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If you’re looking for a quiet and unruffled cruise vacation port as retreat, then Isla Catalina is your place. Not to be confused with Catalina off the California coast. This is merely forty-five-minutes from a Casa de Campo boat ride, in the Dominican Republic. Discovered by Christopher Columbus, it is secluded till date, and has no inhabitants. It is one of the well preserved Caribbean eco-systems that include topography ranging from dunes to mangroves, and reefs.
 
Catalina is an ideal destination for swimming, walking and exploring. The whole island has come into being from coral stone and has beautiful overlapping plateaus. The most elevated point is sixty feet above sea level. There is no fresh water here. There is a single water source the animals drink from, and it has traces of salt in it.
 
The island stays fastidiously unaffected by rapid development all around it society that tourists have not got habituated to. Amaze yourself while marveling at the exotic birds, wild monkeys and rattlesnakes that inhabit the island. Visitors can unwind, take a deep breath, and cleanse their soul while sitting on the silver sands. During the day, try to differentiate where the sea ends and the sky begin. At sunset, be dazzled by how the shades of flames set fire to the sky and carry you into to another world.
 
The island itself is only 9.6 square kilometers in size, and is a diverse preservation of eco-systems including sand dunes, mangroves, and reefs. Formed out of coral stone, the island contains three overlapping plateaus. The highest elevation on the island is only 60 feet above sea level. The seas around the Island are rich in wildlife, with many species of birds and tropical marine fish, and there are large areas where natural sandbars offshore bring the depth to just a few feet. The Dominican Republic occupies about two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, shared with Haiti on the western side. Catalina Island lies 1.5 miles from the southeastern shore of the mainland, in the Caribbean Sea, near the slightly larger islands of La Altagracia and La Romana. There are several well-known caves and reefs in the area, as well as famous shipwrecks. You can view the wreck of 17th-century pirate Captain William Kidd at less than 20 feet below the surface.
 
Costa Cruises is a major Italian cruise liner that stops in Catalina Island as a port of call for passengers on larger Caribbean Island vacations. If you are onboard a Costa vessel that stops in Catalina Island, a variety of day tours are available for exploring the island. Some excursions combine trips to shore destinations in the Dominican Republic, but others focus primarily on Catalina itself. A catamaran offers guests a chance to cruise the waters around the island, sipping rum or dancing the merengue to island music. The catamaran also stops for snorkeling or swimming in the coves and lagoons before returning to the main vessel. Land expeditions are also available on Catalina, which has a tropical forest in the middle of the island
 
On December 13, 2007, the shipwreck of a 17th-century merchant vessel was found at a depth of three meters roughly 70 meters off of the island. It is has since been identified as William Kidd's 1699 Quedagh Merchant, also known as the Cara Merchant, according to Kidd's original testimony during his trial prior to his hanging on May 23, 1701. A team of researchers from Indiana University led by Charles Beeker, Director of the Office of Underwater Science at Indiana University, first discovered the wreckage in 2007 and have since established a Marine Protected Area in an attempt to preserve both the archaeological remains of the shipwreck and its surrounding reef ecosystem. The famed shipwreck has been nominated as a Living Museum in the Sea. Living Museums in the Sea is a program started by Charles Beeker, with the goal of protecting submerged cultural and biological resources around the world, while also giving back to the public and local communities.
 
In a partnership with the Children's Museum of Indianapolis and the Officina Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural Subacuatico (ONPCS), Indiana University successfully recovered one of the 26 cannons found on the wreckage of the Quedagh Merchant. The cannon is now on display at the "National Geographic: Treasures of the Earth" exhibit in Indianapolis. At the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, Indiana University students conduct public outreach, teaching the museum's visitors not just about the Quedagh Merchant but the history of the country, maritime history, artifact conservation, archaeology, and the importance of protecting our planet's submerged cultural and biological resources.

Docking & Local Transportation
Catalina Island or Isla Catalina is a tropical island located 1.5 miles from the mainland on the south-east corner of the Dominican Republic, near La Altagracia and La Romana. It is an occasional destination for cruise ships on Caribbean routes. In particular, Costa Cruises has a private beach on the island. Their ships anchor offshore and transport passengers to shore via tender. The 9 kilometer island is uninhabited. All traveling is done on foot.
 
