Saona Island is considered by many to be the crown jewel of the Dominican Republic. In fact, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the entire Caribbean, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Fortunately, it is also an easy day trip from Punta Cana, the most popular vacation spot in the Dominican Republic.
Saona Island cannot be accessed by car but boat excursions are offered daily by tour operators and others. The quality of these organized tours varies greatly so you are advised to do some research before choosing the one to go on – or get a solid recommendation from someone who has been on the tour you considering going on.
The stunningly beautiful beaches are the biggest attractions on Saona Island. The most famous beach is called Canto de la Playa. Many movies and commercial directors have filmed scenes on this beach. This includes scenes from the Hollywood blockbuster, “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The white sandy beaches are lined with spectacular groves of coconut trees. When you go, you may be lucky enough to receive a message with coconut oil harvested on the island. Some excursions to the island also provide a barbeque on the beach of delicious traditional Dominican foods.
Another popular attraction on Saona Island is the picturesque village of Mano Juan, located on the southwest side of the island. These are the only people who live on the island and there are only about 400 residents. If you are lucky enough to be on the top rated Saona Island tour, you will be invited to tour the village.The people of Mano Juan are exceptionally friendly and live off the land mostly through subsistence fishing and farming. The only electricity they have is what a few solar panels can provide. As you enter the village, the first thing you will notice is the line of brightly colored wooden houses and buildings. This provides the perfect photo opportunity. You may also get to see the sea turtle conservation project the children of the village are involved with.
Modern day Saona Island is also referred to as “Isla Saona” in the predominantly Spanish speaking Dominican Republic. Increasingly, however, there is a push by Dominicans to call Saona Island “Adamanay,” which is its original indigenous Taino name. The Taino people occupied the island in pre-Columbian times and their language is in the Arawak language family which includes several South American indigenous languages. You may see other phonetic spellings Adamanay as well.
Whatever you personally decide to call Saona Island, I am sure the experience of going there will affect you profoundly. The scenery of the island and the people of Mano Juan will captivate your soul and fill your mind with memories that will live in your heart forever.