Tiny Catalina Island (Isla Catalina), just 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) off the Dominican Republic’s mainland, is an idyllic sandy speck in the turquoise Caribbean waters. Known for its well-populated coral reefs, Catalina is a peaceful respite for those looking to escape bustling Punta Cana and La Romana.
Catalina Island is home to a diverse ecosystem of sand dunes, mangroves, and reefs populated by many species of sea birds and tropical fish. The island’s main draws are its white sandy beaches and its beautiful underwater ecosystem. Snorkeling and scuba diving are particularly good here, and the Wall and the Aquarium are two of the top dive sites.
Tours from the Dominican Republic’s mainland (originating in Bayahibe, Punta Cana, La Romana, or even as far-flung as Santo Domingo) are plentiful and usually last all day. Some tours combine a trip to Catalina Island with visits to other area highlights such as Altos de Chavon, the more populated Saona Island, or Casa de Campo. Snorkeling tours and scuba diving tours usually include use of equipment.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Catalina Island is a great destination for kids, who will enjoy wading safely in the calm waters.
- Catalina Island is a protected area devoted to wildlife preservation, so there are not many amenities. The island lacks public restrooms and food options.
- Be sure to bring a bathing suit, towel, sunscreen, a sun hat, and water.
How to Get There
Catalina Island, located just a few miles off the coast of La Romana, can be reached only by boat from the Dominican Republic mainland.
When to Get There
Catalina is a popular destination for group tours, so if you’re in search of peace and quiet, arrive early. To scuba dive or snorkel, you’ll find the best visibility on calm, hot days between December and May, when the diving on the south coast is the best.
Captain William Kidd’s ship Quedagh Merchant is wrecked about 70 feet (21 meters) off the coast of Catalina Island. The pirate’s ship sank in the 17th century but was discovered only in 2007. Now preserved as a Living Museum of the Sea, the shipwreck offers a unique scuba diving opportunity.