Located 19 kilometers (12 miles) south of the mainland, Saona Island’s picture-perfect beaches attract more visitors than all of the country’s national parks combined. A protected site spanning 110km2 (42-square mile) and part of Cotubanamá National Park, Saona is a dream tropical escape, where long stretches of brilliant white sand and their giant coconut trees seem to melt into iridescent turquoise waters. Visitors can take day trips to enjoy the beaches, through a myriad of options ranging from speedboat to catamaran. Riding along Saona’s stunning coastline scenery alone is worthwhile. Most trips leave out of Bayahíbe village, from its small waterfront area. Stops in Saona include a swim at Palmilla, a white stretch with a wide natural pool, and at Mano Juan, the only inhabited portion of the island. Saona Island is also the DR’s most important turtle-nesting site.

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Bayahíbe

The scenic fishing town of Bayahíbe is an attraction in and of itself; Bayahíbe retains its Dominican pulse, from its local restaurants and bars to its street side arts and crafts stalls, and fishermen who bring catch daily.

Bayahíbe, La Romana

Casa Ponce de León

How often do you get to step into the home of a 16th century Spanish explorer? Juan Ponce de León’s residence continues to stand in the southeastern town of San Rafael de Yuma, close to Higüey, where he lived before heading out into the seas to conquer neighboring Puerto Rico.

La Romana, Punta Cana

Cueva del Peñón

The Caves of Peñón reveal the richest underwater marine life in Bayahíbe. The sea flows through this series of dramatic, rugged caverns lined along the western edge of Cotubanamá National Park.

Bayahíbe, La Romana

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