Excursion to Isla Saona 2024 – hidden gems, insider tips, DIY adventures and the best Saona Island tours

Saona Island – or in Spanish Isla Saona – is the most popular tourist attraction in the Dominican Republic. Thousands of tourists are visiting the beautiful island every day and even it sounds quite touristy, it resembles the Caribbean dream. Just imagine, you are cruising on a catamaran with a laid-back vibe while feeling the ocean breeze blowing through your hair and sipping at a typical Cuba libre during your Saona Island tour. Once on the island, you can enjoy picture-perfect beaches with Caribbean music, swaying palm trees and fresh Pina Colada served in the pineapple (the latter one for an extra charge) while floating in the deeply colored turquoise ocean. That’s a dream in paradise? Well, that’s what you can expect from your excursion when being on an Isla Saona tour. And even if you don’t want to book an Isla Saona excursion, there is a chance how you can visit the island on your own pace and create your own adventure. The following comprehensive guide gives you all the information about this wonderful piece of paradise and shows you all the ways to book the very best Saona Island excursion – from Bayahibe and from Punta Cana. It also answers the question if Saona is worth it and – new for 2024 – where you can find the best Saona Island snorkeling tour.

Isla Saona is part of the most exciting attractions in the area. To check out more amazing things to do in Punta Cana, continue reading here.
If you are looking for some private tours to Saona Island instead of group tours, you can check out this article.
And if you feel that Isla Saona gets visited by too many tourists, you can also check out the little sister of Saona Island, Isla Catalina.

Are you interested in further Punta Cana tours? If so, check out our comprehensive Punta Cana Excursion Guide with the most exciting 40+ activities for your vacation.

Completely UPDATED December 2023

Quick overview: the best Isla Saona excursions

The best overall Saona Island tour

You don’t want to read a lot and are just looking for a recommendation of the best Isla Saona excursion from Punta Cana? Here you go: a tour that combines the best spots at Saona Island with outstanding customer service and amazing quality. It runs in small groups, which is why it is a bit more on the pricey side but usually it is worth every dollar. Check it out here*.

For cheaper Saona tours, check out the sections below or have a look at this cheap Saona excursion*.

The best Saona Island tours for every type of traveler

In case you are in a hurry and don’t have time to read all the details below about the different Saona Island excursions (even I promise it is worth reading 🙂 ), you can check out the following table with the best Isla Saona tours and can book them directly.

(mobile users: please turn your device to landscape mode to enjoy the best view of this table)

Standard Saona TourExplorer Saona TourPremium Saona TourPrivate Saona TourHelicopter Saona Tour
Character of this Isla Saona excursionexcursion as described below, usually with speed boat + catamaran, bigger groupsvisiting different places on Saona Island to see remote areas and pristine beachesbetter service, smaller groups, more attention to detail, more relaxed vibe than partytailor-made Saona excursions for groups and bigger families, a fully private experienceVIP experience with a helicopter and a beach club, for those who’d like it as a half-day tour
Type of boatspeed boat + catamaranmotomaranspeed boat + catamaranspeed boatnone (helicopter)
Price per person60-80 USD*90-125 USD*150 USD and up*990 USD and up (per group)*340 USD and up*
Durationfull-day (8-10 hours)full-day (8-10 hours)full-day (8-10 hours)full-day (7-9 hours)half-day (4 hours)
Group sizelarge (approx. 40-80)medium (usually 20-50)medium (usually 20-50)privatesmall (5-9)
Lunch + drinks includedyesyesyesyeslunch + welcome drink
Transfers from Punta Cana includedyesyesyesyesyes
Check resort prices at Punta Cana Travel BlogCheck resort prices at Punta Cana Travel BlogCheck resort prices at Punta Cana Travel BlogCheck resort prices at Punta Cana Travel BlogCheck resort prices at Punta Cana Travel Blog
All details in this table are for informational purposes only and can change without further notice. Please check the description of the tour offer for binding information. Punta Cana Travel Blog can’t be held responsible for any errors or changes.

The best Saona Island snorkeling tour

Usually, Saona is not known for its extensive snorkeling options, as most tours are only having a quick (and not impressive) snorkeling stop – or none at all. I have explained this in detail here in this Punta Cana snorkeling guide.

However, and that’s new for 2024, there is a Saona Island snorkeling tour which indeed focuses on the underwater world around the island. They go to places where no other boats are going (except for Saona Island private boats) such as Isla Catalinita (not to be confused with Isla Catalina) and Cayo Raton, two wonderful places to snorkel with lively and colorful reefs. Check out more details here for this Saona Snorkeling Excursion* if you are interested in this kind of tour – the places they visit are gorgeous and absolutely pristine.

The best catamaran cruises to Saona Island

In case you specifically want to go with a catamaran, you can check out the following tours. Those are the best catamaran cruises to Saona Island from Punta Cana and Bayahibe according to our experiences and customers’ reviews.

