When visiting Santo Domingo, it won’t be long before you hear of nearby beach escapes like Boca Chica or Juan Dolio. But while these are worth a glimpse, you’ll find a more stunning option just two hours away. Catalina Island, sitting directly off the shores of La Romana, boasts a spectacular white sand beach, crystal clear turquoise waters, fewer crowds, and some of the best snorkeling and diving in the Dominican Republic.
A Protected Island
Your journey will kick off from with a 1.5-hour scenic drive from the Embassy Suites going southeast along the Autopista Las Americas, and onto a smooth highway taking you directly to La Romana’s marina. From there, you’ll hop on a 35-minute boat ride, heading south into gradually stunning turquoise waters as you enter the protected marine area known as Parque Nacional del Este. A nature reserve since the 1970s, stretching over 300 square miles, the park encompasses both land and sea, including caves, more than 100 bird species, sea turtle nesting beaches, and three offshore islands, of which Catalina is the closest to the capital.
Snorkeling, Diving, and Shipwrecks
Once near Catalina Island’s shores, jump into its sparkling waters to snorkel, or go on a dive to experience a couple of the DR’s best underwater sites. On the island’s eastern side, Catalina Wall reveals a dramatic, large slope teeming with colorful coral gardens, angelfish, and schools of blue tangs, among others, as you cruise between 30 and 60 feet. You can also descend to 90 feet depending on your experience level. On the western side of the island lies the Aquarium, between 30 and 40 feet, where you’ll spot stingrays, seahorses, needlefish, and vibrant corals in brilliant blue waters.
But you don’t have to dive to enjoy Catalina’s marine-rich waters – there’s clear visibility all along the island’s shores, including around the Catalina Wall, if you prefer to swim or snorkel at your own pace. Along the way, ask your crew about the Captain William Kidd shipwreck, dating back to the 17th century – scientists discovered it just 10 years ago right off Catalina’s shores.
Island Fun, Dominican-Style
At lunchtime, Catalina’s beach awaits, dotted with tall palm trees and shaded lounge chair areas. There you can enjoy a traditional Dominican lunch buffet with rice and beans, stewed chicken, salads, fish, and plenty of cocktails from the beach bar. Post-meal, down a shot of mamajuana – a potent Dominican liqueur consisting of red wine, rum, and honey soaked with tree bark and herbs.
You’ll have plenty of time to relax with your toes in the sand, take a long beach walk to appreciate the beauty of Catalina’s shoreline, or snorkel right from shore.
End your afternoon with a fun merengue session on the beach. Learn how to swing your hips and twirl like Dominicans – it’s sure to come in handy when you’re back in the capital, dancing the night away.
Visit Santo Domingo and stay at Embassy Suites by Hilton Santo Domingo.