Our Snorkeling, Blue Lagoon, and Isla Saona Excursion
Towards the end of our honeymoon in Punta Cana, we decided to book an excursion. I had been dying to go snorkeling, so we found an adventure that included snorkeling, a stop at the Blue Lagoon, lunch at Isla Saona and ended with a catamaran ride. Since our hotel was located north of most others, we had an early start so we could stop at other resorts and pick up more passengers. There was a slight miscommunication when we booked the trip and it was under “Eriv” instead of Eric’s name…thankfully they had our room number correct and we were able to start our day. The bus we traveled in was hilariously small…the seats were made for 1.5 people, but we sat two to a seat which got increasingly more uncomfortable as more and more people were loaded onto the bus.
After about an hour and five stops, we met up with more people at this gas station south of Punta Cana. This is where our tour guide Max joined us, and christened the group of us “Max’s Family". We traveled south for about another hour and ended up at a small seaside town, where we were lead to a beach and our boat for the first leg of the day. Our excursion companions (aka Max’s Family) included some Swedes, a handful of people from the Baltics, a family from the East Coast and a few groups from South America—in total, probably about 30 people.
We were the last group to board a boat and make our way out to the snorkeling stop—maybe five minutes from the beach. Unfortunately since our group was running late, we only had about fifteen minutes to snorkel—which was the whole reason we booked this excursion! Such a bummer. We got in the water as quickly as we could and started swimming around. Eric had never snorkeled before and had a bit of a rough time floating and breathing without diving too deep and inhaling sea water. There’s lots of shaky GoPro footage to prove it. I immediately remembered how much I love snorkeling and did my best to spend as much time in the water as the tour would let me…basically I was the last person back on the boat. We saw some interesting fish and a bunch of little schools, but the dying reef was a bit depressing to swim over and we didn’t really have much time to explore.
After snorkeling, the boat took us out to the Blue Lagoon—about 200 meters of crystal-clear, waist-deep water, where parts of Pirates of the Caribbean had been filmed. Our boat started handing out rum & cokes and everyone spent a good amount of time wading around. It was pretty surreal. This is where we had the CHEESIEST photos taken. Each boat had some photographers that gave some of the funniest art direction—this included “pretty lady hands,” “muscle boy,” and lots of jumping and finger guns. I’m so glad we got these photos (we got the “honeymoon special” and were able to talk them from $120 to $40), they’re such a hilarious reminder of this trip.
Once we’d been at the Lagoon for about an hour, we loaded back into the boat and headed to Isla Saona for lunch. I was under the impression that is was a National Park—which it is—but there were also a few resorts where people were staying. Each tour company also had a picnic sort-of area and there was a bar where people were able to get drinks (included with the tour). We were served a traditional Caribbean lunch with jerked chicken and pork, corn bread, rice and beans. It was delicious (I was starving). After lunch, we had some time to wander along the beach and swim and then we got back on the boat and were shuttled to the catamaran.
Most of the shady spots on the catamaran were occupied immediately and our boat was the third to be transferred to the catamaran, so we found a somewhat shady spot and settled in for the ride back. This ended up turning into a booze cruise and the rum was flowing. I was so tired from the sun, that I decided to opt out of drinking and to sit back and enjoy the people watching….this did not disappoint. The group that ended up on the catamaran was a really interesting cross-section of retirees, 20-somethings on vacation, honeymooners and a couple of families. The retirees were there to party—I have never seen so many intoxicated grandparents in one place before (and I kind of hope I don’t again for a very long time). There was one woman who kept forcibly dancing up on one of the crew members—much to his horror and the delight of the rest of the crew. It made for an entertaining ride, full of second-hand embarrassment.
The cruise was probably about an hour-and-a-half and the transition from the catamaran back to the boat, back to the beach was interesting. There were a couple of people that drank way too much—one kept almost falling onto a little girl, getting yelled at by her mom and her dad, and then doing it again. Dude couldn’t stand upright. And another guy thought it would be a good idea to jump off the catamaran. It was a mess and we just wanted to hit the road by that point. Finally the messes were sorted out and we were able to get back on the bus and head back north, dropping people off along the way. Finally we got back to Excellence Punta Cana. We were so exhausted, we ordered room service and passed out.
I’m not sure the entire experience was worth it—it was definitely an adventure and we were able to experience a lot more of the Dominican Republic than had we stayed at the resort. It still felt super touristy and we didn’t get to spend enough time snorkeling, which was the whole reason we booked the excursion. I think if we had to do it all over again, we might have found a smaller tour company with more flexibility, or we would have picked a different excursion that was closer to the resort. Twelve-and-a-half hours of excursion in all was a little much. I’m glad we did it. I just don’t think we’d do it again.