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Difference between Saona and Catalina Islands

Which one to go to? Which one suits what I am looking for?

There are two jewels in the Dominican Republic that you must visit before the end of your vacation. They are Saona Island and Catalina Island, located southwest of the island of Hispaniola. Both meet the prototype of Caribbean paradise islands, with crystal clear waters and beaches of fine yellow sand that lend themselves to spend a day of scandal.

Although very similar, they also have some differences between them. That's why today we want you to know the best of each one, so you can decide which one you want to visit on your next vacation in Punta Cana. Let's go there!

Saona vs Catalina, how do they differ?

Saona Island

Saona Island. Where to begin to describe one of the most beautiful places in the Dominican Republic.

Perhaps the best known of the island is its beautiful natural pool, where you can walk dozens of meters without the water covering more than your hip. Starfish proliferate there, which are one of the main attractions for tourists. And when you find yourself in its crystalline waters, you must remember that you are in one of the most important ecological reserves of the Dominican Republic.

On the shore of the beach, the white sand is perfect for relaxing on it. A few meters away, palm trees and jungle vegetation appear, where we can find endemic fauna and flora of the island.

The scenery is spectacular, but in addition, Saona Island has permanent population centers, something that is very interesting for tourists. Getting to know the way of life on a small Caribbean island is a cultural immersion that can be done in the village of Mano Juan. Several families of fishermen, who moved to the island by order of the dictator Leónidas Trujillo, have been living there since 1944. There is also a Turtle Sanctuary in the village, where you can see both older turtles and hatchlings taking their first steps in the Caribbean Sea.

Saona island is an island where you have to go to disconnect, to relax after a few days in the busiest tourist areas. And surely in its sand and turquoise water you will feel in one of the most spectacular paradises on the planet.

saona island

Catalina Island

We swapped the waters of Saona for those of Catalina Island. This island also has a lot to offer you.

Mainly, tourists who come to Catalina Island do so for two reasons: snorkeling and diving.

Its transparent waters in beaches such as the East, West and North, make putting on your goggles and diving an experience. The element that contributes most to the marine fauna is the coral reef that surrounds the island. Here we can find all kinds of marine life, from lobsters and multicolored fish to large rays.

However, the most famous of the island are its dive sites. Diving in Catalina Island reaches its maximum expression in places like The Wall or The Aquarium.

The Wall, is a slope that plunges to 100 meters deep and where a great variety of marine life proliferates. The dives at this point are between 20 and 40 meters, only within the reach of the most experienced divers.

A much more affordable dive is that of The Aquarium. It is an area of the island that barely reaches 11 meters deep. There, around the coral reef, we can see all kinds of fish of different colors. Lion fish, frog fish and seahorses are the real protagonists.

As if that were not enough, in Catalina there is also the wreck of a ship called Cara Merchant, commanded by Captain Kidd at the end of the 17th century. In its interior was found Captain Kidd's Cannon, considered the only pirate cannon found in the Caribbean.

And if Catalina impresses underwater, it also does so on the surface. Its pristine beaches surrounded by vegetation are also worth seeing, and enjoying its white sand for a couple of hours.

catalina island

Where are they located?

If we were seeing what are the differences of both islands, now it's time to put something in common. To get to Saona and Catalina there is only one method of transportation: boat or catamaran.

Our excursions also include transportation from Punta Cana to the embarkation , so you don't have to worry about anything.

Still, let's take a closer look at the exact location of each of these islands.


Saona Island is located southeast of the Dominican Republic. Framed within the Cotubanamá National Park, formerly known as the Parque Nacional del Este, it is one of its most important parts. Of the 539 species found in the park, the small island of 110 km2 is home to most of them.

There is one more geographic curiosity about Saona. Although it is located off the coast of the province of La Altagracia, it is administratively part of the province of La Romana.


Catalina Island is also located southeast of the island of Hispaniola, although much closer to important population centers such as La Romana. In fact, from this town in the south of the Dominican Republic we can perfectly see Catalina Island.

Administratively, it also belongs to the province of La Romana, although in this case it forms its own national park called the same as the island. Our excursions to the island usually depart from the port of La Romana just 45 minutes by boat to Catalina.

What tours are recommended to visit these islands?

We have several tours to Catalina and Saona islands. Each one has different activities, and they are perfect for adults and children, either with family, friends or as a couple.

In addition, you should know that all excursions include round trip transfers to and from the hotels where you are staying. The tours also include a free buffet with typical Dominican food, where you can eat as much as you want.

Classic Saona

First of all, we show you our classic excursion to Saona Island.

The activity starts at your hotel, where we will pick you up to go to our departure point embark in a catamaran to Saona Island. On the catamaran you will have drinks and you will be able to enjoy it with our entertainment group while sailing through the Caribbean Sea.

