My husband and I got married in the Dominican Republic with 30 of our closest friends and family in tow. After four days of all-inclusive resort captivity, we booked a day trip to Isla Saona. The island is a part of East National Park and is a government-protected nature reserve. We figured this would be our best shot at seeing what the DR really looks like beyond the manicured lawns of the resort.
Getting to the island required a 90-minute bus ride from Punta Cana via the newly-paved Coral Highway. We then boarded a catamaran in Bayahibe and sailed through the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea.
We were dropped off onto a beach covered in chairs and hammocks. Small huts were staffed by tour groups grilling up lunch for the day trippers. To escape the crowd, we simply had to walk 50 yards down the coastline. Wild mangroves and coral reefs surrounded the narrow strip of white sand ahead of us. Sea urchins and tiny tropical fish hung out in tidal pools. We watched storms pass by in the distance and sought shelter from the searing sun under a thick canopy of palm trees. Small lizards scurried out of our path as we walked on.
Looking out at the endless expanse of blue water and sky, and down the deserted coastline we shared only with an endless row of palm trees made it easy to pretend we were the first to discover this largely untouched island. But then, the sound of our boat's motor starting up in the distance brought us back to reality...and the other tourists.