The Dominican Republic is like a postcard: miles of beaches, turquoise waters, rows of lazy palm trees, high-end hotels, impeccably maintained golf courses and starred restaurants. Among the pearls of the country, the Samaná peninsula stands out as one of the best spots to settle down. Here, in the north of the country, some places are close to what one can imagine being paradise! A paradise, the peninsula is renowned for its unspoilt beaches of fine sand and the colour of the water, rich in a thousand shades.
Samaná, Dominican diversity
Known as the Pearl of the North, the city of Samaná, 210 km from Puerto Plata, has 6,000 inhabitants. Now a stronghold of the French, Samana was founded around 1824 by freed American slaves. Even today, many Samanese still have Anglo-Saxon names and speak English. The village is located in a bay flooded with sunshine, between the sea and the hills with lush palm trees. In the Gulf, three pretty little islands are accessible by a bridge and, if you look towards the horizon, you can admire the famous islets of Cayo Levantado.
The city, which has the same name as its province and bay, gives another point of view of Dominican diversity. It is a recurring stopover during cruises in the Dominican Republic. Many boat rides are possible from the ports of Sanchez, Sabana de la Mar, Miches, Laguna Rotonda, Laguna de Limon and of course Santa Barbara de Samana called most often Samana. Small islets, lush hills, marina and golden beaches are just some of the things that visitors can enjoy while strolling along the peninsula's coasts. The many fishing boats return with more or less luck at dawn to sell the goods as quickly as possible, especially sea bream and shrimp caught with hawks. It is also possible to eat them immediately in frying at Manita's stand on the Malecón. The city of Samana is also accessible by car via the N5 motorway (245 km northeast of Santo Domingo). During the Haitian occupation, the establishment of former black slaves from the United States and the Leeward Islands was encouraged. They have left behind American sounding surnames such as King, Green or Barret, a darker mix than in the rest of the country, as well as Protestantism and many traditions. Partially destroyed by a fire in 1946, Santa Barbara de Samaná was rebuilt on Balaguer's orders. From its past, the city has only kept the churcha, which welcomed the English faithful, the church then became, like many here, an evangelical dispensary. Samana is also known for its lively patron saint's festivals, which are celebrated from 4 December, and its carnival in February. About twenty houses and souvenir shops and restaurants in Victorian style, very colorful, display the avenue along the port allowing one of the rare postcard images possible in Santa Barbara de Samana.
Located 2.5 km east of Samaná, Las Flechas Bay saw Columbus' sailors fight the natives for the first time in January 1493. The bay is surrounded by palm trees and, further east, you discover wonderful isolated beaches.
Las Terrenas, Gallic fiefdom and dream waterfall
Las Terrenas, a very lively fishing village, offers guest rooms, charming hotels, restaurants, bars, shops and the most beautiful beaches of the peninsula. The French alone represent nearly 10% of the population (25,000 inhabitants) but if we take shops, restaurants, bars, small hotels, the percentage rises to more than 60%. Hoteliers, restaurateurs and business owners in France were among the first to develop tourism on the spot. Life is particularly quiet in Las Terrenas, with a beautiful and well maintained beach, the fishing village, boats and coconut palms, nothing is missing from the postcard. Many have already come on holiday, once or several times, before packing their bags with varying degrees of success. Las Terrenas and its tens of kilometres of white sandy beaches, bathed in turquoise water, enjoy an ideal temperature, protected by a coral reef. Offshore, the islets of the Whale punctuate the horizon.
The village of El Limón, about 10 km from Las Terrenas, is the starting point for a visit to the superb El Salto del Limón waterfall (40 m high), which can be reached in two hours by horseback, then by a fairly steep path that you can walk along. You can swim under the waterfall, swim in a natural pool and visit the fascinating caves.
Cayo Levantado, a magnificent islet
A paradise island, Cayo Levantado is only 15 minutes by boat from Samaná and has become a coveted tourist destination. This pearl, of which the Dominicans are so proud, is bordered by two beaches of fine and pristine sand (Playa Grande on the left of the landing stage, Playa Honda on the right, accessible by an arrow path). Soft green lawns stretch to the edge of the crystal clear water, postcard coconut trees bow to the blue of the sea, and paths cross a small tropical forest of coconut trees, lianas and cheese makers. Despite the influx of tourists, itinerant merchants, canteens and shops, Cayo Levantado is worth a visit, although only half of the beaches are accessible to individuals, the other half being reserved for all-inclusive customers (!). Once the merchants and tourists have left, the island recovers its calm and serenity. An all-inclusive hotel also welcomes its guests to the heart of the Cayo.
Las Galeras, the authentic village
Isolated, at the eastern end of the Samaná peninsula, Las Galeras is a perfect example of paradise. This vast expanse of pristine, U-shaped sand is entirely surrounded by palm trees. The silence and tranquility of the area are hardly disturbed by the fishing boats. The village houses guest rooms, a few charming hotels and a single hotel club... If it was invested by tourists in the 2000s, but remains protected from mass tourism. Las Galeras is an authentic village, which will please lovers of calm. It is reached by a magnificent road that crosses many hamlets while skirting the coast. Playa Francesa cove (4 km after Samaná) is particularly beautiful, but dangerous, its waters are perfectly clear. The road ends at the village of Las Galeras, facing the sea, where the small tourist village was built. Here time stops here. A small community of foreigners, including French people, animates local tourism. The many beaches in the area are among the most fabulous in the country.
A whale paradise
The highlight of the show is undoubtedly whale watching! From January to March, the winter humpback whale parade in Samaná Bay is a unique sight. The bay is the annual meeting place for humpback whales that come to give birth, seek a companion and perform a frenetic bridal parade before mating. Males jump out of the water and hit the surface with their tail fin. Nearly 10,000 whales are gathering for the occasion. When the pups have finished their mother's milk supply by the end of March, the migration is to the cold seas of the Northern Hemisphere.
When? When? Two seasons are popular with tourists, from mid-December to March and from July to August, with a clear preference for the first. Holy Week before Easter is also very popular. Of course, the rates of hoteliers and car rental companies take this into account. In low season, on the other hand, a decrease from about 20 % to 25% on the rates is required. And you can negotiate!
Getting there. The average price of a flight between Paris and Santo Domingo varies between €700 and €1,200.
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