Pros:Well organised, plenty of lounges, palm trees and food.
Cons:Too far from Punta Cana/Bavero area to bother going to for only it.
The Bottom Line: Catalina Island was a nice place but think twice before a long travel time to get there. The beaches are fine but where you are staying is just as good.
A popular cruise destination off the southern coast of the Dominican Republic is Catalina Island.
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An Uninhabited Island
Most of the island is untouched except for hiking trails and snorkeling its shores. There is however a 200 yard or so cutout of fine beach that is a draw to many on a cruise who want a day of sun, sand and snorkeling. It's also a popular destination for tourist visiting the Dominican Republic to see more of its shores. We happened to do a snorkeling excursion that included three hours or so on Catalina Island. This is offered on days when the cruise ships are not in. I understand Costa Cruises uses the island and a security fellow believed Carnival Cruises used it too. I couldn't find evidence of that.
The ride to Catalina from the closest shores of the Dominican Republic is about thirty/forty minutes long. We saw beautiful open catamarans with live music and plenty of upbeat partying going on that pulled up directly to a dock for smaller vessels that makes it an easy walk to the beach area of Catalina Island. Our dive boat was able to dock there. Cruise boats use tenders to shuttle people back and forth.
The island has large permanent nice-looking tents over a food serving area and over many many picnic tables. Rest rooms, shops, massages, volley ball and more were available to us on the island. When the cruise ships come in we were told the island is quite busy but from what I could see, it is well organized.
It seemed that hundreds of lounge chairs were available. As we got off our boats guys came over to help us get a lounge. They were the sales guys from the shops trying to make first contact and giving small carved gifts to wear around our necks and were told which shop to go to so there wasn't any battles between these guys for customers. The way I saw it they simply kept the shoppers buying in one place and not shopping each trying to get the best prices. A friend of ours was ripped off big time by one of these guys. Know your prices and be sure to know how to walk away. Also, watch that they put everything you purchased in the bag. Sad that overzealous thieves can leave a bad taste about a place.
We were there on a snorkeling outing. We already did some off the shore of the island from our dive boat. Upon arrival were were given an area where snorkelers can try their luck at finding flora and fauna. It's in a section near the coral formed shore in an area roped off to keep boats at bay.
There really wasn't much to see there. We were told there was more out by a raft. There wasn't. I did go out and around the point and did find much more interesting fans and such there. Not much in variety of fish though. Not a good snorkeling place at all for advanced hobbyists.
The beach was wonderful. Music was being played via a sound system they took off our boat. The palm trees there were beautiful and we had plenty of shade when needed.
The bar-b-q food served was pretty good. Burgers, chicken, beans, and an large assortment of many other foods was available. There was plenty of food, the lines moved quickly and soft drinks were free and available. I understand the cruise ships use their own people and services to get meals to their customers on the island. I saw the bar that they set up for alcoholic drinks too.
We never did do any hiking on the island. We were there for R&R. People can explore the mangroves, sand dunes and reefs.
I was told that when the cruise ships come in the island has many water sports rentals like jet skis available as well as banana boat rides and sailing outings. Don't bother with any snorkeling excursions unless it's your first experience. It was interesting but the coral off shore was grey and certainly not rich looking.
I did find out that a wreck, the Quedagh Merchant, was found just last year and is believed to have belonged to Captain Kidd. Though we were not able to get access to it we were told it was an incredible find because it was only 70' off Catalina island in just 10' of water.
Though the snorkeling wasn't anything to write home about we enjoyed our quiet hours on Catalina Island. We were about 200 people. I wonder what it is like when 2,000 are on its shores. I will say the place was well organised for us. It seems like cruise lines are making their own safe and controlled areas for their guests to spend a day. Costa Maya that ... Cruises uses in Mexico one such place. We liked that place for a short stop but did an excursion of our own from there. We also have stayed at the Norwegian cruise line's private island Great Stirrup Cay. I thought both sites pretty much equal. Again that was with the full 2,000 person crowd.
I wouldn't make the snorkeling trip that included Catalina island ever again but I would suggest a day trip that takes in Altos de Chavon, a remarkable recreation of a Medieval hill-top town that is an artist residence, and Catalina Island. That I believe would be a good combination. We enjoyed both at different excursions but combined together would be an excellent day.
Altos de Chavon a medieval village in the Americas. A site well worth
Other Cruise Line Stops in the Caribbean
Great Stirrup Cay a cruise line beach in the Bahamas
Costa Maya, Mexico Royal Caribbean's excursion point in Mexico
ScubaCaribe, Dominican Republic These people give tours to Catalina Island
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