Hello travelers! My name is Gwendal Le Pechoux and I’m a French Blogger originally from Marseille. I currently live on the spectacular Saona Island, Dominican Republic. Let me introduce you to this beautiful destination.
After my studies, I decided to chase my travel dreams. I traveled to many countries around the world and eventually desired to call a new place home – ideally a tropical destination surrounded by nature and near the sea. Three years ago, I found a seasonal job as a kitesurf instructor in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. That is how I ended up in this epic country.
When I first arrived for my job, I wanted to explore and discover the whole island. The Dominican Republic is so rich in different landscapes, lovely weather and amazing nature. I decided to drive a small motorbike around the island for 15 days – discovering paradisiacal beaches and lush mountains (the highest being Pico Duarte at 3098m) along the way.
These travels led me to staying here and realizing that Saona Island is the number one place for visitors to the country. Saona Island has crystal-clear waters, endless white sand beaches and a great reef to explore. A few years back, tourists would only come here for a day trip on a catamaran but now they are staying for longer as Saona is just too beautiful to pass up.
Running Saona Island Lodge with my Girlfriend
I have been living on Saona Island for over a year now with my girlfriend. We live in a small traditional fishing village called Mano Juan and run a small eco-lodge called “Saona Lodge”. This project was created during the pandemic. Our goal was to create a place where people could experience something different and be part of the local community for a few days.
The town of Mano Juan is not touristy at all and it has this unique rural vibe. There is not much electricity, no real public water distribution, kids play outside with anything they can (like old tires), the people live a simple life and overall it feels like a place stuck in time. In fact, this part of Saona Island is barely explored by tourists which makes it really special and untouched.
You can enjoy the beaches here with no one else around. Our lodge has a number of small huts with electricity 24/7. We are happy to receive guests and share with them our recommendations and best things to do in the area. I can only describe this fishing village as a slice of Caribbean paradise!
Best Things To Do on Saona Island
- Take a Boat Trip to Canto De La Playa: This is one of the most epic beaches not just in Saona Island but in all of the Caribbean! The beach is surrounded by coconut trees and has an amazing reef and sea life.
- Walk through the Forest to Reach Playa del Toro: It’s a 40 minute hike to reach this 4km long beach with perfect white sand and crystal clear waters. Playa del Toro is untouched and utterly breathtaking!
- Eat Seafood Straight from the Sea: Whether it be fish, lobster or sea conch – the seafood on the island is so fresh. The fishermen of Saona certainly know their stuff and they can help you find the best produce.
- Go Snorkeling along the Reef: On this adventure you might see turtles, nurse sharks, eagle rays and many other species of marine life. Even if you don’t see them, it’s still lovely to be out swimming in the sea!
- Stargaze at Night on the Beach: Seeing billions of stars and the Milky Way above your head at night is a wonderful experience on Saona Island. This place is remote and there is no light pollution to speak of.
Need to Know Before you Go
If you decide to come to Saona Island and stay with us in Mano Juan, you should know that you won’t find all the comforts of modern society here. You might come into contact with bugs but no matter what you will have an authentic experience and feel like you are part of the local community. Just remember to bring bug repellent, sunscreen and good vibes with you!
Mano Juan is a safe town and the locals are friendly. They live a simple life and are very open people. It’s so easy to strike up a conversation with them. We are basically the only foreigners in the community and have formed a real connection with the people. We are sure that you will too.
Looking back on my time in Saona, I can be proud of the fact that we started from zero and had to build everything by hand. There was no electricity when we built our house and the huts for Saona Lodge. It was a big challenge but at the same time it was one of the best things I have ever done. Being at the beach everyday is certainly nothing to complain about!