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Punta Cana, located on the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic, is a renowned tourist destination known for its stunning beaches and vibrant nightlife.
However, when it comes to snorkeling, Punta Cana is situated on the Atlantic side, which offers fewer opportunities for snorkeling compared to the Caribbean side of the island.
In this article, we’ll guide you to some of the best snorkeling spots in the Dominican Republic, particularly in the Bayahibe area, which is known for its rich underwater biodiversity and as the departure point for tours to Catalina Island.
Check out: Punta Cana’s Excursions and Beaches
Here is an overview:
Best snorkeling spots in the Dominican Republic
If you’re looking for places to go snorkeling near Punta Cana, check out these spots.
Check out these other places to visit in the Dominican Republic.
Playa Magallanes in Bayahibe
Playa Magallanes is a hidden gem for snorkelers. Nestled in the Bayahibe region on the Caribbean coast, this beach boasts crystal-clear waters and vibrant marine life.
The beach of Playa Magallanes is small and surrounded by some rocks. It is hidden in a small bay and offers a beautiful view of the Caribbean Sea. When the wind is strong, expect some waves.
Snorkelers can explore colorful coral reefs teeming with tropical fish just a short distance from the shore. Snorkelers come here to explore the caves and overhangs along the coast. This is a great spot to look for groupers, moray eels, lobsters, and scorpion fish – all of which appreciate hiding in the crevices of the reef.
The calm, shallow waters make it an ideal spot for beginners and families.
Don’t forget to bring your underwater camera to capture the mesmerizing underwater world.
Playa Magallanes is one of the most accessible snorkeling spots in the area. If you are in Bayahibe on the southeast coast of the Dominican Republic, Playa Magallanes is relatively easy to get to. From the village, just follow the dirt road along the coast towards Dominicus. After about 500 meters you will find the small beach of Magallanes on your right.
Catalina Island is a true treasure of the Dominican Republic and one of the best destinations for snorkeling and diving. Its clear waters and vast coral reefs are home to the vibrant Marine Museum and the sunken shipwreck of the Captain Kidd, which lies 69 feet below sea level.
A few miles southeast of Hispaniola lies Catalina Island, an uninhabited paradise perfectly prepared for modern tourism. The humid tropical island covers an area of only 3.7 square kilometers and offers a pleasant average temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25°C) per year. Visitors have access to an exclusive part of the island – the VIP area.
Fun water sports activities, scenic walks along the beach, delicious criollo food and refreshing tropical cocktails in a rustic setting with an eco-friendly atmosphere are some of the reasons why people visit this beautiful island in the Dominican Republic.
The waters around the island also offer a diverse underwater world: seahorses, sponges, colorful blowfish, swimming butterfly fish, majestic queen angelfish to longhorn cowfish or even sea urchins along with many other species make you love the warm crystal clear waters of Catalina Island.
Catalina Island, situated a short boat ride away from Bayahibe, is a snorkeler’s paradise with two standout spots that are a must-visit:
The Wall, also known as El Muro, is a stunning wall in the Caribbean Sea. Aptly named, The Wall is a sheer drop-off where the ocean floor plunges into the abyss. It extends down to 100 meters and has two prominent steps at 25 and 40 meters that allow for a gentle descent.
Here, you’ll encounter an array of coral formations, gorgonians, and larger marine species such as nurse sharks (seen by divers only) and stingrays.
The wall’s depth allows for diverse snorkeling experiences, making it suitable for both beginners and advanced snorkelers.
Just off the shores of Catalina Island lies The Aquarium, El Acuario and the name speaks for itself. It is a shallow coral garden teeming with colorful marine life.
This dive site has an abundance of coral formations and a depth of around 11 meters. Here you can see some of the most characteristic marine life of the Caribbean, including seahorses, the world famous lionfish and frogfish.
This spot is perfect for those who prefer snorkeling in calm, shallow waters and observing an abundance of fish species, including damselfish, butterflyfish, and sergeant majors.
It’s like swimming in a living aquarium.
Catalina Snorkel Tour
Head to Catalina Island, which is part of the Cotubanama National Park.
The first stop is “The Wall”, a snorkeling spot about 10 meters deep. Don’t worry, you’ll be well supervised, so everyone can enjoy the experience of seeing small fish – even beginners and children!
The most adventurous can go further and explore this stunning underwater relief, which is one of the most impressive in the region.
Afterwards, continue to the second snorkeling site near Catalina Beach, called “The Aquarium”, located at a depth of about 4 meters. Snorkeling here is suitable for everyone, including families. And for those of you who are more adventurous, you can even jump into the water from the boat!
Finally, it’s time to relax and enjoy a well-deserved meal! At Catalina Beach, you’ll have about two and a half hours to relax, swim and snorkel.
Then it’s back aboard the sailing catamaran and off to a different kind of scenery…. You’ve probably seen and heard of movies like RAMBO II, ANACONDA and KING KONG? The Chavon River served as a backdrop for some of these shots and will impress you. Be quiet “on the set”! 😉
Green nature and lush landscapes await you along with peace and serenity.
Finally, the route takes you back along the coast, where you can catch a glimpse of the multi-million dollar villas of Casa de Campo, before arriving in Bayahibe. There your transportation will be waiting for you to take you back to your hotel.