Things To See and Do
Passengers on Costa's eastern Caribbean itineraries spend 1 day at Catalina Island, off the coast of the Dominican Republic. This relaxing patch of paradise has a long beach fringed by palm trees, with activities such as volleyball, beach Olympics, and snorkeling. The area adjacent to the tender dock is the busiest spot, as is to be expected, but if you walk down the beach a bit, you'll get a quieter, more private experience (though the coastline gets a little rocky when you get farther away from the dock). Costa provides cruisers with floating beach mats free of charge (most lines charge for them), so you can find your quiet nirvana by paddling out to sea. A local island vendor rents jet skis and offers banana-boat rides, the ship's spa staff sets up a cabana to do massages on the beach, and locals roam around offering them, too. (For a fraction of the cost on ship, a local woman gave Heidi a great foot and shoulder massage.) Locals also sell coconuts for a couple of bucks apiece, first hacking off the end and plunking in a straw or two so you can drink the milk. After you're finished, take the coconut back and they'll whack the thing to pieces with a machete and scrape out the tender coconut meat for you to eat. Music and barbecues round out the day, and there's also a strip of shops hawking jewelry, beachwear, and other souvenirs. Note: On some itineraries, passengers must pay to hang out here for the day.
 
Island Tours
Spend a day on a private beach owned by Island Tours, which provides fully staffed and catered day trips to Catalina Island. Full-day cruises run regularly, or visitors can arrange custom charters to fit their own time frame. Sailings depart from Casa de Campo, La Romana, Bayahibe or Rio Cumaysa on either a trimaran or sailboat, depending on the number of people. Upon arrival, spend the afternoon fishing, snorkeling, lounging on the beach or exploring the island. A white tablecloth lunch buffet and drink service serves fresh favorites like fish, pasta, tropical fruit, rum and local beers.
 
Colonial Tour and Travel
For a Catalina Island tour that also includes other popular spots in the Dominican Republic, the Colonial Tour and Travel company will pick up guests in air-conditioned buses from hotels in Punta Cana-Bavaro, Bayahibe-La Romana, Boca Chiica, Juan Dolio and Santo Domingo. The tour stops in Altos de Chavon, an artist village that replicates a medieval Mediterranean city, and then boards guests onto speedboats in the River Chavon for a visit to Las Minitas Beach in Casa de Campo. The next stop is Catalina Island, where drinks are served before snorkeling in dive spots known for an abundance of tropical fish, coral and underwater rocks, sandbars and reef. A lunch buffet is served on the island, featuring giant lobster, barbecue meats, tropical fruit and local Dominican desserts. Tour guides explain the history, geography and environmental importance of the island.

Beaches
The island is a popular destination. There are daily boats traveling to Catalina from La Romana. The Catalina island beach has white fine sand and nice looking crystal clear water. The sea has corals very close to the shore which attract people for spending their leisure time on the sun beds and snorkeling. Here is a 360 panorama
 
La Minitas, Casa de Campo's main beach and site of a series of bars and restaurants all its own, is a small but immaculate beach and lagoon that requires a 10-minute shuttle-bus ride from the resort's central core. Transportation is provided by bus, or you can rent an electric golf cart. A bit farther afield (a 30-min. bus ride, but only a 20-min. boat ride), Playa Bayahibe is a large, palm-fringed sandy crescent on a point jutting out from the shoreline. Finally, Playa Catalina is a fine beach on a deserted island, Isla Catalina, surrounded by turquoise waters; it's just 45 minutes away by motorboat, the only way to reach it. Unfortunately, many other visitors from Casa de Campo have learned of the glories of this latter retreat, so you're not likely to have the sands to yourself.
 
Sports & Other Outdoor Pursuits
Any of the hotels recommended offer easy and direct access to virtually any land- or water-based sport. Chances are high that if you're staying within any of them, especially any of the all-inclusives such as Casa de Campo or any of the resorts in Bayahibe, you'll arrange your sports through your hotel. But if you're not at one of the all-inclusives and want to get active, your best bet involves contacting Casa de Campo, since it's relatively relaxed about allowing nonresidents onto its premises for use of the beach and sporting equipment.
 
Call Casa de Campo's guest services staff at tel. 809/523-3333 for more information. Casa del Mar weighs in with a heavy array of outdoor activities ranging from horseback riding to banana boating. Call tel. 809/221-8880 for more details.
 
Fishing -- You can arrange freshwater river-fishing trips through Casa de Campo. Some of the biggest snook ever recorded have been caught around here. A 3-hour tour costs RD$3,500 per person, and includes tackle, bait, and soft drinks. A 4-hour deep-sea fishing trip costs from RD$24,780 per boat, with 8 hours going for RD$29,260 and up. Of course, you never know where the best fishing is from day to day -- it's a matter of luck. But the conditions are best between January and June, when anglers in waters 1 to 2 miles off the coast catch marlin and wahoo.
 
Golf -- Golf magazine declared Casa de Campo (tel. 809/523-3333, ext. 3187) "the finest golf resort in the world." The Teeth of the Dog course has been called "a thing of almighty beauty," and it is. The ruggedly natural terrain has 7 holes skirting the ocean. Opened in 1977, the Links is an inland course modeled after some of the seaside courses of Scotland. In the late 1990s, the resort added a third golf course to its repertoire, La Romana Country Club, which tends to be used almost exclusively by residents of the surrounding countryside rather than by guests of Casa de Campo.
 