(mobile users: please turn your device to landscape mode to enjoy the best view of this table)

The best catamaran cruises to Saona IslandReview Score (as of December 2023/January 2024)Boat typePick-upPrice
Isla Saona Premium Catamaran Tour*4.95/5.0catamaranno transfers included (starts from Bayahibe)Check excursion prices at Punta Cana Travel Blog
Saona Island Discovery Tour with Mano Juan*4.8/5.0motomaranfrom Punta CanaCheck excursion prices at Punta Cana Travel Blog
Standard Isla Saona Excursion*4.20/5.0catamaran + speed boatfrom Bayahibe/La RomanaCheck excursion prices at Punta Cana Travel Blog
Standard Cruise to Isla Saona*4.16/5.0catamaran + speed boatfrom Punta CanaCheck excursion prices at Punta Cana Travel Blog

However, please take care that there are different types of catamarans. Among the best catamaran cruises to Saona Island, you can find proper and spacious (sailing) catamarans, which take it slow and are perfect to enjoy the view of the coastline, a drink and some entertainment, while there are other (motorized) catamarans (so-called motomarans), which are much quicker and have the chance to bring you to places where other catamarans can’t go.

The best Saona Island tours from Bayahibe

In the table above you already see a few well-rated Saona Island tours from Bayahibe. However, sometimes it might be difficult to find the right excursion if staying in Bayahibe as most tours are catering to travelers from Punta Cana. To help you with picking the best option, you can check out the following overview with the best Saona Island tours from Bayahibe.

Standard Tour: best cheap Saona Island tour from Bayahibe*
Discovery Tour: best Saona Island tour from Bayahibe incl. Turtle Sanctuary and Mano Juan*
Premium Tour: best premium Saona Island tour from Bayahibe on a catamaran*
Private Tour: best private Saona Island tour from Bayahibe*

The cheapest Saona Island excursion from Punta Cana

Besides all the tours mentioned above – if you are only looking for the cheapest tour to Saona Island (with good reviews), you can also simply book a tour online. Check out this offer here*, perfect for those who are traveling to Punta Cana on a budget.

Where is the Isla Saona located?

 Isla Saona is part of the Parque Nacional Cotubanama (formely Parque Nacional del Este) and is located on the south coast of the Dominican Republic, more or less halfway between Santo Domingo and Punta Cana in the Bayahibe area. The island is located in the southern part of the national park and is separated from the mainland by a natural channel. The distance to the other island where you can do excursions to, Isla Catalina, is approximately 15 miles. Read a full review of Isla Catalina here.

 All boat trips to Saona Island start in Bayahibe, so no matter if you are coming from Santo Domingo, Punta Cana or elsewhere in the Dominican Republic, you always head to Bayahibe by land transport (or helicopter* if you have some spare change 😉 ). Depending on the hotel you are staying at, the journey time from Punta Cana to Isla Saona is not too far, between 60 and 90 minutes (the same as from Bavaro, Macao or Uvero Alto). Further down you will find the easiest ways on how to get to Saona Island from Punta Cana.

From Santo Domingo it is a little less than 2 hours to Bayahibe, where the Saona Island excursions are starting. (check tours to Isla Saona from Santo Domingo here*)

Once in Bayahibe the journey to reach Isla Saona is between 45 (speed boat) and 90 minutes (catamaran). 

Both, land transport and the trip on the ocean are already included in the typical excursions you can book for Saona Island.

In case you have a rental car, you can also travel to Bayahibe by yourself and start the excursion from there. You can check prices for rental cars from Punta Cana or Santo Domingo here*.

The one and only Isla Saona, the most popular excursion in Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic

Details and itineraries: the best Saona Island excursions

If you want to go on an excursion to Isla Saona (from Punta Cana or elsewhere), you have different tour options. They vary in what is included, where they go (obviously all to Saona Island, but different places) and what quality you can expect. If you are interested in the best private Saona tours for 2024, check out this article with the best excursions in Punta Cana during the times of Covid-19.

The standard tour to Isla Saona

Even tour descriptions might vary slightly, usually all the standard excursions to Saona Island are set up the same. 

 You will get picked up by a tour bus in Punta Cana right in your all-inclusive resort or guesthouse/hotel and dropped off in Bayahibe. Here you will change onto a boat and head towards Isla Saona – either on a speed boat with a stop at the natural swimming pool or with the catamaran listening to music while having drinks and dancing time.

Get your free e-book now – “17 amazing things-to-do for free in Punta Cana”!

Free Punta Cana E-Book about 17 amazing things-to-do for free in Punta Cana 2024

 Don’t worry if you have a preference for one of both options, on the way back from the island in the afternoon you will get the other one you haven’t had in the morning. This means, you either go to Isla Saona by speed boat and come back by catamaran or you will start with the catamaran and have the speed boat in the afternoon.

