For those who like to dream about undersea worlds… This article by Sascha Zuger (Islands) explores the best snorkeling spots in the Dominican Republic, including Catalina Island, La Romana, Playa Dominicus, Saona Island, and Bayahibe. Zuger writes, “Beyond the popular, beautiful beaches, visitors will find so much to enjoy underwater.”
This land of beaches is more known for the party atmosphere, family-friendly all-inclusive resorts and romantic honeymoon escapes on its golden sand shores. But lovers of the underwater world will still find places to indulge their snorkel and dive habits at these unique spots.
Catalina Island, The Wall Reef: Less than two miles from the mainland on the southeast corner of the Dominican Republic, this is one of the top-rated snorkel sites on the island. The crystal-clear turquoise waters are calm and home to The Wall Reef.
Teeming with life; vase sponge, fire coral, black coral, purple sea fans, elk horn and leather coral is a backdrop for porcupine fish, sailfin sculpin, green parrotfish, moray eel, scorpion fish, snapper, blue parrotfish, trumpet fish and butterfly fish. In the sand, yellow and southern stingrays can scuttle past sea cucumbers.
La Romana, Pier near the Hilton: This famous beach offers easy entry to enjoy patches of reef along the white sand bottom— just keep an eye open for boat traffic. For guaranteed fish life of note, head toward the pier and admire the crusted pylons and the critters who call then home. Amongst the reef chunks and wooden posts, look for yellow goatfish, brave little damselfish, French grunt, Queen Angelfish, porcupine puffer fish and, if you are lucky, Spotted Drum (juveniles have wispy endlessly long dorsal fins that whip through the water).
Playa Dominicus/Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus: Clear, warm water with little to no undertow (check with local dive or snorkel shops for daily conditions) make this a great spot to dipping your fins. Located on the Dominican Republic’s south coast, Playa Dominicus is the first beach on the island to have achieved Blue Flag Beach, so it offers a rare opportunity to venture from shore.
The area by the lighthouse offers some plentiful fish action, but many guests of Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus just head to the artificial reef in front of the hotel. Though certainly not a daily occurrence, some snorkelers have even noted whale shark and manatees sightings out in front of the hotel. (Onsite Dressel Divers offers daily tours to sites further afield.)
Saona Island: Accessible by many tour options, this idyllic island is so picturesque it can often be spotted in films and ads posting as the quintessential desert isle. As part of a government nature reserve inside Parque Nacional del Este, the wildlife is protected both above and below the surface.
As in much of the DR, the coral has been a bit bleached so other than a purple sea fan here or there it lacks the colorful pops seen elsewhere in the Caribbean, but striped angelfish, silvery snapper, trumpet fish and deep red starfish can be spotted. Enjoy the beauty of a lounge on the beautiful natural beach, post-snorkel.
Bayahibe: This fine white sand beach gives way to a seabed populated by schools of kaleidoscopic fish, with coral bommies where trunkfish, boxy cowfish, scrawled filefish, Caribbean sharpnose and banded butterflyfish flit in and out of crevices. Sharp-eyed snorkelers maybe even catch site of spotted morays peeking out of the coral’s nooks. This is another example of shore-access exploring for snorkelers. Popular with fishermen, this is also a great spot to get fresh catch to round out dinner for those visiting in cottages and rental homes.
[Catalina Island, one of the Dominican Republic’s best snorkeling spots. Shutterstock.]