In recent experiments at the Trident laser facility, quasi-monoenergetic ion beams have been obtained from the interaction of an ultraintense, circularly polarized laser with a diamond-like carbon target of nm-scale thickness under conditions of ultrahigh laser pulse contrast. Kinetic simulations of this experiment under realistic laser and plasma conditions show that relativistic transparency occurs before significant radiation pressure acceleration and that the main ion acceleration occurs after the onset of relativistic transparency. Associated with this transition are a period of intense ion acceleration and the generation of a new class of ion solitons that naturally give rise to quasi-monoenergetic ion beams. An analytic theory has been derived for the properties of these solitons that reproduces the behavior observed in kinetic simulations and the experiments. © 2011 American Institute of Physics.