 While on the island, all Isla Saona tour companies of the standard excursion usually offer you a marvelous stretch of beach (I have been there three times with different tours and it was always amazing), a simple buffet lunch, free drinks (usually just soft drinks and rum, sometimes also beer) and time to enjoy, relax, sunbath and swim. Note that Saonas’ beaches might get full, but you’re always free to move a bit to the left or the right to a stretch which suits you. All the photos included here in this article were talken either on regular (and cheap) Saona excursions or during our Saona overnight adventure (see further details below).

You can check out some Saona Island tour options from Punta Cana here:

Expect to pay between 70 and 100 USD for Saona Island tours starting and ending in Punta Cana, some promotions are starting for as low as 60 USD per person. 

The one and only Isla Saona, the most popular excursion in Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic
(photo was taken before Covid-19)

Discovery and/or premium excursions to Isla Saona

 Depending on your needs, it might be a good idea to spend a little extra money on your Isla Saona tour as the standard excursion is just a basic tour. Fun (rum), sun and beach are the main ingredients here, but if you would like to cruise in style or see different parts of Saona Island, another tour might be a good idea.

 The premium Isla Saona tours are more distinct with specific differences between them. Tour companies are offering the same tour as above but with better quality, for example, more professional tour guides, high-quality drinks and lobster menus. Others are doing both ways with a catamaran highlighting the chillout atmosphere of the tour. And yet others, usually those I call Discovery Tours here in this Saona Island Guide, are just using a speed boat and doing some kind of sightseeing around Saona Island, showing you many beautiful and untouched sites the standard tours usually don’t go to, for example, El Peñon, Canto de la Playa and Mano Juan.

The tour options below are all hand-selected and are operated by some of the best Saona Excursion tour operators:

 As these tours are more individual with more service and/or less crowded groups, they are more expensive as well – you should plan with around 100 to 180 USD for these options.

The one and only Isla Saona, the most popular excursion in Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic

Especially the Saona Island excursions to Mano Juan and Canto de la Playa are highly recommendable. We have visited both places and they are a true heaven for adventurers. Tourism here is much less than on the main beaches of Isla Saona (which doesn’t mean that the regular Saona beaches are less beautiful) and everything is more peaceful and quiet. Particular Canto de la Playa, which is included in some of the Isla Saona tours, is spectacular and awe-inspiring, it is in fact one of the most pristine and beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic. Check out the following Saona Island tours (or this offer here* or this one here*) if you’d like to visit Mano Juan and Canto de la Playa.

If you’d like to know how you can visit Mano Juan and Canto de la Playa without an Isla Saona excursion, continue reading this post, you find further information below.

VIP, private yacht and helicopter tours to Isla Saona

 If that’s not enough for you, Isla Saona still gets you covered as there are also Saona excursions for the most demanding visitors. Tours by helicopter, private boats, luxury yachts, elegant beach clubs and VIP services are your choice if you would like to splurge a bit. Of course, prices vary enormously depending on the services included, but if you are interested, you can check out the following offers.

Saona Island private tour

If a group excursion is not the right Isla Saona tour for you, you can also consider a Saona Island private tour. Interestingly enough, a private excursion might not be as expensive as you think and has a couple of advantages compared to a typical Isla Saona excursion:
– you can design the itinerary according to your needs
– you can guarantee social distancing
– you can enjoy places with fewer or no tourists
– you can adjust the timetable according to your preferences
– you have more private space on the boat
– you’ll have much smaller groups – just the people from your traveling party
– the tour staff is exclusively there for you
– you can immediately ask for help in case of any problems

This is especially helpful when you are traveling with your family or with friends as a small group. You can decide the pace of your own tour, don’t have to share with strangers and get much more personal attention.

Those are just a few advantages of a private Isla Saona excursion. Check out this article for further information on a Saona Island private tour.

For a particularly affordable private tour, you can also check out this special offer here*.

In case you don’t see the widget above, here are the best private tours for Saona Island 2024:
private tour to Saona Island, option 1*
private tour to Saona Island, option 2*
private tour to Saona Island, option 3*
private tour to Saona Island, with Mano Juan*
private tour to Saona Island by private catamaran*

My experiences at Isla Saona

 I usually don’t like places where you can feel from the first moment that everything is just about tourism. If I have to share attractions with thousands of tourists I normally do not want to go there as this is not my idea of traveling. However, I have to admit I really loved Isla Saona (and I have been there three times now) as the scenery is indeed mind-blowing. In my 10 years living in the Caribbean, I have visited more than 25 Caribbean islands and while I have seen a couple of superb and nearly unbeatable paradisiacal places (for example Tobago Cays, Jost van Dyke, Bequia, etc.), Isla Saona definitely can compete with them. Saona also has some of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic, so be prepared for some amazing views.

