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  • Writer's pictureNaureen Chhipa

Cayo Arena- Dominican Republic's Paradise Island

Updated: Feb 20

We're taking a day trip to the iconic islet of Cayo Arena, Paradise Island, or Cayo Paraiso. Cayo Arena is a tiny island in the middle of the ocean- it's the smallest island we have yet to visit during our travels. The island is about 2,000 square feet in total! That's it, you guys, 2,000 square feet!! Join us on this exciting Caribbean adventure to explore perhaps the smallest island in the Dominican Republic.

Best Island in Dominican Republic, Paradise Island.
Cayo Arena, Dominican Republic.

Cayo Arena is located northwest of the Dominican Republic, off the coast of Puerto Plata, in Punta Rucia near Monte Cristi. You can visit this island on a day trip from almost anywhere in the Dominican Republic. Still, the shortest day trips come from Punta Rucia, Puerto Plata, Monte Cristi, and Cabarete. Cayo Arena is one of the most popular places in the Dominican Republic. Nicknamed Paradise Island, this tiny islet offers the most transparent water in the Dominican Republic for snorkeling and is an excellent diving place for beginner levels. The epic scenery of Paradise Island is a site that looks taken out of a fairytale where mermaids rule the Caribbean Sea. It's one of the most beautiful places in the Dominican Republic. Get epic and travel to an amazing little Island in the middle of the Sea! Cayo Arena is one of those must-see tropical destinations.

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Getting to Cayo Arena/Paradise Island

Punta Rucia to Cayo Arena/Paradise Island

Punta Rucia is an off-the-beaten-path, small fishing village on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, only sometimes visited by tourists. Unconsumed by big all-inclusive chain hotels, Punta Rucia remains a remote epic destination boasting pure white sand beaches against a landscape of the most beautiful and picturesque mountains. The fastest and easiest way to visit Cayo Arena is a half-day trip from Punta Rucia. Therefore, we recommend stopping in Punta Rucia to visit Cayo Arena. We stayed at Punta Rucia Lodge for two nights and loved our time there. We took a private speed boat from the dock at Punta Rucia Lodge in Punta Rucia, and our total travel time was only 20 minutes. Staying in Punta Rucia is the way to go if you want to relax. Cayo Arena is more remote from general popular attractions.

Puerto Plata to Cayo Arena/Paradise Island

To get from Puerto Plata to Cayo Arena, you have two options. You can rent a car and drive to Punta Rucia (approximately a 2-hour drive) and take a speed boat (about 20 minutes) or book a day trip directly from Puerto Plata. I recommend a day trip if you want to avoid driving in the Dominican Republic or if your time is limited. A day trip from Puerto Plata to Cayo Arena will take about 10-hours, including pick-up and drop-off from your hotel, lunch, and a tour guide. I highly recommend booking your day trip to Cayo Arena with Sun Sand Spirit DR; they offer excursions throughout the Dominican Republic, including yoga retreats and boutique hotel accommodations.

Cabarete to Cayo Arena/Paradise Island

To get from Cabarete to Cayo Arena, I recommend driving. You can rent a car, go and go to Punta Rucia (approximately a 2hr 40min drive) overnight, and take a speed boat from there the following day (about 20 min.) Something to note is that the roads between Cabarete and Punta Rucia are less well-developed than in other parts of the country. I recommend renting a jeep. We made this drive with a low car; all the speed bumps and street holes drove us at five mph- I'm not exaggerating here! Do yourself a favor and pay a little extra for that jeep; you'll thank me later!

Santo Domingo to Cayo Arena/Paradise Island

To get from Santo Domingo to Cayo Arena, I recommend driving. It'll be a long drive (approximately 4 hours) so stay overnight and take a speed boat from there the following day (about 20 minutes) to Cayo Arena.

