Islands are always worth an excursion, especially if they are home to beaches, turquoise water and shallow reefs. That is also why Isla Catalina is a popular destination in the Dominican Republic, as it offers unspoiled nature, beautiful views and easy access from Punta Cana or Santo Domingo. Unless its bigger neighbor Isla Saona, Catalina Island is not as crowded and therefore offers a more peaceful atmosphere. In the following post, I am showing you everything you need to know before your tour to Isla Catalina and am giving you tips on how to find the best excursion.
- Where is the Isla Catalina located?
- What types of Isla Catalina excursions are existing?
- The standard excursion to Catalina Island
- The diving excursion to Catalina Island
- VIP excursions to Catalina Island
- My experiences at Isla Catalina
- Frequently asked questions
Where is the Isla Catalina located?
Isla Catalina, or in English Catalina Island, is located on the south coast of the Dominican Republic, just 1 mile off the coast in La Romana, one of the biggest cities in the country. Driving distances from Punta Cana and Santo Domingo are around 1.5 hours. Access and starting point usually is the harbor of La Romana.
What types of Isla Catalina excursions are existing?
The standard excursion to Catalina Island
If you book one of the typical excursions, either upfront online or in your hotel, you usually get picked up right in the lobby of your resort or guesthouse. The driving time from Punta Cana is around 1.5 hours, depending on where exactly you are located.
When arriving in La Romana, you will board the catamaran which will bring you to Isla Catalina. Unlike the tour to Isla Saona, where you go one way with a speed boat and the other way with a catamaran, the tour to Catalina Island is a full catamaran excursion.
The sailing to Isla Catalina takes around an hour. Usually, you stop on a reef along the way to do some snorkeling (check out this article here for more information about snorkeling in and around Punta Cana). Once at Isla Catalina, you have plenty of time to enjoy the picturesque beach, turquoise water and stunning scenery.
Usually, all excursions to Isla Catalina include a lunch buffet and open bar (soft drinks, water and rum, sometimes also beer). You are free to walk around, even there are not many trails except the beach itself. The island is pretty small compared to Isla Saona, it just measures less than 4 square kilometers. However, you might be so amazed by the beach scene that you do not want to walk that far. 😉
The diving excursion to Catalina Island
If you are into diving, then Isla Catalina is one of your best bets along the South Coast of the Dominican Republic, including the whole Punta Cana and Bayahibe region. With two dive sites, “The Wall” and “The Aquarium”, the island features a tropical reef and a marine eco-system with several tropical fish, among them sergeant mayor, damselfish squirrelfish and stingrays.
After diving, you head to Isla Catalina for lunch and drinks and to enjoy the Caribbean beaches of the island.
Due to the technical equipment, safety measures and smaller groups, diving excursions to Isla Catalina are in general more expensive than the regular tours.
VIP excursions to Catalina Island
For those looking for a particularly private experience, VIP tours to Isla Catalina are offered as well. Those are either with a private catamaran or a private luxury yacht and guarantee a sublime experience in style and elegance. Especially due to the proximity to Casa de Campo, the home of the rich and famous, there are many outstanding boats available.
My experiences at Isla Catalina
We have been to Isla Catalina last year and we had a great time. I particularly liked that you go both ways with the catamaran. This feeling of cruising slowly on a boat, hearing nice music, having a drink and enjoying the surrounding views is for me the epitome of a perfect Caribbean excursion.
The snorkeling stop on the way was ok, but not spectacular. At least it was better than Isla Saona so we could see a few colorful fishes and some tropical reefs. However, I would not recommend an excursion to Isla Catalina if you just go because of the snorkeling, you might be disappointed. You are looking for better snorkeling options in the Dominican Republic? Have a look at this article here.
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On the other side, you definitely should go on this tour for the mentioned catamaran cruise as well as the beautiful island. Once you arrive at Catalina Island, you will be able to enjoy a stunning scenery in the middle of the ocean, consisting of turquoise waters and a stunning beach with countless palm trees.
