Diving + Snorkeling in the Dominican Republic
Concierge.com's insider take:
Diving in the DR is spectacular: As well as great visibility and reefs filled with marine life, the waters here shelter some very cool shipwrecks. Up north, the water at crescent-shaped Sosua Bay is visited by whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins, and countless tropical fish species. There are shallow reefs that are perfect for learners and beginners, but more advanced sites like the Airport Wall—an underwater cliff with tunnels between 40 and 100 feet long—are just offshore. Northern Coast Diving Aquasports is a PADI-certified diving outfitter that arranges tours to these areas (809-571-1028; http://northerncoastdiving.com).
In the south, the island of Isla Saona, about 30 minutes off the coast of La Romana, is part of the Parque Nacional del Este, an almost 200,000-acre nature preserve. The island draws lots of day-tripping scuba divers, who come for the masses of tropical fish, corals, and sponges, and an underwater shipwreck, the Saint George (which, at about 100 feet deep, is best for more advanced divers). The island also has wide, pretty beaches with calm water that's perfect for snorkeling. Ventadiving offers dive trips to Isla Saona several times a week; they leave from the Hotel Grandominicus in the southern coastal town of Bayahibe (809-565-6591; www.omnitours.com.do).
Just east of Santo Domingo in Boca Chica, the small but fabulous underwater preserve of La Caleta Underwater National Park (about three square miles) is considered by many scuba-heads to be one of the Caribbean's top dive sites. The big draws are the shipwrecks of the Hickory and Limón, both of which sit at a depth of about 60 feet. Nearby, there's cave diving at Cueva Taina, a winding 300-foot-long system of underwater caves. Night dives and freshwater dives are also offered. PADI-certified dive operator Treasure Divers makes regular trips to La Caleta and the caves (Don Juan Beach Resort; 809-523-5320).