Hey, hey volunteers living in the Caribbean — spend a day under the waves and find some new fishy friends at these rad snorkeling spots.
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We love lazy days lounging on the sand, sipping drinks out of pineapples but sometimes you want to spend some time under those waves with a snorkel mask, right? Good thing you have some vacation time to head down and check out these snorkel spots for yourself all around the DR!
The Atlantic Ocean Side
If you're on the northern side of the island you're in luck because it has some of the best snorkeling (in our opinion). There's three spots we highly recommend you check out.
This gorgeous beach has a reef that’s great for snorkeling, just 100 meters out from the sand. If you want to do just hang out and do your own thing for the day, this is the best spot to have a DIY type of adventure. There will be places you can rent gear and beach chairs for the whole afternoon…make sure you hunt for some sea glass here!
You can also make a whole day of it, and hire a tour guide (or go with a tour group) who’ll take you over to nearby Paradise Island for really stellar snorkeling. You may even spot a sea turtle! This is actually another one of our recommended spots for snorkel (more on that in a second).
Right next door to Sosua is Playa Alicia, sitting in the same cove, and is just as gorgeous! If you can grab tours around this area, I'd say go for it.
Paradise Island (Cayo Arena)
Paradise Island may be the best place to snorkel on the entire island, if you're talking to a few ILP alumni who have spent 4 months living and exploring here.
Paradise island is essentially a shallow sandbar set up with a handful of huts, but surrounded by the most pristine water and encircled with a colorful reef. It's picture perfect snorkeling, that's for sure. Get your Paradise Island Guide here (it's just 2 hours away from Puerto Plata).
You can go “off beach” snorkeling from Grand Bahia Principle Cayacoa — there’s reef where you can see crabs, needle fish and coral. But don’t stop there....there are a few snorkel spots along Samana Bay, and tours love to take you out for the day to explore sunken ferries and hidden gems like Cayo Levantado Island, Playa Madame or Playa Rincón if you want to go that route.
Get more things to do in Samana, here: It's a #1 vacation spot for our ILP DR volunteers!
The Caribbean Sea Side
While the northern side really has our heart when it comes to snorkel, that doesn't mean you won't find some rad adventures down south.
Bayahibe + La Romana
A beyond favorite place to vacation. These two nearby regions are full of gorgeous beaches: the city of La Romana (and surrounding beaches) and the region known as Bayahibe which stretches from La Romana and includes the East National Park.
Another perk? There's really great off-shore snorkeling. There’s a big resort in La Romana (called Dreams La Romana) where you can just dive in, and see some fish by the pier, all without needing to take a boat out.
Get more about Bayahibe and La Romana here.
La Romana's Islands
So good thing to know: There are a couple islands right off the La Romana coast that have some fabulous islands that are made for snorkeling. Catalina is beautiful and tours will take you out here, plus include snorkeling in the adventure. To be totally honest, the snorkeling here wasn't my top pick, but the island itself didn't disappoint. We have more details on Catalina Island riiiiiight there.
Saona island also has some ah-mazing beaches and snorkel spots ... along with plenty of Starfish you can hang out with without snorkel gear. It's actually lovingly known as "starfish island" because you'll find so many of them hanging around the area. Even though Saona is a bit further out, it's worth the trip in my opinion. If can't decide between the two though, you may find tour groups who will do both Catalina Island and Saona Island in the same day.
Some Bonus Tips
But before you go running off with your flippers, here’s a few things to know:
Head To The Atlantic Ocean Side!
Generally, the best snorkeling is going to be on the Atlantic Ocean side of things, rather than the Caribbean Sea side. You can snorkel in popular Punta Cana, but we think the places mentioned in this post are soooooo much better.
Think About A Tour
Also, all of these places have tour groups that will take you there, provide the gear, and usually include lunch. You can find tours from $30-80 (or more). But if you want to snorkel on your own, some of these beaches do have “off the beach” snorkeling — you’ll just need to rent or pack your own gear (usually a tour isn’t that much more expensive, plus you are going with people who know what’s up).
Book A Tour When You Arrive
If you are going to go the tour route, you can often save a bit of money if you book locally. You'll be able to find quite a few online, but honestly the generally don't fill up completely and online prices are often the highest. My suggestion is to ask around the first day of your vacation and search for a tour. In popular tourist cities you won't have to look far before seeing signs for tours going out to popular islands and excursions. Just talk to your hostel/hotel or keep your eyes peeled on the beach where they're typically advertising themselves. I've had the most luck when I found a tour, paid in person for a next-day tour, and then fit the tour into my plans for the following day (usually because they start early in the morning).
Are you ready to grab your swimsuit and snorkel mask?
This country is full of waterfalls, lush jungles, ancient ruins, history and some of the cutest kids around. Our ILP volunteers get the chance to live near one of the DR's most popular cities, and teach English to kids who really need it, then have vacation time and weekends to snorkel in all of these spots.