 If you are or were in doubt like me – no worry, just relax and enjoy yourself. Imagine cruising on a catamaran with chill-out or dance music sipping at your Cuba Libre (unfortunately with a subpar rum at most cheaper Saona Island excursions) and watching the coastline of the Dominican Republic passing by until you reach the palm-fringed Isla Saona. That is exactly what I was able to enjoy, and the island does not fall short of it. 


Save money and time!

Do you need help planning a customized vacation in Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic? Is it difficult for you to decide what and where to book? Would you like to take advantage of someone with years of experience in the tourism industry (knowing all the travel hacks 😉 ) and living right in the place where you would like to spend your holiday?
That’s what my personal travel coaching is for. I will design your tailor-made itinerary, tell you how to save money on your trip and send you the best insider tips and recommendations. All the information I send you are crafted with love and passion – and are coming with a money-back guarantee. Let me know how I can help you (check my packages here) and send me a request here!

The author Chris in the Dominican Republic

 Shallow water, beautiful beaches, swaying palm trees, usually enough space for everyone, so that it does not feel too crowded. Of course, there are a couple of boats anchoring and visiting but I have seen worse things in my travel life. If you still want fewer people than on Isla Saona, have a look at neighboring (15 miles away) Isla Catalina, which is kind of the little sister of Isla Saona.

 Furthermore, you can also walk left and right along the shoreline, so you might be able to find your own little beach section because Isla Saona is larger than you may think. The island is home to around 40 miles of coastline. While just a tiny part of it is accessible it still gives you the chance to venture out and see some untouched or less visited parts.

Isla Saona is indeed one kind of paradise in the Dominican Republic.

The one and only Isla Saona, the most popular excursion in Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic

 The only thing where you should lower your expectations is the snorkeling stop (if it is included at all as some tour companies have ceased the Isla Saona snorkeling over the past years). Some of the tours stop at a wrack which a few fishes call their home. If you have never been snorkeling it might be a good point to try it but once you have done it at a reef with a diverse and colorful fish population, the snorkeling at Isla Saona won’t impress you. Check out this article here if you’d like to know more about snorkeling in and around Punta Cana. If snorkeling is important for you, Isla Catalina is the better tour option or you can book this Saona Snorkeling Tour*, the only one which focuses on snorkeling and which head to remote places with healthy and colorful reefs.

 On the other hand, the stop at the natural swimming pool is very pleasant – if you are prepared for many boats. However, the color is indeed beautiful and super turquoise and the view of the untouched coastline is amazing.

TOP 12 Punta Cana Excursions

Isla Saona: Saona Info | Book it*
Private Saona Island Tour: Private Tour Info | Book it*
Dune buggy and ATV excursion: Buggy Info | Book it*
Punta Cana Ziplining: Zipline Info | Book it*
Party boat & booze cruise: Party Boat Info | Book it*
Best Nightlife Show: Coco Bongo Info | Book it*
Scape Park Cap Cana & Blue Lagoon: Blue Lagoon Info | Book it*
Los Haitises National Park: Los Haitises Info | Book it*
Santo Domingo: Santo Domingo Info | Book it*
Samaná (Salto El Limón & Cayo Levantado): Samaná Info | Book it*
Helicopter & airplane tours: Helicopter Info | Book it*
Whale watching (Jan-Mar only): Whale watching Info | Book it*

Looking for more inspiration? Check out the 40+ best Punta Cana tours!

Is Saona Island worth it?

 As you can see, the trip to Isla Saona is worth it and definitely a highlight during your vacation in the Dominican Republic. The important thing is that you do not expect too much regarding the personal attention and the food, especially if you are booking the cheaper Saona tours. Furthermore, Saona is not worth it if you just come for the beach – better stay at the beautiful Punta Cana beaches if you just want to have a relaxed beach day.

The key point is that you come here for the natural beauty and the Caribbean feeling. The boat trip is part of the experience. Having said this, Isla Saona is amazing and is definitely worth a day trip. Also note, that the transfer from Punta Cana to the port in Bayahibe might take up to 2 hours (particularly with the cheaper tours) due to stops and various hotel pick-ups, so only book this tour if you’re comfortable spending the entire day out of your resort in Punta Cana.

On the other hand, booking one of the premium Isla Saona tours will enhance your experience, which guarantees you one of the best days you will have during your vacation in Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic. Particularly Mano Juan and Canto de la Playa are even more stunning.

The one and only Isla Saona, the most popular excursion in Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic

Visiting Isla Saona on your own (without an excursion)

If you don’t want to participate in a Saona Island excursion at all, you can also head to Isla Saona on your own. There is a public boat to Saona running once in the morning and back to Bayahibe once in the afternoon (which can’t be prebooked). However, when getting to Saona Island from Punta Cana the schedule might be a bit tough as you would have to leave Punta Cana around 7 am latest (the Saona ferry leaves at around 9 am), hence I recommend staying a night in Bayahibe before the trip and – even better – add a night at Isla Saona because it is actually possible to sleep there as there are a few Isla Saona hotels in Mano Juan!