Once in Saona, you will be able to enjoy its beaches and vegetation at your leisure. You will feel unique in the world, and even more so when you visit the natural pool, where you can see starfish and walk to infinity without being covered by the water.

At 17:00 it will be time to return by boat, and finally we will take you back to your hotel.

This excursion should be preferred if you only want to visit some of the must-see sights of Saona Island.

isla saona clasica

Classic Catalina

The second of the excursions we propose is our classic visit to Catalina Island.

This route also starts at 7 am at your hotel, then you will go by catamaran from La Romana to Catalina Island.

We will make our first stop in the middle of the ocean to Snorkel or Dive (depends the program you’ve booked) with some of our professional guides in the water with the most marine fauna in the Caribbean. We are sure that the crystal clear water of this place will not disappoint you.

Afterwards, we will head to our open buffet for lunch on the island, where you will also be able to explore its exquisite white sand beaches surrounded by palm trees and jungle.

At 17:00 we will head towards La Romana , from where we will return you to your hotel. This is the most basic experience to visit the Catalina Island National Park, where you will be able to see its most famous places.

isla catalina clásica

Saona VIP

Saona VIP is our most complete tour to visit this beautiful island.

Departing from your hotel at 7 am, the tour includes the same stops as our classic Saona Island excursion. However, in this modality, you will have the opportunity to visit parts of the island such as the Canto de la Playa or the Flamingos beach.

But the highlight of the activity is the visit to the village of Mano Juan, where you can meet the inhabitants of the island. The Turtle Sanctuary is our other visit in the small town, to get to know these fascinating animals. This excursion is perfect to do with children.

Isla Saona VIP Mano Juan

Altos de Chavón

It is a Mediterranean village located on the banks of the Chavon River, also known as the City of Artists. With an Italian-medieval appearance, this place is famous for being a meeting point for many celebrities. Some of them have even been married in some of its beautiful chapels and amphitheaters.

As if that were not enough, after visiting this iconic place you can snorkel in the crystal clear waters of Catalina Island, putting the finishing touch to a perfect day.

You can book this tour with us here.

Saona with altos de Chavón

In our catalog you can also find a visit similar to the previous one, but in this case going from Altos de Chavón to the paradisiacal island of Saona.

Diving in Catalina Island

Our last activity is for those who love scuba diving. With us, with the help of professional guides, you will be able to dive in some of the best spots in the Dominican Republic.

And the best of all is that you will practically only have to leave your hotel room, as we will pick you up to take you to La Romana , and then go by catamaran to these dive sites.

The first one is The Wall which as we mentioned before, is also known as The Wall of Catalina.

The second one will be in a much more relaxed spot, since in The Aquarium we will go down to 8 meters deep, where you will be able to get to know a wonderful underwater world.

diving catalina island

Which option should I choose?

It is very difficult to make a comparison between both islands. Each one offers different options, so it is up to you to decide which experience you choose.

If you want to enjoy a day of relaxation in one of the most beautiful landscapes of the Dominican Republic, your choice should be Saona Island.

On the other hand, if your intention is to enjoy a privileged environment where you can also snorkel or dive, you should choose Catalina Island.

Recommendations for excursions

There are some recommendations that are the same for all the excursions:

  • Wear comfortable shoes and flip-flops for when you are on the beach.
  • Use sunscreen, since the tropical climate of the islands is usually quite sunny.
  • Bring a swimsuit and a change of clothes to wear after the excursion.
  • Bring a towel, in case you want to lie down on the sand or to dry yourself after getting out of the water. In the islands the landscapes are virgin, so you will not find sun loungers or other elements to lie down on.
  • Wear a hat or cap, as well as sunglasses.
  • Use mosquito repellent, as there are usually quite a few on the islands.
  • Bring an underwater camera to take pictures underwater.

The best time to visit both islands is from January to April, when rainfall is much lower and temperatures are lower. However, any time of the year is perfect to visit these natural wonders.

What is the price difference between one excursion and the other?

Another difference between visiting Saona Island and Catalina Island is the price. Although the difference is minimal, Saona is usually cheaper because it is closer to the tourist sites of Punta Cana. We, as an agency and tour operator, also depend on transportation to the islands, which are independent, so the cost also depends on these factors.

Even so, you can book our Saona Island and Catalina Island experiences from these prices:

  • Saona Island Classic from $55.
  • Catalina Island Classic from 65 $.
  • Saona Island VIP from 110 $.
  • Catalina Island with Altos de Chavon from 125 $.
  • Diving in Catalina Island from 120 $.
  • Saona with Chavon $115.

As you can see, both paradises are at your fingertips. It's up to you whether you want to discover one of the islands or, if you have enough time, venture to know the two little jewels of the Dominican Republic.

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