I also recommend you to walk a little bit along the beach. While it is not possible to walk around the whole island, it is worth exploring the surrounding, especially if you head a bit south to the beach where the cruise ships are usually anchoring. Of course, if you are there during a cruise ship visit it might be crowded but otherwise, you have some fantastic photo opportunities thanks to the colorful houses.
During your excursion to Isla Catalina, you also have drinks and lunch included. Both are nothing to write home about but are doing their job. Unless you book a premium or VIP excursion, you’ll get cheap rum that even a Dominican doesn’t know and the lunch is a typical buffet with chicken, fish, salad, rice, fruits and so on.
After all, the excursion was a gorgeous day out in the nature with plenty of sunshine, a great catamaran cruise experience and a beautiful island. It was way less crowded than Isla Saona which I definitely enjoyed. Everything worked out perfectly so that we had a lot of fun and kept some nice memories. The scenery is beautiful as well, even it can’t compete 100% with the paradise of Isla Saona. You can read my full review of Isla Saona here.
Frequently asked questions
How can I book a tour to Catalina Island?
Excursions to Isla Catalina can be best booked by one of the various tour operators. I would recommend you booking it online as you can check reviews before. It is probably even cheaper than booking it at your hotel. Another option would be to book a tour at the beach and the beach vendor might give you better prices as they don’t have to pay for marketing, offices, etc. (and they don’t have a license), but the quality is a hit and miss so I’d stick with the online offers.
If you want you can check out the options I outlined above when describing the various tour options.
Tours are usually offered with a start in La Romana, Bayahibe and Punta Cana so please take care choosing the right departure point when you book an excursion to Isla Catalina.
What to do on Catalina Island?
Like many islands in the Caribbean, Isla Catalina is famous for its beach(es) and the turquoise water. You will have a great time admiring the scenery, having a dip into the warm water and get some tan. There is also some snorkeling along the beach and during the tour and the catamaran cruise to the island is an attraction itself. Besides this, you can get a massage from local people or explore the island on foot.
How is the beach on Catalina Island?
Isla Catalina has a wonderful beach, even it might be a tiny bit less attractive than the one on Isla Saona. However, in the end, it probably equals out as there are fewer people at Catalina Island and you will have a great beach time on both islands.
Are there any hotels on Catalina Island?
There is no option to spend the night at Isla Catalina.
How is the weather on Catalina Island?
The sun is always shining in paradise, so it does at Isla Catalina. 🙂
Even the Dominican Republic has a dry and a rainy season, traveling is possible year-round – without a problem, which means you can also go on a Catalina Island excursion year-round. The same I have explained here about the seasons in the Dominican Republic is also valid for Isla Catalina. So even if there might be some showers the one or other day, you hardly have any day without sunshine, even in the rainy season.
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Alternatives to Catalina Island
As already mentioned in the article, Isla Saona is the popular and more famous counterpart of Isla Catalina. The scenery there is even more paradisical, picture-perfect beaches and photo opportunities are awaiting you there. However, you have to share it with more people than on Isla Catalina. You can find a full review of Isla Saona here.
Cayo Levantado is another island that is reachable from Punta Cana, but it is farther away and the crossing through the bay of Samaná might be a little bit rough, depending on the wind. Therefore I would not recommend going there just for the island, Isla Saona and Isla Catalina are more worth it. However, if you combine Cayo Levantado with a whale-watching excursion (from January to March) it is an amazing package and very recommendable.
How about you, have you been at Isla Catalina? Or do you have questions to your upcoming trip? Start the discussion and leave me a comment!
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CHRISAuthor, Travel Coach & Punta Cana based digital nomad
Hey, I am Chris, a born and raised German, travel-addictive and Caribbean Soul. Since 2011 I have been living in the Caribbean, among them 5 years in the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana is my home-base here in the country and I’d love to tell you more about how to experience Punta Cana off-the-beaten-track and give you all the advice you want to know for your vacation in Punta Cana.