If you’d like to visit the island without an Isla Saona excursion, Mano Juan will be your destination. Mano Juan is an incredibly cute and laid-back fishing village, the only one on Saona. It seems that time has forgotten this place, which is part of the authentic paradise vibe you will find here. And Mano Juan is amazingly beautiful, as you can see in the following photos.

There are currently (as of December 2023) four accommodations in Mano Juan – all basic, all reasonable priced (even though not with the best price-value ratio), all with a certain paradise charm.

From our last Isla Saona tour to Mano Juan, we can recommend Saona Beach House*, where we stayed the night and had this wonderful breakfast place pictured below.

One of the few accommodations at Isla Saona in Mano Juan, Saona Beach House

Check out below in the section “good to know” for further information on Isla Saona resorts and Saona Island hotels.

To get to Mano Juan and Isla Saona from Punta Cana, you first have to get to Bayahibe. The public ferry boat to Saona Island is leaving around 9 am from the main port in Bayahibe. That’s why it might be recommendable to book a night in Bayahibe. There are pretty cheap and recommendable accommodation options available in Bayahibe that won’t break the bank. For example, Bayahibe Village Inn* is very recommendable, super reasonable priced and only 5 minutes away from where the ferry boat leaves in Bayahibe to Isla Saona.

With public transport from Punta Cana, you have to leave pretty early as you have to change busses twice – in Higuey and La Romana. There is a direct bus from Punta Cana to La Romana at 7 am, but it might be pretty tough to reach the public boat to Isla Saona on time, hence I’d recommend leaving earlier. If you’d like to avoid public transport to Bayahibe, you can also book a direct shuttle from Punta Cana to Bayahibe or simply rent a car (check rental car recommendations and prices here*).

Once you are at the harbor of Bayahibe, you can board the public boat. You shouldn’t expect a proper ferry to Saona Island, it is more like a typical fishing boat. The price for a one-way trip shall be around 1000 DOP or 20 USD, the return is double the price. If everything goes well, you shall be in Mano Juan around 10:00-10:30 am. You have reached the island without a Saona Island tour – congrats on mastering this very special Punta Cana adventure.

Once on the island, you can take your time to explore Mano Juan and the surroundings – even though there is not that much to explore. Mano Juan can be walked in 15 minutes, but the Saona beaches there are indeed beautiful. You can also visit the turtle sanctuary and of course, dine at one of the local restaurants. Prices are higher than on the mainland as most of the things have to be shuttled by boat to the island. If you are looking for a cold beer and a good chat, check out the small bar of Daisy & Kurt on the east side of the village along the first beachfront road – highly recommended.

The beautiful and remote village of Mano Juan at Isla Saona in the Dominican Republic

The return boat from Saona to Bayahibe is going back at 2.30 pm, which would leave you around 4 hours on the island. If you stay for the night (see accommodation recommendations below) or are walking really quick, you can also head to Canto de la Playa, one of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic and a stop for a few of the Saona Island excursions mentioned above. It is a flat but very hot 3-mile hike one-way – as a reward you can see one of the most pristine beaches in the entire Caribbean.

Isla Saona from Santo Domingo, Boca Chica and Juan Dolio

If you’re not staying in Punta Cana, Bayahibe or La Romana, don’t worry, you still can experience this fantastic paradise. There are guided tours and excursions from many places in the Dominican Republic to Saona Island.

The experience and the steps of the tour are pretty similar when heading from Santo Domingo to Isla Saona (the same goes for Boca Chica or Juan Dolio). You have a transfer to Bayahibe, board the speed boat or the catamaran (and the other option on the way back) and can enjoy your time on one of the islands’ beaches. Food and drinks are usually included.

If you’re looking for tour offers from Santo Domingo, Boca Chica or Juan Dolio to Isla Saona, you can find them with the following tours:
Santo Domingo to Saona Island Tour*
Boca Chica to Saona Island Tour*
Juan Dolio to Saona Island Tour*

Beautiful Isla Saona beach in the Dominican Republic

Good to know for your Isla Saona tour

How to get to Saona Island?

When visiting Isla Saona, you have four options on how to get to Saona Island from Punta Cana:
– a guided excursion from/to Punta Cana with all services included
– getting to Bayahibe on your own (by rental car, public transport or taxi) and take a Isla Saona excursion from Bayahibe* (with all services included)
– getting to Bayahibe on your own and take the public boat (as described above) or a private boat to Mano Juan, the only village on the island (this is not a tourist excursion)
flying by helicopter from Punta Cana to Isla Saona (currently unavailable as of December 2023)

Editor’s Choice: the best experiences 2024

Most unique experience in a small group: Authentic rum tasting* (rating 4.78/5)
Best Rated Punta Cana excursion: Isla Saona Premium in small groups* (rating 4.95/5)
Most booked through Punta Cana Travel Blog: Small-Group Snorkeling* (rating 4.91/5)
Best off-the-beaten-track excursion: Montana Redonda & Costa Esmeralda* (rating 4.79/5)
Best excursion for family fun: Jungle Buggies + Zipline Combo* (rating 4.91/5)
New and trending for 2024: Evening Buggy Tour with Water Cave and Dancing*

Not the right tour for you?
Check out the 45 best Punta Cana excursions here at Punta Cana Travel Blog!

