Come and discover the ecological bliss of the Samaná Peninsula, Dominican Republic’s breathtaking paradise. With majestic crystal-clear waterfalls, secluded pristine beaches, rolling hills studded with coconut palms, and an infusion of rich culture and history, Samaná is a natural gem that remains one of the country’s most unexplored regions, making it a haven for eco-tourists.
Off-the-beaten-path, Samaná beckons adventure, nature and romance seekers alike with destinations and attractions such as the secluded Cayo Levantado, mangrove reserves found in nearby Los Haitises National Park and the Marine Mammal Sanctuary of the Dominican Republic, where thousands of humpback whales retreat each winter to frolic, mate and give birth.
While Samaná is renowned for nature and adventure, Las Galeras and Las Terrenas are two charming towns on the peninsula that cater to tourists. Serenely located on the tip of the peninsula, Las Galeras’ main beach offers a breathtaking respite for sunning, swimming or strolling along the beachfront’s stores and restaurants.
Las Terrenas, a Mediterranean-influenced town, features a mixture of distinctive restaurants, bars, shopping and vibrant nightlife bound to satisfy all genres of travelers. The city also offers a variety of accommodations to fit any style or budget, from small boutiques, to laid-back beachfront hotels, to deluxe all-inclusive resorts.
Samaná, Las Terrenas and Las Galeras are all destinations known for ecotourism as each offers numerous nature-friendly activities such as caving, cascading, scuba diving, mountain biking, hiking, ziplining and horseback riding. Each adventure is a great way to see the Northeast Coast, whether by taking an excursion through the jungles and paradise beaches, or a plunge into the waters of a deserted beach.
The following guide to the Samaná Peninsula includes descriptions of the amazing attractions, excursions and eco-adventures that await you.
The Samaná Peninsula boasts magnificent beaches with silky sand gently lapped by turquoise water. These are some of the most secluded and quiet beaches among Dominican Republic’s 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) of coastline.
PLAYA PORTILLO: East of Las Terrenas is Portillo Beach, an unspoiled sandy beach popular for walking along the calm, shallow waters in the golden sand.
PLAYA BONITA: This “beautiful” beach is a spectacle of nature with calm, clear water and coconut trees dipping into the sea and grass bordering the unspoiled beach. Bonita Beach is located in Las Terrenas and is decorated with numerous boutique hotels, private villas and famous restaurants, ideal for those looking for natural beauty, peace and quiet.
PLAYA COSÓN: An ideal beach for walking and nature observations, Cosón Beach is located west of Las Terrenas and consists of calm waters with a range of colors, river mouths, and strong winds for kite enthusiasts and waves for surfing. The surrounding area is also developed with gated communities, private villas and hotel complexes.
PLAYA LAS BALLENAS: Located in Las Terrenas, just a short distance away from the center of town, lays this long beach of white-powder sand and well-established water sports facilities. The Marico rivermouth delights the little ones who often play in the cool waters.
PLAYA EL LIMÓN: Located in El Limón, east of Las Terrenas and Portillo, this spectacular golden-sand, 3 mile (4.8 kilometer) beach has a beautiful view of Cayo El Limón (‘Cayo El Coquito’ or small coconut as the locals call it). Visitors can delight in areas with calm crystalline, shoulder deep pools or marvel in the power of the sea in other sections.
PLAYA MORÓN: Morón Beach’s charm is seen in its lush green surroundings, golden sand and sea that constantly changes colors. Visitors of this deserted beach may also find ancient canons from the days of the pirates.
PLAYA RINCÓN: Considered the second best beach in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, Rincón Beach is best known for its calm, crystalline waters just waiting to delight visitors. Located in the mouth of a small bay, this beautiful and quiet white-sand beach is surrounded by coconut and almond trees. One side of the beach remains relatively undeveloped and sheltered, while along the other, cliffs segue into the waters of the ice-cold Caño Frío river.
PLAYA EL VALLE: Defined by its name, El Valle, meaning “the valley”, is located between two mountains and is north of the Bay of Samaná. Surfers will delight at El Valle due to the beach’s ideal surfing waves.
PLAYA LAS GALERAS: Often referred to as “The Fisherman’s Beach,” Las Galeras is a quiet beach in the most northeastern point of the country. The highlight of this beautiful beach is the recreational diving aquarium. Visitors can purchase fresh fish, sip fresh coconut water and even join a boat tour to other beaches for whale watching.
LOS HAITISES NATIONAL PARK: Making up approximately 62 square miles (160 square kilometers) of unique, diverse area, Los Haitises National Park is comprised of mangroves, estuaries, coves and bays. Easily reached by a short boat ride across Samaná Bay, the park is well-known for both its magnificent series of limestone caves covered in Taíno Indian art and its boat excursions through exotic mangrove swamps. Visitors will find themselves surrounded by more than 100 species of birds, 90 plus plant species, a wide variety of mammals and caves bearing pre-Columbian Taíno art.
CAYO LEVANTADO: This coconut palm-lined island has become one of the area’s top tourist destinations for romance, relaxation and exquisite Dominican cuisine. Many visitors flock to this 6-square-mile (15-square-kilometer) island to walk along the pristine beach for a tan, while others venture out to the thriving reefs for snorkeling and scuba diving.
