the so called Paradise, Saona island. And here starts the fun.  

'Ron, ron, ron, todo el tiempo'

Already on the bus it was mentioned several times that we are gonna have 'rum rum rum all the time', right from the morning, starting around 10 am. You can imagine the combination of rum and sun all day long… No comment hahaaaa… Let me share with you guys the things that I remember… Nooooooo, I'm just kidding. The secret is that you have to drink water as well, not only alcohol, so after a glass of rum, take a glass of water and you will be fine.   The great thing about this catamaran is that you can sit down at the front, on the net (yes, it hurts your butt after a while) and see under yourself to the beautiful and crystal clear Caribbean blue sea while the boat is sailing fast enough that you have all the salty water in your face. So you rather wanna get up from there, get a rum and start dancing with the brown skinned animator guys to the typical Dominican music (reggaeton and dembo). Have you been trying to dance on a moving boat? It's fun, you should try it. And just for fun, have some drinks before, so you loose all control of your body hahaaaa.  

Nooooo, I don't want to buy anything

After 2 hours or so we arrive to the beach of the Saona island that is just like in the movies, like The Blue Lagoon, or The Beach with Leo DiCaprio. Immediately you have 10 vendors around you trying to sell you local stuff, such as jewelry from a blue color stone that is called 'Larimar', or coconut oil that the locals prepare with their own hands and put them in little empty rum bottles (of course it's a rum bottle). I'm trying to make them understand that I already have coconut oil at home, as this is not my first time here. As a matter of fact, I just did a coconut oil treatment on my hair last night that has amazing results – girls, I can highly recommend this. Finding our way out of the souvenir vendors we gladly notice that it's lunch time. Finally, after this amount of rum, some food is gonna be something good for my stomach. I love the idea that they prepare the meat and fish on a barbecue, all fresh and local food. The good thing about the DR – in terms of food – is that people eat much healthier and natural than in the United States for example (no offense). They don't grow huge chickens without flavor or beautiful fruits that has no taste at all. Of course they import some things, but mainly they eat local stuff from the countryside – mango, pineapple, avocado, corn… they are just amazing.  

Drink, dance and spa

You can also try the 'Mama Juana' that is the local shot, made from palm trees (yes, they cut it to very small pieces and put them into a bottle), red wine, rum (what else hahaaaa) and honey. Here is a video if you want to prepare this drink. They have a joke about it: when someone gets married in the DR, they lock the couple into a room for a month with this drink – this is why they have so many kids. Obviously that's not the reason for the big families, but that's another topic. Mama Juana is the baby maker, the Dominican Viagra, they say. Note: when you pronounce it for the first time, it can sound like marijuana, so watch out. 😉 Like almost everywhere you go in this country you hear very loud local music from huge speakers, here, it is no different. Reggaeton, dembo, bachata, merengue, salsa. Anything that prevents you from sleeping in the shadow that you would really like to do after lunch. Never mind, let’s use the time for a free and natural spa: sit down into the wet sand and do the peeling of your body with this amazing rough sand and then wash it off in the sea – don’t forget your face either. After this treatment, you will have your skin soooo smooth like the Dominicans have (this is one of the reasons why I have an inexplicable attraction to them, but it’s – again – another story).   The time has come to board to the speed boat that takes us back to the shore, so we grab our last shot of Mama Juana and say goodbye to the good looking French guys. We stop at the natural pool to take pictures with the starfishes (that can only be out of the water for 5 seconds before they die – or at least this is what they say to us). It’s an incredible experience to touch some living animal in the sea – those starfishes can stick to your hands if you hold them for enough time, then they wouldn't let you go.  

Where to go next?

Nothing special happens on the way back on the speedboat, other than you only get more and more rum, so you fall asleep easily on the bus. You are not able to do anything else that night, just laying down in your bed and enjoying that you don’t have to do anything. Also, you still have the feeling of the moving boat, but that is OK. The expression on my mom’s face that means she is sooo happy that she could spend this wonderful day with me is priceless. Saona really is a paradise that you cannot skip if you are here in the DR, just like Samana that I will introduce you in another article.  


I am a Hungarian salsa dancer living and working in the Dominican Republic for more than a year now. I just started to write my experiences about my travelings and different cultures.