I am explaining the differences in the following sections.

Guided excursion from/to Punta Cana

This is the most common method on how to get to Saona Island from Punta Cana. You can find my Saona excursion recommendations above in the section “The best Saona Island excursions”. Simply book an Isla Saona tour and you are good to go. I would say that 90-95% of all visitors to Saona Island are going this way. As described above, it includes transfers from and to your all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, guide, national park fee, drinks, food and boat rides.

Getting to Bayahibe on your own and book a guided Saona excursion from there

In case you don’t like bus rides with picking up passengers from different all-inclusive resorts, if you have your own rental car or if you are coming from elsewhere, getting to Bayahihe on your own and booking a full Saona excursion which starts right in Bayahibe* might be the best option for you. Those tours are usually similar to the Isla Saona excursions from Punta Cana, just without the transfer. Depending on the tour, they might be a bit cheaper, but you have to add your own transfer.

The transfer can be (but is not limited) to the following options:
– private transfer from Punta Cana to Bayahibe and vice versa (check prices here – from Punta Cana to Bayahibe* | from Bayahibe to Punta Cana*)
– renting a car in Punta Cana (check prices for rental cars from/to Punta Cana here*) if you want to explore other things-to-do and day-trips on your own (continue reading here to know if it is a good idea to rent a car in Punta Cana)
– heading to Bayahibe from Punta Cana by public transport (not recommended, as you would have to start super early)
– arriving in Bayahibe by rental car or private transfer from elsewhere in the Dominican Republic
– staying overnight in Bayahibe, as described here in the Bayahibe Travel Guide

For Isla Saona excursion options from Bayahibe, you can check out the following offer.

Taking the public boat or a private boat to Mano Juan

If you want to get to Isla Saona but don’t want to have the typical Saona Island excursion experience, you can also head to Mano Juan, the only village on the island with roughly 300 inhabitants. Time seems to have forgotten this place and you can have a truly local experience far away from every tourist track. Due to the long travel time, it is recommended to spend a night here to be able to enjoy this place.

To book the public or private boat from Bayahibe, it is best to do so via your accommodation in Saona. There are only three rustic guesthouses on the island, you can check the Isla Saona hotels out here:
Casa Rural*
Isla Saona Beach House*
Saona Lodge*
Casa Mano Juan*
Casa Rosada*

The public boat is running once a day (9 am from Bayahibe, 2.30 pm from Mano Juan), details of how to organize this adventure are described above.

Visit Isla Saona by helicopter

For the start of 2024, Saona helicopter tours are not yet available. We hope that this will change soon, as those trips always were the best option to not spend the entire day on a Saona tour.

The most elegant way to get to Saona Island from Punta Cana is to book a helicopter tour. This very special Saona Island excursion from Punta Cana is the quickest way to get to the island and will make your stay unforgettable. You get picked up in the hotel by minivan, head to the heliport of Bavaro and board your helicopter bound for Isla Saona. There, you’ll have around 75 minutes to have an executive lunch with waiter service in one of the best Saona Island beach clubs, enjoy the open bar and have a dip into the turquoise ocean.

How can I book a tour to Saona Island?

 Excursions to Isla Saona can be best booked by one of the various tour operators. I would recommend you booking it online as you can check reviews before. Furthermore, it is usually 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., but the quality is a hit and miss (and your are risiking in getting scammed) 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.

Travel resources

Punta Cana Airport Transfers: Info | Book It*
Santo Domingo Airport Transfers: Info | Book It*
All-Inclusive Resorts: Info | Book It*
Apartments & Villas: Info | Book It*
Excursions: Info | Book It*
Rental Car: Info | Book It*
Road-Trips & Self-Drive Tours: Info | Plan It

What to do in Isla Saona?

 Probably you go to Saona Island for swimming, sunbathing, relaxing and enjoying the beautiful scenery. You can also get a massage from one of the local ladies, buy cigars or get yourself a Caribbean hairstyle. 

However, there also some attractions and places to see on Saona Island, among them:
Mano Juan – the only village on the island and home of approximately 300 inhabitants who live a remarkably simple life here. There are also threeplaces to stay if you would like to get away from it all. See above and below for more details.
Canto de la Playa – Canto de la Playa is a lagoon and pristine beach in the more remote part of Saona Island. Only a few tourists come here every day. Canto de la Playa is approx. 3 miles away from Mano Juan and one of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic.
Playa Catuano – one of the most popular beaches and at the same time home of the marine guard and the aforementioned shipwreck for snorkeling
Saona Channel – the channel which divides Saona Island from the mainland. Usually, only private boats go here.
Parque Nacional Cotubanamá – formerly called Parque Nacional del Este, this national park contains the whole Bayahibe peninsula and the island of Saona including the reefs and protected underwater areas.

