A destination of magnificent beaches and friendly people.
Just mention its name and the mind conjures up images of an exotic, distant and mysterious paradise. And indeed it is, Samaná shares these three adjectives. It is a peninsula located on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic, which surprises with its pristine white-sand beaches and its wonderful crystal-clear waters framed by a truly impressive natural environment.
From Santo Domingo, the journey by road takes approximately three hours, from Punta Cana, about four and a half hours. There is the possibility of taking a bus or hiring a driver, but the best way to explore this region, and the country in general, is to rent a car. There is a wide range of rental companies and the prices are quite reasonable. Shall we go on a road trip through the Dominican Republic?
Samaná is a peninsula located on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic that surprises for its virgin beaches.
The roads of this country and road safety have dragged a deserved bad reputation, but in recent years the situation has improved substantially. The road connecting the capital with Las Terrenas, our first stop, looks new. It is wide, with several lanes in each direction, and with gas stations for refueling in a straight line that crosses the country from south to north.
Crossing the Dominican savannah
After about ten kilometers through the savannah – a dry ecosystem of bushes and shrubs – the vegetation begins to change, to become denser, more jungle-like: welcome to the kingdom of Samaná. Small towns appear on the margins of the roads, small cement houses painted with bright colors, and, above all, the presence of many people on the street chatting, drinking with loud music in a bar or playing dominoes, a game that fascinates Dominicans.
Las Terrenas welcomes us, a town that serves as a perfect base for exploring the region. This town, which has grown a lot in recent years due to tourism, can be a bit chaotic, like all urban centers in the Dominican Republic, but don’t be discouraged, you will soon be adapted to your new reality. This tourist destination unfolds around breathtaking beaches.
And yes, they respond perfectly to the ideal of paradise that we have in the West: oblique palm trees that seem to want to caress the sea, turquoise blue water and ivory-white sand.
The hotel offer is very consolidated and in recent years has become quite professionalized. For obvious reasons, it is advisable to spend the night on the seafront. The Alisei hotel offers breathtaking views, with modern facilities, wood finishes and buffet breakfasts that satisfy the hungriest.
The Playa Colibrí hotel has an unbeatable location with an outdoor swimming pool and whirlpool. For families and large groups, the option of aparthotels is very interesting, Nicole Aparthotel is a safe bet, with spacious and comfortable spaces and a beautiful pool to devote to the noble art of doing nothing.
Las Terrenas, La Ballena and El Portillo are three excellent beaches.
After settling in, we go to the beach. Las Terrenas, La Ballena and El Portillo are three excellent options in the area, all of them very similar, since they share the same ecosystem. A possible excursion is to visit Bonita beach, a 15-minute drive away; it is the wildest, quietest and does not have the pressure of the urban environment.
On the shore there is a path that connects with luxury villas and restaurants. The Beluga Beach Club is a great option for dining. Their dishes are delicious and well presented, such as the seafood grill or the lobster linguini. Nothing can go wrong.
The next day, we head out in search of new thrills, so we go on the Salto del Limon hike, one of the most breathtaking nature experiences in the country. It’s not far, about 25 minutes by car. You can get there in your own vehicle and you will only have to pay for parking, or by public transport. It is a marked and safe trail. Access to this wonderful waterfall, with a drop of more than 50 meters, is free of charge.
A water sculpture
There is some controversy with the rental of horses to transport tourists. It is not really necessary to use a horse to reach the waterfall, it only takes about 30 or maximum 40 minutes on foot at a moderate level of demand. You cross rivers and waterfalls in an environment of dense and evocative vegetation.
In the final stretch, a few minutes before arrival, and as a reward for the climb, the road gives you a beautiful panoramic landscape, dotted with green hills crowned with slender palm trees. The encounter with the waterfall is magical, thousands of liters fall every second, creating ethereal forms that vanish instantly.
Back in Las Terrenas there is plenty to do. Take a walk at sunset, along the boulevard, with stunning views of the Caribbean coast, and then go for dinner or a drink in the many restaurants and bars, or why not, dance somewhere nice to the sound of Dominican merengue, a great way to end the day.
The Etno Beach Club is a sophisticated beach bar on the sand, very appropriate for a drink while watching the sunset. For dinner there are several options, Dieciocho is very centrally located and offers a carefully selected menu, with special attention to grilled fish and seafood. Nearby is XO with elegant views of the beach. More informal and with a beautiful interior patio of jungle aesthetics, in El Pasito, you cannot miss its celebrated cocktails.
Santa Barbara, capital of the region
We left Las Terrenas and headed for Santa Barbara, the capital of the region. On the way we enjoy a genuine Dominican atmosphere, with the local population celebrating the moment like few others. Undoubtedly, Dominicans stand out for their hospitality, their people skills – always eager to start a conversation – and with a smile as their flagship.
The two main reasons to visit Santa Bárbara de Samaná are whale watching and Bacardí Island. Between the months of November and April, more than 1,500 humpback whales sail the waters of this 50,000-square-kilometer marine sanctuary to give birth to their calves. There are daily departures aboard motorboats to watch their acrobatics up close.
The other excursion that is absolutely worthwhile is Cayo Levantado, popularly known as Bacardi Island, because an advertisement for the well-known brand was filmed there. Entrance is free, you only have to pay for transportation. It is best to do so at the port and pay no more than 30 euros per person. If the day is sunny -most likely- and it is not crowded with tourists -not so likely- the experience is unique. It is a dream place, idyllic to the max. Again the turquoise waters will cover the horizon and we will frolic on the fine white sand in a palm tree environment worthy of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
Last stop Las Galeras
Back on the road in just one hour we reach Las Galeras, the final destination of our road trip. A small town in the northeast of the peninsula, which would be a quieter and more isolated version of Las Terrenas, it is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. And don’t get hung up on rankings or publications. On the shores of Samana there are dozens of beaches, each with its own charm.
In my particular experience, the Aserradero beach is the most captivating. It does not appear in the top of the rankings, it is certainly not the most extensive or lush, but it is beautiful and comfortable. And speaking of rankings, El Rincón beach always appears among the most beautiful in the country. And yes, it is incredible, for its extension and location, for the vegetation environment and its waters, but you have to make a journey of about 40 minutes with many curves while leaving behind other wonderful beaches.