LAS TERRENAS: Once a fishing village, Las Terrenas has emerged as one of the most highly rated destinations in the country, offering a unique combination of entertainment, dining and hotels, in addition to the spectacular beauty of its 18 miles (28.2 kilometers) of untouched beaches. Las Terrenas is the most modern and commercial town in the peninsula with hotels, gourmet restaurants, beach bars, craft shops, supermarkets, sports facilities, tour operators and other services, all of which reflect a rich European influence.
LAND WHALE OBSERVATORY: The Ministry of Environment opened Dominican Republic’s first land whale observation point in order to celebrate the annual whale watching season. The observatory is located at Punta Balandra on the Southeast Coast and allows visitors to view the thousands of humpback whales that migrate to the protected area of the Marine Mammal Sanctuary in Samaná Bay by land rather than boat.
THE WHALE MUSEUM: A unique community space where visitors can connect with the great family of humpback whales that each year make Samaná their home. The museum shows the public details of the voyage made by these cetaceans from the sanctuaries to the North, to Samaná Bay, where they come to mate and give birth.
MARINA PUERTO BAHÍA: A full service marina on the north end of Samaná Bay. Numerous secluded safe harbors, intimate caves, bountiful fishing grounds, great stretches of sandy beaches and other alluring destinations invite exploration and offer memorable days of pure pleasure. www.puertobahiasamana.com
SHOPPING: You will find a wide variety of shops for souvenirs in Samaná City and Las Terrenas, while smaller boutiques and gift shops can be found in the resort complexes. Local vendors can be found throughout the beach towns selling larimar jewelry, amber artifacts and hand-crafted figurines from Dominican tropical wood.
GASTRONOMY & NIGHTLIFE: A main attraction in Las Terrenas is the “Pueblo de Pescadores”, a row of small restaurants and bars right on the beach that offer a wide range of options like seafood, Italian, American, pizza, tapas bar, etc. It also is rightly celebrated for its busy but laid-back after-dark ambience, particularly at weekends when locals and tourists mingle and you can get a taste of the local sounds. The Samaná Peninsula is known for the use of coconut in their signature dishes such as seafood or fish with coconut, in a flavorful sauce of tomato, garlic, and coconut milk. Also the local coconut bread and coconut sweets are very popular.
HUMPBACK WHALES OBSERVATION: Each winter 3,000 to 5,000 whales migrate to the warm crystalline waters of the Bay of Samaná with intentions of mating and giving birth. Whale-watching season begins in mid-January and continues through the end of March, however, excursions are available as long as whales remain in the bay. Guests can view the gentle creatures at the Marine Mammals Sanctuary or at the Land Whale Observatory. The 200 square mile (518 square kilometer) sanctuary was established in 1966 and continues to protect the thousands of humpback whales who migrate from the arctic waters of the north.
SALTO EL LIMÓN: Considered the most spectacular of Dominican Republic’s many waterfalls, El Limón captivates as it cascades 170 feet (51.8 meters) into a pool where visitors may take a dip. To reach the falls, horseback riding is a popular option among adventure tourists and also provides a beautiful view of the surrounding forrest and natural pool below.
DISCOVER SAMANÁ: Visit Santa Bárbara de Samaná, which was discovered in 1756 and originally intended to be the country’s capital. The city’s pedestrian bridge offers panoramic views of Samaná and visitors are sure to enjoy the local market with fresh fruits and fish, as well as clothes and shoes. Guests can also visit La Churcha, also known as the Dominican Evangelical Church. The church is the first African Wesleyan Methodist Church of Samaná and was made from materials originally shipped over by the English Methodist Church in the 1800s, thus maintaining any African-American culture left in Samaná.
JEEP SAFARI ADVENTURE: Set out on an adventure in an “all-terrain 4×4” where you’ll have the opportunity to taste the flavorful Dominican coffee and the various tropical fruits surrounding you. Also, you will visit the Lulú waterfall at El Valle, where you can enjoy a dip in the natural pool, and then continue on to take the Loma de la Piña Trail through lush tropical vegetation, eventually leading you back to the pier.
ZIP LINE TOURS: Visitors are now able to experience a new dimension of entertainment in Samaná. Adventure seekers can zip for more than 1000 feet (305 meters) between the platforms, flying safely over coconut palms and lush green valleys with spectacular mountain views, Samaná Bay and Cayo Levantado. The tour lasts approximately 3 hours and includes expert trainers, refreshments and fresh Dominican-grown fruit. This tour is available at several locations in the Samaná area such as Juana Vicente, El Valle and Caño Hondo.
SCUBA DIVING: The Samaná Peninsula is made up of a rocky coastline with high cliffs hiding an exciting underwater world of sheer drop-offs and pinnacles that rise from 165 feet (49.5 meters) to within 15 feet (4.5 meters) of the surface. Between January and March, humpback whales can be heard underwater as they migrate toward Silver Shoals. Divers can discover reef sites featuring undercuts, as well as series of large caves, tunnels and swim-throughs.
CATAMARAN & SNORKELING TOUR: Board a Catamaran for an unforgettable experience. Sail the Bay as you savor the majestic scenery, rich vegetation and pristine waters. Eventually anchor in Cayo La Farola; perfect for snorkeling within variety of tropical fish, vibrant coral and gardens. Finally you will reach Cayo Levantado for a relaxing time on its breathtaking beach
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