CaribbeanDominican Republic

The Dominican Republic Is More Than Just Luperon – part 1

By June 14, 2022 No Comments

{I wrote an article about cruising the Dominican Republic that I am going to submit to several magazines to see if they are interested in publishing it. Before I do that I thought I would share it with all of you and see what you think. Please feel free to leave a comment below giving me your thoughts. Thank you. – Shane}

Having spent the last 11 years in the Virgin Islands and Eastern Caribbean running charters aboard my Lagoon 410, Guiding Light, I have heard many sailors talk about going to the Dominican Republic on their way to the islands. The problem is that once you start talking to them about the DR they tell you they either spent the hurricane season in Luperon on the north coast or they used the DR to get to the southern coast of Puerto Rico to continue east to the islands. So few of them actually spent time cruising the DR to get to know it and its people. This is a shame, because, while there are issues cruising the DR, there are also three great cruising grounds to explore.


When Lily and I cruised the Dominican Republic we started in the southeast corner of the country, because we sailed over from Puerto Rico and checked into the country at Casa de Campo. This high end marina is a great place to check in because the officials will meet you at the dock and escort you to the office. We had to fill out paperwork for customs, immigration, health, sanitation, and more. It seemed like each person asked for $20 for their part of the process. The total we paid to check into the country was around $120.

By the time we were done it was later in the afternoon, but the marina, rather rudely, told us they did not have room and we had to leave. The problem is that in order to leave a bay you have to get a despacho stating where you are headed and I had not yet decided. The official recommended Bayahibe and boy was he right on target. This little, touristy, beach side town was a wonderful first look at the DR. While it took a bit to find a place to anchor amid all the local day boats, once we did the island vibe over took us. Sadly, the first order of business at any new harbor is to turn in the despacho to the armada, but after that you are free to explore all you want. We loved walking the beach and around town. We even ate at a fun restaurant called Gringos, much to the amusement of my Mexican girlfriend.

Now the gem of the southeast, and the reason Bayahibe is so busy, is Isla Saona, a wonderful island/national park separated from the mainland by a mile or so. Here you can find several different anchorages to relax in. Our favorite was just north of Punta Catuan on the mainland, because we had protection from north to south in 7 feet of water off a nice beach. Each morning we watch the day boats start to arrive around 9:30am and then return back to Bayahibe around 3:30. Just a mile or so north of us was a shallow sandy spot called Las Palmillas, where day boats loved to anchor and everyone hung out in waist deep water. We took the dinghy over one day and enjoyed people watch for a couple hours, but the dinghy trip to the large mangrove lake around the point was the highlight of this anchorage. We spent a couple hours exploring the square mile size lake seeing turtles, rays, sharks, a frigate bird colony, and other bird life, all while knowing so few people ventured into this natural hideaway.

Over on the actual island of Saona you have to turn in your despacho at Catuano on the western tip of the island. This is a nice beach with a beach bar, but we loved Playa Delfin, just around the corner to the south even more. This beach was a mile long and had lots of different beach bars to chose from. Of course we also enjoyed watching all the day trippers. It seems big business for the locals to do photo shoots of tourists for a fee, because we saw a lot of people posing for the camera. We also checked out a beach a couple miles to the east and just north of Punta Laguna, but it did not provide the protection I thought looking at the charts and it stunk of rotting sargassum.

The last thing we did before leaving for the next cruising ground was to sail up the eight mile long channel between Isla Saona and the mainland. Once we got past the western bar we had 20 feet or more in the main part of the channel. At the eastern end our cruising guide said Cayo Raton provided decent shelter, but when we got there it was not an island but a reef instead. It was very interesting sailing just inside the barrier reef and seeing at least three different ships wrecked on the reef and Cayo Catalinita, which is right next to the middle of the reef. On the southern end of the barrier reef there is a fairly easy cut to navigate out of and that is what we did in order to do a 120 mile passage around Cabo Engano to our next cruising ground. A word of caution, Cabo Engano is part of the Mona Passage and weather in this area is always tricky, as we found out when the light winds turned to 25-30 knots and ripped the head sail.


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