DR Touristing: Paradise Island

Cayo Arena, or Paradise Island, is a permanent sand bar a few miles offshore of Punta Rucia, a couple hours drive west of Luperón. We’d been meaning to visit for a while, and then our friends Colin and Charlie came to visit, and we had an excuse to travel around pretending to be proper tourists for a week. So, their first morning in the DR, we all got up and piled into the car. We were excited to show them the driving here, which is… we’ll say “different from what happens the states”. But, arguably disappointingly, we had a week of unusually calm and sane drivers. Ah well. At least we had “interesting” roads.

Our plan was to go to lunch and then charter a boat to the island. Of course, we showed up with a restaurant recommendation, because we’re Well Prepared. But that place was closed, so we went next door instead, and had a very decent lunch, and “piña coladas en piña”, which was maybe a little gimmicky but also delicious and absolutely worth the upgrade.

Then we chartered a yolo, which is a small, open-topped fiberglass boat that you see everywhere here. The driver took us on a high-speed tour of some mangroves on our way out to the island, and while the environmentalist in me cringed a little at buzzing through with a big wake, I did really enjoy getting to see the environment from a different perspective. We were apprehensive about the sun exposure, but with a big engine on a small boat, it’s only about fifteen minutes to get out to the island. In haute couture mandatory life jackets, of course.

We arrived near the end of a falling tide, at what turned out to be excellent timing: the island is under water except at low tide, and as we arrived, the giant VIP tour that was already there was trying to round up their people. So, by the time we got back from an unexpectedly great snorkel, we had the island essentially to ourselves.

(After seeing significant bleaching in the Bahamas, we didn’t even bother bringing an underwater camera. So there are no snorkel photos, but we found the coral to be mostly healthy, and saw an assortment of pretty reef fish in moderately big schools. So, definitely snorkel when you visit this place!)

The trip back was uneventful, but we did stop to take a picture of the beach at Punta Rucia, which is pretty in its own right, and also shows more yolos in their natural environment.

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