Punta Cana to Cayo Arena/Paradise Island

If you're staying in Punta Cana, chances are you don't have a car and are looking for a day trip. Traveling from Punta Cana to Punta Rucia and then to the little island of Cayo Arena will take you 7 hours- if you're not traveling with a large group/tour making frequent stops. I highly recommend heading on a day trip to Isla Saona instead and swimming with starfish. Suppose you've already been to Isla Saona (Saona Island) and are keen on visiting the islet of Cayo Arena. I recommend allowing 3 days to travel to Punta Rucia, relax, and visit Cayo Arena in a short half-day trip from Punta Rucia.

Renting a car in the Dominican Republic:  I recommend making car rental reservations beforehand. Suppose you're planning a solo road trip. You can arrange for car pick-up and drop-off in different parts of the Island; this is hugely beneficial and time-saving when flying in and out of different airports. I often get asked whether it is safe or not to drive in the Dominican Republic. The truth is, there's always a risk attached when renting a car in a foreign country. So, driving cautiously and obeying the country's traffic regulations is crucial. Many travelers fear being stopped by corrupt police, and while you can get stopped, it's just like any other checkpoint. Stay calm if you get stopped by the police, as random patrols are standard, especially when getting off a highway. While traveling and renting cars in the Dominican Republic, we've only gotten stopped once. They asked to see our driver's license, and that was it! They can also ask where you're going and coming from, but that's standard unless you violate common traffic rules, such as speeding. We rented our car from Discover Cars and had a great experience. They offer competitive rates, as they search all the big car rental companies for the best price. I always love using this site to find cheap car rentals worldwide. You'll need a credit card to rent a car in the Dominican Republic, but you don't need an international driver's license. Once you receive your vehicle, check all dents/scratches and take pictures/ videos of them before leaving the agency. We always do this when renting a car, saving us big time in Sicily!

Where to Stay in Cayo Arena/Paradise Island

As you can imagine, lodging on the tiny island of Cayo Arena is impossible due to its size. If you want to visit this island, which is a must when visiting the Dominican Republic, we recommend staying at Punta Rucia Lodge. Punta Rucia Lodge is in the fishing village of Punta Rucia, so day-tripping to Cayo Arena will be a breeze! You can take a speed boat right from the boardwalk at Punta Rucia Lodge to Cayo Arena; Cayo Arena is only a 20-minute boat ride away. Read my blog on Punta Rucia Lodge or Watch my Youtube Video.

Things to do in Cayo Arena (Paradise Island) and Nearby

  • Cruise the open Caribbean Sea on a speed boat or catamaran.

  • Marvel in awe at the scenic landscape set against the shallow turquoise Sea.

  • Encounter wild pelicans in the middle of the Ocean.

  • Sunbathe on a remote Islet surrounded by ocean-blue Caribbean water.

  • Snorkel away and mingle with the diverse Sea life.

  • Enjoy a minimalist setting on the best Island in the Dominican Republic.

  • Take a dip in the clear waters of paradise and see all the tropical fish.

  • Bring your lunch and have an epic beach picnic.

  • Visit the endangered Dominican mangroves.

  • Learn how to dive; the waters at Cayo Arena are perfect for beginner divers.

  • Swim in the clear waters of Las Piscinas Naturales nearby.

  • Have an authentic local Dominican lunch at the end of your tour.

Cayo Arena (Paradise Island/Cayo Paraiso) Day Trip

This experience was beyond epic. The Dominican Republic has some of the best beaches in the world! The water is so clear, with deep hues of blues and greens. Adding Punta Rucia as part of our road trip was worth it to see all this natural beauty!

Best Beach Island in Dominican Republic.
Cayo Arena | Paradise Island | Cayo Paraiso | Dominican Republic

Cayo Arena is an open islet, so bringing sun protection is imperative. There are about four human-made huts on this tiny Island, but this beach is trendy and tends to get crowded past noon, so I recommend coming prepared. Also, bring your snorkeling gear because these are some of the most transparent waters in the Dominican Republic. Cayo Arena's shallow, tropical, fish-infused waters make it a top tropical destination for family trips.

Dominican Republic Islands; Paradise Island
Cayo Arena (Paradise Island/Cayo Paraiso) Day Trip

What are your thoughts? Would you visit this tiny Island? Leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading! Till next time!

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