The untouched paradise of Catalina Island in the Dominican Republic
By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor
Can you fall instantly in love with an island you’ve never even spent the night on? I ponder this question as a strip of palm-fringed sand comes into focus.
Sandwiched between sapphire seas and cerulean skies, Catalina Island is swiftly revealing her beauty, seducing me just as she no doubt did Christopher Columbus, who landed on this paradise, about a mile offshore from La Romana on the Dominican Republic’s southeast coast, back in 1494.
Today, centuries later, I’m as beguiled as the explorer, although I’m arriving not with a conquering armada but with a catamaran excursion from RIU Republica, a couple of hours away in Punta Cana. The resort, which opened just a month ago, offers day trips to the 3.5-square-mile uninhabited isla, now designated a national park.
While Catalina is open to everyone, Scuba Caribe, the hotel’s water sports tour company, has snagged exclusive access for RIU guests to the beach club here that’s managed by Casa De Campo.
Which means that when we disembark and settle ourselves, we soon realize that we have all the ingredients for a perfect playa day here on the coral island’s western tip: Sand as fine as sugar; refreshingly cool water that laps the shore and takes our cares with it; leaning palm trees for shade; and a tranquil ambience uninterrupted by blaring reggaeton or the buzz of jet skis. Topped off with a barbecue lunch and cerveza service right to our water’s-edge lounge chairs, it’s the quintessential Caribbean beach experience packed into one perfect afternoon.
So when, three short hours later, we pull away from Catalina, and Bob Marley via the catamaran’s CD player plaintively asks, “Is this love that I’m feeling?” I know, without a doubt, that the answer is yes.