La Romana – the best of Dominican Republic

April 4, 2022

Overflowing in natural riches—from a poster-worthy Caribbean coastline to world-class golf courses—La Romana is one of the country’s top destination picks. Fields of sugar cane lead to continuous white sand beaches from Dominicus to Bayahíbe.
Cave-riddled forests inside Cotubanamá National Park are home to fresh water springs and Taino rock art. Offshore, the islands of Saona, Catalina, and Catalinita are lined with turtle nesting stretches facing pristine coral reefs, while shipwrecks teeming with marine life rest at shallow and extreme depths. The largest sugar cane mill in the Americas was once headquartered in La Romana, until its owners diversified and ventured into tourism by opening the luxurious Casa de Campo Resort in 1974, a celebrity favorite and renowned destination for its award-winning Pete Dye golf courses. The adjacent 16th century Altos de Chavón followed—a stunning replica of a Mediterranean village towering over the Chavón River, and bustling with entertainment—including an outdoor Grecian amphitheater where Grammy-winning artists perform every year.

While visitors flock to La Romana for a luxurious seaside lifestyle of chasing tail, scuba diving, fine dining, and shopping, its fishing village charms along Bayahíbe and Dominicus win many more over. La Romana is the gateway to Saona and Catalina Islands, which are part of the Cotubanamá National Park, and the most visited natural attractions in the country. One wouldn’t expect any less from the only location in the DR and the world where the rare Bayahíbe Rose originates—a soft pink-colored cactus-shrub named National Flower of the DR in 2011 and featured on the Dominican currency. The main ports of entry to La Romana and Bayahíbe are La Romana International Airport (LRM) and Casa de Campo Tourist Port.

The scenic fishing town of Bayahíbe is an attraction in and of itself, lucky to boast multiple beaches on its coastline, including Dominicus Beach—Blue Flag certified—and several more pristine, diamond-white stretches offshore on Catalina and Saona islands. Bayahíbe retains its Dominican pulse, from its local restaurants and bars to its street side arts and crafts stalls, and fishermen who bring catch daily. Aside from its waterfront life, Bayahíbe’s streets hold plenty of history and architecture, with pastel-colored wooden homes, iconic churches, and nearby Taino caves filled with mystery, and fresh water springs inside Cotubanamá National Park.

Bayahibe packs its own punch in white sand beaches. The village itself counts a small, brilliant stretch facing the main road, uncrowded during the day as most visitors head to the nearby offshore islands. As five o’clock strikes, the beach comes alive with the bars, cafes, and restaurants that line it, offering happy hour specials as locals and visitors stop for a sundowner, while waiting on one of the most beautiful sunsets in the country.

One of the DR’s longest white sand beaches lines a series of large resorts in the Bayahíbe Dominicus area, but remains open to all visitors. The most popular, frequented section faces the Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus by the landmark black-and-white painted lighthouse-shaped bar. The first beach in the Caribbean to receive Blue Flag certification, Dominicus is popular for swimming in its shallow, turquoise waters, but also for diving, with an abundant reef right off its shore, and no undertow. Nearby restaurants and a series of arts and crafts shacks on the eastern, public edge of the beach complete the picture.

Cotubanama National Park – also known as Parque Nacional del Este, this is one of the most cave riddled and adventure-packed national parks in the DR—understandably one of its most visited—counting more than 500 flora species, 300 types of birds, and including long stretches of diamond white beaches on Saona and Catalina islands, along with their underwater marine life. Visitors can hike the land portion, accessible from Bayahíbe village, to explore a handful of the park’s cave and freshwater springs along marked trails of varying difficulty, or go birdwatching. On the coastline, snorkeling and diving sites
are numerous along colorful coral reefs, and steep walls teeming with sea life. On shore, the park’s sparkling beaches, particularly on Saona Island, is the most important turtle-nesting site in the Dominican Republic.

Located 19 kilometers (12 miles) south of the mainland, Saona Island’s picture-perfect beaches attract more visitors than all of the country’s national parks combined. A protected site spanning 110km2 and part of Cotubanamá National Park,
Saona is a dream tropical escape, where long stretches of brilliant white sand and their giant coconut trees seem to melt into iridescent turquoise waters. Visitors can take day trips to enjoy the beaches, through a myriad of options
ranging from speedboat to catamaran. Riding along Saona’s stunning coastline scenery alone is worthwhile. Most trips leave out of Bayahíbe village, from its small waterfront area. Stops in Saona include a swim at Palmilla, a white stretch with
a wide natural pool, and at Mano Juan, the only inhabited portion of the island. Saona Island is also the DR’s most
important turtle-nesting site.

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