Just a few hours north of the popular all-inclusive Punta Cana, there’s an authentic and breathtaking secret getaway on the Samaná Peninsula. Watch the humpbacks surface, hike to towering waterfalls and adventure to chic restaurants where the dirt road ends in this magical, untouched corner of the Caribbean.
Day 1: Snorkeling & Waterfall Hikes in Las Galeras
Samaná Bay, along with its surrounding peninsula, plays host to countless incredible beaches, outdoor activities and great eats. If you’re looking to spend a few perfect days exploring this incredible natural paradise, the best place to start is where the dirt road ends.
Head to the tiny town of Las Galeras on the farthest tip of the peninsula. It’s one of the few independent-traveler-friendly spots left in the Dominican Republic and it’s an excellent example of unspoiled natural beauty.
Once you drop your bags at the colonial-luxury waterfront Villa Serena Hotel, grab your snorkel and hit the beach for snorkeling and kayaking adventures. Besides crystal-clear water, you’ll find tiny islands popping up just offshore where you can moor your boat and stretch out in the sand. If you’re into beach hopping, stop over at Playa Fronton or La Playita before washing off the sand and lacing up your adventure shoes.
It’s off to hike to El Límon Waterfall. This beautiful cascade is one of the most well-known tourist attractions in the area, but that does nothing to detract from the pleasure of visiting. In spite of what any tour guides in the area tell you, getting to the falls involves little more than a 30-minute stroll in the woods, with a few quick dips in freshwater pools on the way. Skip the expensive horseback ride in, but do remember to bring along the 50 pesos you’ll need to enter the falls, as the only sign reminding you is about ten minutes along the trail. The adventure-minded might prefer a canyoning tour to arrive at the falls—Santi Limón Excursiones offers a reputable tour with optional meals and transport.
After you’ve swam in the fresh, cool water, it’s time to feed your rumbling stomach. Jump in your 4×4 and drive up into the mountains to El Monte Azulis, where the delightful French-Thai-fusion cuisine is only outdone by epic views over the peninsula. This somewhat difficult-to-find restaurant with notoriously fussy owners has one of the best views around—which helps keep you happy while waiting for your food.
Day 2: Whale Watching & Beach Time on the Samaná Peninsula
The next morning, it’s time for the main event: a boat tour of the bay to spot humpback whales. Every year, from mid-January to March, Samaná Bay turns into a humpback whale nursery, a safe haven where mothers come to nurse their young calves—approximately 2,500 whales visit each year. The bay is now considered as one of the top ten spots in the world for humpback watching, and with a bit of good luck you can catch them playing around in the crystal-clear waters. Joël y Ludi take excursions directly out of Las Galeras, or if you’d like a more conversationalist-leaning guide, drive down to Samaná town for a boat trip with naturalist and conservationist Kim Beddall from Whale Samaná.
When you’ve had your fill of tails slapping the water, it’s time to unwind at Playa Rincon, reputably the most beautiful beach in the area (for a Caribbean island, that’s really saying something). If you’re facing the beach, turn right to go to the local’s end, or if you’re not interested in listening to Bachata on your day off, turn left and head to where the expats and travelers congregate. Park yourself under a coconut palm for an afternoon of reading and relaxing, or swim out to the reef to spot colorful coral or even a reef shark.
Day 3: Kiteboarding & Unforgettable Italian Dinners in Las Terrenas
If you’re tired of lying around on perfect Caribbean beaches, head towards Las Terrenas to get your adrenaline fix with a kiteboarding lesson with Las Terrenas Kitesurf Club. The crystal-clear, white-sand lagoon is waist-deep with consistent, lighter winds, making it the ideal spot for beginner or intermediate riders.
In the evening, once you’ve washed off the salt, it’s off to Il Pirata, an Italian eatery that better resembles a dinner party than a restaurant. The first trick is finding it, but if you follow the dirt road, spot the small pirate sign, and then head up a very long driveway, you’ll get there.
Il Pirata is situated on the indoor/outdoor patio of the owners’ home, and this Italian-Seafood restaurant can only be described as magical. Besides friendly dogs, and even more friendly waiter and hosts whose hospitality abounds, you’ll be treated to impeccably cooked homemade pastas and incredibly fresh seafood, seasoned to perfection—just don’t forget to leave space for the homemade coconut gelato.
Day 4: Experience an Untouched Paradise Before Take Off at Los Haitises Naitonal Park
The next day, check out early so you can spend a full day exploring one of the wildest, untouched regions on the island—Los Haitises National Park. Situated on the south side of Samaná Bay, Los Haitises is one of the DR’s largest protected areas—it’s been national parkland since 1976. This expansive parkland is home to over 200 species of birds, mangroves, limestone caves and the highest numbers of Taíno petroglyphs and pictographs in the country. While you’re touring the waterways by boat, you’ll be very likely to spot a manatee or dolphin, if you’re not too busy wowing at the rugged landscape and rock formations that jut out of the emerald-colored bay. Breathe in deeply—this is paradise in its truest form.