Are there any hotels on Saona Island?

 There are no proper hotels or all-inclusive resorts on Isla Saona. However, there are a couple of simple guesthouses in the village of Mano Juan, the only little town on the whole island. You can sleep there and have a back-to-the-basics island experience as you will most likely be the only tourist in the village and might have power and/or water outages. But you also will be the only one enjoying this unforgettable sunrise in the morning …

If you are looking for more information about this unique place to stay at Saona Island, check out this article about the best eco-lodges in and around Punta Cana.

Here is a quick overview about some of the Saona Island accommodation.

Saona Beach House: even though it is far away from being a Saona Island Resort, this accommodation in Mano Juan is one of the top picks for Isla Saona. The rooms are spacious (and basic) and have a private bathroom, the location directly on the ocean is top-notch, particularly as breakfast is served with an amazing ocean view. The only negative point here is that the price-value ratio is average at maximum (which is, however, not much different in the other Isla Saona hotels) and rooms are a bit on the older site.

 Saona Lodge: this accommodation is the best-rated Isla Saona hotel, particularly due to the excellent communication of the owner (before and during your trip) and the basic, but well-maintained bungalow huts. However, you have to accept shared bathrooms when staying at Saona Lodge.

 Casa Rural El Paraíso: this is the third accommodation in Mano Juan, which doesn’t offer much comfort as well, including the basic sanitary facilities. However, the location is top-notch with the beach directly in front of Casa Rural. The owner also takes care of your trip which is an additional plus.

The beautiful and remote village of Mano Juan at Isla Saona in the Dominican Republic

Alternatives to Isla Saona

If you feel that an Isla Saona excursion is nothing for you or if you would like to avoid the crowds, you can try the neighboring Isla Catalina, which is described here in detail. It is a beautiful island 15 miles northwest of Isla Saona and also includes a fun boat trip, snorkeling and sufficient beach time. The scenery might not be as paradisical as Isla Saona but a big plus of Isla Catalina is that you will go both ways with a catamaran – 100% Caribbean feeling guaranteed.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are you planning a tour to Isla Saona? Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments! If you already have done an excursion to Saona Island, please share your experiences here as well!


The face behind Punta Cana Travel Blog: Chris


Author, 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.

26 thoughts on “Excursion to Isla Saona 2024 – hidden gems, insider tips, DIY adventures and the best Saona Island tours”

  1. I have so enjoyed reading this fuel for wanderlust, and the photos are stunning. I think it would totally be worth the extra money to go with one of the more premium options. I’m always willing to pay more wherever lobster is an option! Top shelf alcohol too is always worth the extra money (at least to me.) If you don’t mind me asking, what made you want to move from Germany to the Caribbean?

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      yes, Isla Saona is indeed stunning and the premium options make it a more upscale experience.

      Me moving to the Caribbean … good question. It all started more than 9 years ago when I just wanted to go abroad for maybe half a year or one entire year. From Germany, I found a job on the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada in the same industry I was already working (tourism), went there, and stayed 3 years. After those 3 years, I did a 1-year round-the-world-trip and found a nice job opportunity in the Dominican Republic afterwards (again, tourism) – and that’s where I am still enjoying paradise! 🙂
      Let me know if you have any further questions or have a look at the long story here: https://www.puntacanatravelblog.com/about-me/


  2. I really do need to go back to the DR and explore more of the island. A trip to Isla Saona sounds like a perfect escape for the day. Those crystal clear waters would definitely be a draw for us. I would definitely want to stop at a natural swimming hole although I heed your warning that it might not be the best snorkelling we have had. I might even spring for the premium tour and get the lobster!

    1. A lot of lobster lovers out here. 🙂
      Yes, if you want some quality and not necessarily a booze cruise to Isla Saona, one of the premium options might be a good idea, especially as they are usually not so much more expensive.
      For most tour operators, the beach is also a bit more relaxed with the premium option mentioned above.

  3. That scenery and the blue sky and seas looks very inviting. Like you, I like to avoid places that are purely aimed at tourism, but I usually find that even in those destinations there’s an opportunity to scratch beneath the surface and find a corner where tourists don’t venture, and can give you a chance to have a different experience than the one being forced on you.

    1. Indeed, there is so much to explore in Punta Cana most people don’t know about. However, for Isla Saona it’s a bit more complicated to avoid tourists. Tours which include Canto de la Playa Beach usually have a less touristy experience as this is the furthest beach on Isla Saona. But as mentioned, the scenery is also super stunning when you do the regular tours.
      On the other side, for a super authentic experience you can spend the night at Mano Juan as described above, you most likely will be alone here and can admire the untouched nature.


