Isla Saona can be accessed by boat from Bayahibe. Bayahibe is a small fishing village and the main launch point for boat trips to Saona Island.
Road travel times to Bayahibe:
La Romana to Bayahibe 30 minutes
Punta Cana to Bayahibe 1.5 hours*
Santo Domingo to Bayahibe 1.5 to 2 hours
Samana to Bayahibe 4 hours
Puerto Plata/Cabarete to Bayahibe 4 to 5 hours
* The new Coral Highway is due open in late 2012. This will reduce the journey time from Punta Cana to Bayahibe to 45 minutes. There are no boat-only-transfers from Punta Cana.
Many of the organized tours from the north coast are via bus and air transfer to La Romana airport which cuts the journey time down considerably but adds to the price. On these tours the speed boats will often depart from Altos de Chavon on the Chavon River (15 minutes from La Romana airport) instead of Bayahibe.
To access Saona Island you must purchase a wristband for entrance to El Parque Nacional del Este (the National Park of the East). They cost 100 dominican pesos per person and are available from the “Parque Nacional del Este Officina Administrativa” ie. National Park ticket office (the green and white wooden building next to the public bathrooms in Bayahibe’s main bus car park). They are not available for sale on Saona Island. Organized tours will arrange these wristbands for you.
Large catamaran/speed boat combo tours: Available via the hotel tour reps, large tour operators and travel agencies. These tours often use speed boats (lanchas) for the outward journey and a catamaran for the return journey (or vice versa). These catamarans can have a 100 person capacity. Think party boat / booze cruise atmosphere.
Bayahibe to Saona island boat transfer times:
by lancha (30 person speed boat) 40 minutes fast, bumpy ride!
by catamaran 1.5 to 2 hours
Independent Tour Operators : Catering to smaller groups. More eco and culture focused with knowledgeable, attentive guides. Alcohol and music on the boats may also be available so it’s still a fun atmosphere just not full-on drunken partying! These excursions tend to stay away from the overcrowded beaches and schedule their itinerary so they don’t bump into the hoards. Their smaller boats can also access areas where the larger catamarans can not go. They visit Saona Island’s best but more remote beaches. They may not be bookable via your hotel tour rep. These are very popular tours so it’s best to reserve these online in advance.
Two companies, based in Bayahibe, providing excellent service:
Seavis Tours – they also have a special schedule for cruise ship passengers docking at La Romana port.
Private Bayahibe lancha owners and taxi boats: In Bayahibe there are numerous private lanchas (or taxi boats) for hire. There is a small wooden hut marked “Saona Excursions”, it’s located at the ocean end of the main bus car park. It is run by the local boat association ASPLABA. Here you can find information about hiring a private lancha or taxi boat. They have no email or official website at present so you’ll have to speak with them in person (they speak multiple languages).
Bayahibe Fishing Center – A local Deep Sea Fishing company that can also organise ASPLABA taxi boats for you to Saona Island.
Or you can walk around the bay and ask one of the beach vendors – they will be happy to put you in touch with a boat captain (they will receive a small commission from the boat captain). Negotiate a price with the boat captain. Prices will vary depending on where you want to go and the number of people in your group. A rough idea is between 160 to 210 US dollars per boat, round trip for up to 10 people. Choose one that has life jackets!
Bayahibe Dive companies: All the local dive companies offer snorkeling and/or diving trips to Saona Island.
Diving Dominican Republic
GriGri Divers (based at Dreams La Romana Resort & Catalonia Gran Dominicus)
Dressel Divers (based at Iberostar Hacienda)