Price: $109 (Children 3-12 years: $55)
Duration: 8-9 hours
The tour includes:
- Transportation from hotels in the Bayahibe – Dominicus area (Pick up and drop off from Punta Cana, Bavaro, Uvero Alto, Bahia La Romana, Juan Dolio and Boca Chica is available for an additional fee.)
- Comfortable 50 foot sailing catamaran
- Friendly captain and crew for a wonderful day.
- English and French speaking guide
- Snorkeling equipment (fins, mask and snorkel)
- Beverages: Coca Cola, Sprite, water, rum and beer
- Typical Dominican lunch served on Catalina beach
Beach between Cotubanama National Park and Cadaques Hotel
The Cotubanamá National Park, also known as the Eastern National Park, is one of the main attractions of the Dominican Republic. This paradise on earth is characterized by its lush landscape and diversity of animal and plant species.
Declared a protected area in 1975, this national park is located in the extreme southeast of the country near Bayahibe and Boca de Yuma.
The breathtaking cliffs and mangroves, such as those in Bahía de Las Calderas, create unforgettable dream landscapes. The Padre Nuestro archaeological trail and the coral reefs off the islands of Saona and Catalinita will delight discerning travelers. Freshwater springs and sunken caves offer a natural spectacle that will never be forgotten!
Along the coast, snorkeling and diving sites abound along colorful coral reefs and steep walls teeming with marine life.
The area between Cotubanama National Park and Cadaques Hotel offers a unique snorkeling experience. The coral formations in this region are spectacular, and you’ll have the chance to encounter a wide variety of marine life, including angelfish, parrotfish, and even sea turtles if you’re lucky.
This spot is relatively less crowded, providing a tranquil snorkeling experience surrounded by nature’s beauty.
Please keep in mind there is a lot of boat traffic in this area at certain times, so don’t swim too far from the shore and stay close to the reef, where the boats won’t pass.
Cueva de Chico
There are hidden places waiting to be discovered by the most adventurous people. El Chicho is one of these places and the most important underground cave in the Dominican Republic.
Cueva de Chicho is an impressive underground spring and one of the most fascinating places in the Dominican Republic.
Located just a few minutes from Bayahibe, this cenote is not only unique in its scenery, but also in its secrets.
An ancient community was once displaced here and there are petroglyphs that document the importance of this site to the Taino people. This makes the experience at Cueva de Chicho unique in the country.
Inside the cave you can see different petroglyphs – engravings in the rock – left as a legacy by the ancient inhabitants. Analysis of these artworks leads us to believe that Cueva de Chicho was a sacred place for the Taino people – which gives the place an additional mystical aura.
Below the millions of years old stalactites and stalagmites there is a natural pool with crystal clear water. This makes this place geologically very interesting: these cenotes, located kilometers away from the coast, are extremely unusual and exciting at the same time!
Diving is very popular here! Thanks to the clear water it is possible to swim and snorkel in this beautiful place.
Unlike other cenotes, this one has a freshwater lake. This is created by the water that collects above the cave and then flows filtered into the cave.
For scuba enthusiasts, Cueva de Chicho is also a great place to explore. The exciting part is that the natural pool is connected to another underground body of water – so you’ll have to dive underwater to get there! We highly recommend this activity if you want to really get to know this magical place.
For those seeking adventure along with their snorkeling, Cueva de Chico is a must-visit spot.
This underwater cave system is located near Bayahibe and offers an unforgettable snorkeling adventure. As you explore the cave’s dark chambers, you’ll be amazed by the intricate limestone formations and the play of light filtering through the water. While snorkeling here, you may come across cave-dwelling marine creatures and discover hidden wonders beneath the surface.
If you decide to visit the cave, please note you will need to pay 200 pesos (more or less 4 dollars) per person for the park entrance and you will also need a flashlight.
Cueva de Chicho should be considered a sacred site and should always be visited respectfully to ensure its preservation.
For the 45 minute hike to Cueva de Chicho, the first thing to bring is sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat or cap to protect yourself from the intense sun. It is also advisable to bring water for the hike.
Since this is a jungle area, we also recommend that you bring an effective mosquito repellent to keep those pesky insects away.
Chicho’s Cave is located northwest of Cotubanamá National Park, very close to Bayahibe. To get there from Punta Cana or anywhere else on the island, we recommend that you use private transportation.
Once in Bayahibe, you can follow the well-marked trail to Chicho Cave on your own. It is also possible to hire a guide who will give you interesting information about the history and nature of this place – this is highly recommended.
While Punta Cana may be your gateway to the Dominican Republic, for an unforgettable snorkeling adventure, it’s worth heading to the Caribbean side of the island.
Bayahibe, with its pristine beaches and vibrant underwater ecosystems, offers some of the best snorkeling opportunities in the region. From the enchanting Playa Magallanes to the mysterious Cueva de Chico and the underwater wonders of Catalina Island, these snorkeling spots promise a world of marine exploration that you won’t want to miss.
Dive in and discover the breathtaking beauty that lies beneath the surface of the Dominican Republic’s Caribbean coast.