  4. On my last visit, I went to Isla Catalina for swimming and scuba, and I definitely plan to visit Isla Saona on my next trip. I was amazed that the water really is that crystal clear and blue on the south side of DR. It truly such a beautiful place and I cannot wait to return for another visit.

  5. Could this water be any dreamier?! It looks like heaven and really isn’t too far of a trip for us. I might have to rethink our 2021 travel plans…

  6. I had never heard of Saona Island before. What a shame that I didn’t know about this island before as look at that blue waters. It’s so tempting and refreshing. I have added this island now to my list and would love to make my way there someday.

  7. OMG! This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing these tips about visiting Isla Saona. I would really love to visit someday. Seeing the clear waters, it is definitely worth the trip even if there are no proper hotels.

  8. The island looks so dreamy with its white sandy beaches and blue clear water. I can just swim and take a nap there. I wish you put picture of the Canto de la Playa though. It sounds intriguing. My sister-in-law and her family visit Punta Cana every other year. I will tell her about this island.

    1. Yes Umiko, please tell your sister-in-law and her family about Isla Saona, even they probably might already know about it if they visit Punta Cana every other year. However, you can tell them about this Punta Cana Travel Blog so that they always can find the newest advice, best excursions and most interesting off-the-beaten track adventures here. 🙂 They can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram.
      I have been to Isla Saona twice but unfortunately never made it to Canto de la Playa – that’s why I don’t have a photo of it. But soon I probably can go there.

  9. I completely get you when you say that a place being all about tourism is a turn-off. But there is also a good reason why so many travelers go there. It looks stunning, I would definitely go and try to relax on those waters for a day or two before moving on to something less traveled.

  10. First of all: a huge THANKS and respect for this nice post!!! 🙂

    Hi Christ,

    we have two questions and it would be so nice if you can help us out:
    1. Do you think its better to go on Tuesday instead of Saturday to Saona (more crowded?)?
    2. Do you know where exactly the public ferry at 9 am leaves Bayahibe? Cant find any official harbour.

    Would really appreciate your help!


    1. Hi Dennis,
      great if my Isla Saona guide was so helpful for you.
      To answer your questions:
      1) I would say that on a Tuesday there are probably 10-20% less tourists than on a Saturday.
      2) You can find the public port in Bayahibe if you enter in Google Maps “Puerto de Bayahibe”.
      I hope this helps.
      Cheers, Chris

  11. Thanks for all the info, great job. I am a no frill traveller and planning to rent a car from Santo Domingo and travel DR. Few questions:
    – Taking the public boat from Bayahibe, how much is is round trip cost? USD $40 or $60?
    – how do I go to Playa Canto de la Playa from Mano Juan? Are there shared boats to hire?
    – Is it advisable to take my son (7 yr old) to take to Saona? If yes, on my own or excursion tours?
    – Is it safe to leave the rental car in Bayahibe overnight so I can stay at Saona?

    1. Hey Inna,
      thanks for your comment.
      Here are my answers and opinions on your questions:
      – the public boat is either 1000 DOP or 1300 DOP (not quiet sure), hence more or less 20 USD one-way per person. I don’t know if there is a special price for kids.
      – from Mano Juan to Canto de la Playa you can either walk (approx. 1-1.5 hours, 3 miles) or take a private boat. There are no shared boats.
      – if your son is adventurous and used to travel, there is no problem on taking him with you on this Saona DIY trip.
      – yes, you can leave your car in Bayahibe. Just don’t leave any valuables in the car. If you want to be on the safe side, book a night in Bayahibe the night before and ask them if you can leave your big bags at the accommodation and the car parked as well. In this case you could just travel with your day pack to Saona.
      I hope this helps.

      1. Thanks again for your input, it’s very helpful. I really would like to go to Canto de la Playa (kinda more important than staying overnight at Mano Juan. Any idea how much a private boat to Canto de la Playa may cost? If it’s too much, may as well make sense to take a daytrip with tours to Mano Juan+Playa Canto de la ($60-$80) vs taking public boat ($40)+private boat(??). What do you suggest?

        1. Hi Inna,
          I think for a private boat from Mano Juan to Canto de la Playa you have to calculate with at least 60 USD, probably more like 80-100 USD (return, per boat). But to be honest, this is just a guess, it is hard to say. Boats are usually pretty expensive in the Dominican Republic.
          If you just want to go to Canto de la Playa I think you get a much better value (because everything is included) if you book a tour from Bayahibe or Punta Cana. Those tours here get amazing reviews and bring you to Canto de la Playa and many other places on the same day:
          From Bayahibe: https://www.puntacanatravelblog.com/recommendation/isla-saona-excursion-with-mano-juan-from-bayahibe/
          From Punta Cana: https://www.puntacanatravelblog.com/recommendation/isla-saona-excursion-with-mano-juan-from-punta-cana/
          I hope this helps.
          Cheers, Chris

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *