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Scuba diving in La Romana & Saona Island

With the calmest waters in the Dominican Republic, Diving in La Romana offers access to Catalina and Saona Islands, wrecks and miles of fringing reef.
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Highlights

Cave Diving

Three water-filled cave systems near Santo Domingo, Bayahibe and Playa Dorada are ripe for exploration by tec divers. Several local guides can assist.

Catalina Island

An uninhabited island now protected as a national park, it’s two dive sites are a haven for pelagics and a wealth of colorful, tropical fish species.

Saona Island

Perfect for both snorkelers and scuba divers, Saona Island has several shallow sand bars as well as drift dives. Nurse sharks are commonly spotted.

Wreck of the Saint George

Intentionally scuttled, this 240-foot (73-meter) freighter now lies between 72 and 130 feet (22 and 40 meters) and is perfect for advanced divers.

Diving in La Romana & Saona Island

Quick facts

With little to no current at its nearby reefs, scuba diving in La Romana is fairly easy. Saona Island has a mix of advanced and beginner dives. Its protected western side offers shallow reefs whereas its eastern side has stronger currents, bringing in larger fish. And don’t forget about the freshwater caves. While easy enough for advanced divers, tec divers will benefit the most from these structures.

Much of the diving in the area takes place from small speedboats or catamarans. Saona Island is accessible only by boat as are the dives sites in the nearby national park. However, if you happen to be staying in a scuba diving resort, chances are you’ll have unlimited shore access to the house reef.

Underwater environments in La Romana and Saona Island include seagrass beds, mangrove forests, plenty of wrecks, cliffs with fast-paced drifts, freshwater caves and a healthy reef structure featuring tunnel-like swim-throughs and caverns.

Keep in mind that insurance is mandatory for anyone who wants to dive in the Dominican Republic.

When to go

Diving near La Romana and Saona Island is fantastic year-round. June to November has uncrowded dive sites. December to May has the best conditions.

June to November

La Romana and Saona Island enjoy a hot and humid climate year-round, although June to November is considered the rainy season. It usually rains once a day, every day but for only short periods of time.

June to November is also hurricane season. If you are planning a trip to the Caribbean during these months, consider taking out travelers insurance on the off chance a hurricane forms during your vacation. In recent years, the DR has not sustained a direct hit from a hurricane, but several pass nearby annually.

Air temperatures during the summer months range from 77-85°F (25-30°C) while water temperatures are 79-83°F (26-28°C).

Because June to November is considered the rainy season, this is also the low season in La Romana. If you choose to dive in these months, you’re sure to get a great deal on flights and accommodation.

If you enjoy getting the best deals or diving at uncrowded dive sites, book your trip from June to November.

December to May

December to May is the dry season in La Romana and Saona Island. During these months, you can expect sunny, hot and mildly humid conditions. This is also the best time of year to dive on the south coast as the seas are calmest there at this time.

Air temperatures during the winter months range from 70-80°F (21-26°C) while water temperatures are 75-79°F (24-26°C).

In addition to great topside conditions for the southern coast, December to March is the best time to dive while listening to humpback whales. This is the time of year the island plays host to the humpback whales who migrate from the North Atlantic to the shores of nearby Bavaro. As the males are there to impress their females during this season they are incredibly active and often present a spectacular show of splashing and rearing.

However, December to May also represents high season for tourism in the Caribbean. Therefore, you should book early to get a good deal on accommodation and flights.

If you wish to dive on the southern coast in locations like La Romana and Saona Island or see the mating rituals of humpback whales, book your holiday between December and May.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

Advanced divers should head to Catalina Island, Shark Point or the Wreck of Saint George. Beginners will be most comfortable along the eastern coastline.

    Snorkeling in La Romana & Saona Island

    Known as having some of the calmest waters in the Dominican Republic, diving in La Romana is a dream. Be sure to visit the shallow reefs around Saona Island and Catalina Wall on day trips. You’ll also want to check out Viva Shallows, which is just offshore, and The Atlantic Princess, a sunken ship with an upper structure just 10 feet (3 meters) from the surface.
    There are 22 dive sites within reach of La Romana and more being explored each year. Just offshore of La Romana, the wreck of the Saint George is a local favorite. Intentionally scuttled, it’s ripe for exploration today. You’ll also find the Atlantic Princes and reef sites such as Bajo de la Mina and Dreams Shallow. Along the Parque Nacional del Este, you’ll find fringing coral reefs full of life at sites like Dos Cocos, La Tortuga and Aquarium Profundo. In addition, Bayahibe allows access to both Catalina Island and Saona Island. Catalina includes two dive sites, called The Wall and The Aquarium, both of which feature lush coral gardens and abundant fish species. Saona Island boasts El Faro, La Parguera and Shark Point.

    What to see

    La Romana and Saona Island boast a great variety of marine life. Don’t expect to see a lot of big stuff here, but do expect to encounter fascinating creatures. Commonly spotted are tropical fish species from grazing parrotfish to butterfly and angelfish. In the warm waters near the estuaries, live the manatees which form a special treat for the few divers who spot them. Reef sharks and barracuda may be seen patrolling the waters around Saona Island and Shark Point. Leatherback, green, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles graze among the shallow reefs for both snorkelers and scuba divers to find. Keep a watchful eye on the water during your transit from shore to dive site. Dolphins love to frolic in the wake of the dive boats.

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