The cost for 18 holes of golf is RD$4,725 at the Links and RD$5,950 at Teeth of the Dog or the La Romana Country Club. (Some golf privileges may be included in packages to Casa de Campo.) You can also buy a 3-day membership, which lets you play all courses for RD$14,700 per person (for Casa de Campo guests only). A 6-day membership costs RD$29,400. You can hire caddies for RD$875; electric golf-cart rentals cost RD$875 per person per round. Each course is open daily 7:30am to 5:30pm. Call far in advance to reserve a tee time if you're not staying at the resort.
 
Horseback Riding -- Riding is not particularly adventurous but consists of a tame and scenic ride that goes along the seashore. Trail rides at Casa de Campo or Casa del Mar cost RD$910 per person for a half-hour, RD$1,785 for 2 hours. The stables shelter 250 horses, although only about 40 of them are available for trail rides. For more information, call Casa del Campo at tel. 809/523-3333, ext. 5249, or Casa del Mar at tel. 809/221-8880.
 
Snorkeling -- Casa de Campo has one of the most complete watersports facilities in the Dominican Republic. You can charter a boat for snorkeling, through clear waters filled with rainbow-hued fish. The area off the coast of La Romana offers some of the island country's finest snorkeling. The resort maintains eight charter vessels, with a minimum of eight people. Full-day snorkeling trips to Isla Catalina cost RD$1,295 per snorkeler. Rental of fins and masks costs RD$385 per day; guests on all-inclusive plans use gear for free. Snorkeling is also included in the all-inclusive rates at Casa del Mar (tel. 809/221-8880).
 
Tennis -- Casa de Campo's 13 clay courts are available from 7am to 9pm (they're lit at night). Charges are RD$980 per court per hour during the day or RD$1,225 at night. Lessons are RD$2,415 per hour with a tennis pro, and RD$1,925 with an assistant pro. Call far in advance to reserve a court if you're not staying at the resort. The four courts at Casa del Mar (tel. 809/221-8880) are reserved for the resort's all-inclusive guests.
 
Catalina is an island preservation. Therefore, it is forbidden for anything to be built that would upset the eco-system. Although there are no locals, it is prepared for its visitors. The Searcher is a boat that goes out exploring the Caribbean Sea searching for dolphins. The abundance of these mammals are so great, the sightseer will not go home unsatisfied.
 
The waters are so pristine around this island that snorkeling is an activity that applies to the beginner as well as the professional. You will be able to see marine life everywhere you look. Lobsters, sea fans, sea rods, big barrel sponges, and black coral thrive.
 
A short boat ride to Casa de Campo on the mainland of the Dominican Republic can supply you with shops and restaurants you need if you start to feel like too much of a castaway. The cruise ships, however, will supply you with meals while visiting Isla Catalina, so there is no need to worry about where you will be able to eat.
 
Isla Catalina is full of natural beauty and wonder that will make for a delightful day of pristine exploration. A self-guided walking tour around this island will reveal to you scenic plateaus of lush vegetation, intertwined with numerous species of birds, as well as wild pigs and rabbits. Make sure to keep your cameras and camcorders by your side, for you will definitely want to record these stunning visuals to marvel at in the future.
 
Shopping
An artisans market, El Artístico (tel. 809/556-2273), lies on the northern side of Carretera Romana, Km 3.5, at a point 1km (2/3 mile) east of Yina Bambu Shop. This is set up almost exclusively for tourists and offers a limited selection of arts and crafts. It mainly offers souvenirs, most of which are of dubious quality. The market is open daily 7:30am to 7pm.
 
For more substantial shopping, head to Yina Bambu Shop, Km 4.5, Carretera Romana (tel. 809/550-8322), open daily 7:30am to 7pm. Lying on the south side of the main road into town, this is the best showcase in the area for Dominican handicrafts and furnishings, even amber necklaces and bracelets. The merchandise dims when compared with what's available in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo, but you may not be going there to shop.
 
If you're a true shopper, seeking some quality items, we suggest you head to Altos de Chavón.
Some of the terra-cotta pots and planters manufactured in this part of the D.R. are deeply respected and appreciated by homeowners and gardeners in places as far away as Florida. A purveyor of garden pots and statuary, set about 5km (3 miles) west of Higuëy, and about 60km (37 miles) west of Casa de Campo, is El Mundo del Tarro, Km 4.5, Higuëy, Otra Banda (tel. 809/383-1909). The raw clay for many of these pots is mined in Mocca, a town in the central D.R. made famous as the home of many generations of political dissidents (including some who participated in the assassination of dictator Trujillo). The clay from Mocca is hauled to workrooms here, near Higuëy; crafted into pots and statuary, glazed or not glazed, depending on the pot; and sold. Whereas the store can, after some negotiations, arrange for shipping, you'll probably find that it's a lot easier to simply carry the smaller of your purchases with you. The selection is enormous, and many of the forms were directly inspired by models from Iberia.



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