Saona Island, Dominican Republic

Photo: Tamas Iklodi [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Tamas Iklodi [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
It’s been almost a week, and you haven’t left your resort in the Dominican Republic yet. Why would you? Everything you need—a sandy beach, a gorgeous pool, and plenty of restaurants—are right here. But maybe you should see more of this beautiful Caribbean island. It’s time for an excursion.

In Bayahíbe, on the southern coast, you board a catamaran. From the front of the boat, you watch the land behind you disappear and the blue Caribbean Sea expand. The wind knots your hair into a mess. As you cross the Paseo del Catuano, dolphins swim alongside the vessel, as if urging it along. Eventually, you begin to see more land ahead. Palm trees, a white-sand beach, and a hammock with your name on it slowly come into view. Welcome to Saona Island.

Saona Island sits off the southeastern tip of the Dominican Republic. Christopher Columbus discovered the 42-square-mile island on his second voyage to the Americas. It’s now part of Parque Nacional Del Este. Mangroves and a small village, Mano Juan, cover the island. Filmmakers shoot here when they need a deserted-island setting. Sandbars and a coral reef lay just offshore. It’s your playground for the afternoon.

Once the catamaran stops, you jump into the clear, shallow water and start wading toward Canto de la Playa. It’s one of the most beautiful beaches you’ve ever seen. You spend the next few hours playing in the sand and drinking coconut juice. You search for huge starfish at the edge of the water, sea urchins in the tidal pools, and sea turtles as you snorkel. You watch little lizards scurry up the sides of coconut trees and a storm passing over the water in the distance. And you sway in that hammock and practically fall asleep.

You’d probably be doing something similar back at your resort. You’d still be enjoying the warm water, the sunshine, and the sand. But, at least for a few hours, you got to escape the crowd and see one of the most beautiful places in the country. It might even become the highlight of your trip.

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