Why choose Samana?
Samana is a destination for nature lovers and adventurers. Green, green mountains, long beaches, solitude, lively little towns in between, turquoise waters. Samana is also a romantic destination, and several of its small hotels are perfect for honeymooners. Samana is also a good choice for experienced scuba divers. And the place to stay if whale-watching is high on your agenda. It is the place to sit on a porch or in the shade of a palm tree, sipping something cool and discover the rare feeling of being happy just being alive.
The exuberance of the area, the variety of natural attractions make it the preferred choice of those seeking an active vacation. Oh, there is action if you want it. Horseback riding, swimming, snorkeling, diving, sailing ? all the activities that come with beautiful nature.
It is possible to spend your days vegging out at the beach in front of the hotel, but Samana is truly for explorers. Samana has a distinct European flavor - The French were first, but now many Italians and Spaniards have opened up businesses to cater to tourists in the area.
Important to note, Samana is one tourist area in the DR where credit cards are not as readily accepted. It is best to bring cash, travel checks or use your ATM card at one of the banks in town.
What else is nearby
Those traveling to the province of Samana should plan on spending their entire vacation in Samana. This is because Samana is a multi-area tourism destination in itself. The hotels are primarily located in Samana City, Las Galeras (25 kms. from Samana City), Las Terrenas, El Portillo, Cozon and Playa Bonita areas. It takes about half an hour to cross the peninsula north to south and about an hour to go from West to East or vice versa. There is a small airport in El Portillo with commuter flights to Santo Domingo. There is an international airport in El Catey, about half an hour from the Sanchez crossing to Las Terrenas.
Port of Entry/How to get there
The Samana International Airport at El Catey opened in November 2006 offering direct flights from Germany with LTU and Condor (Dusseldorf and Frankfurt), and several cities in Canada (Air Transat, Skyservice). This airport puts tourists within at most an hour from most Samana peninsula destinations. There is also the option to fly into Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata or Santiago airports (check schedule of flights in the Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata sections of the DR1 Travel pages). Overnight there, and the next day take a domestic commuter flight into Portillo air strip on the north side of Las Terrenas, or the bus to Sanchez (juncture point for public transport to Las Terrenas). If your hotel is in Las Galeras or Samana City, you may consider renting a vehicle. If you are in Santo Domingo, a Metro Bus leaves at 7 am and will take you into Sanchez, from where a minibus or taxi need to be taken to get to Las Terrenas on the north side of the peninsula. The Metro Bus continues onto Samana city, dropping you off on the Malecon. Caribe Tours also drives up from Santo Domingo. These are very inexpensive, service is comfortable coach and these are scenic rides, albeit you will be on board for about 4 hours. Note that Las Terrenas is about a 45 minute drive from Samana City.
You can get around on foot, by moto-concho (motorcycle taxi) or taxi, but the best way to see Samana is to rent a small 4x4 jeep. Whether traveling on the undulated sand roads along Las Terrenas beach on the northwest side of the peninsula, or at Playa Rincon on the northeast side, the jeep will come in extra handy. Take extra care when driving along the panoramic highway from Sanchez to Las Terrenas.
To do a loop of the attractions, take the El Portillo road going East and stay on it until you get to the Limon sign. If you continue East along this road you will end up in Samana City, from which you can travel to Las Galeras. Retrace your way back to Samana and then to Sanchez, to make it back north to Las Terrenas
Beaches on the north side of the peninsula: Playa Bonita (fun waves), Cozon (fun waves, can be rough), Las Terrenas, El Portillo and Playa Popy (always tranquil waters). Playa Rincon is on the north side, but needs to be reached via the Samana road or by boat. Once you are in Las Galeras, there are daily small boat ferries to Playa Rincon beach, a spectacular 2 km. bay.
Beaches on the south side of the peninsula: Playa Galeras (about an hour and a half from Las Terrenas) and Cayo Levantado. Cayo Levantado is an island of about one square kilometer, made of a protruding coral reef which protects Samana bay from the Atlantic waves. With its lovely white sand beaches flanked by tall coconut trees, this island is a popular day outing with boat loads of tourists arriving daily.
Horseback riding or four wheel riding trails through the mountains and beaches.
Samana city. Samana city claims an unusual history and, as a result, an unusual character. It was settled by two shiploads of freed American slaves around 1824 and, to this day, many residents speak English as a first language. The US cultural influence is also apparent in many of the last names of the settlers of this area. Urban renewal is improving the overall look of Samana city.
Las Terrenas town. Worth a stroll. Lots of shops feature all sort of beach wear and gear. Great supermarket in town, restaurants, delicious pate and pastry shops, reflecting the European influence.
El Limon Waterfall. Take the El Portillo road going East and stay on it until you get to the town of El Limon. The waterfall is about 300 meters above sea level and has a 40 meter drop that ends in a very deep but swimable pool of crystal clear waters.
Samana has some of the best whale-watching in the world. Every year, the excursions depart to catch the frolicking giant creatures from 15 January to 15 March.
Los Haitises National Park. Easily reached by a short boat ride across the Bay is Los Haitises National Park. This area is known as having one of the most important rainforests and mangrove reserves in the entire Caribbean, complete with keys and caves. You can only enter the park with a certified guide. Day excursions can be booked from most hotels.
Mountain biking, hiking, horse riding
There are few destinations as great as Samana for these ecotourism sports. Be on the lookout at your hotel for tour operators that offer these activities. Note that there is no better way to really see the area than by mountain bike, hiking or horse riding. End the day with a plunge in a deserted beach. Horse riding excursions that will take you through jungles and paradise beaches are offered at many hotels. Highly recommended.
Samana has many caves for exploring. Check out the availability of excursions offering sightings of petroglyphs and pictograms from the days of the Indian settlers. Samana is known as the site of the first battle between the Indian settlers and the European conquerors - the Battle of the Arrows.
Rock climbing enthusiasts should look into the Playa Fronton excursions. Playa Fronton is located at the end tip of Las Galeras. It is a spectacular beach, even if you are not into climbing.
Take the four wheeler excursion to discover the many beaches on the northwestern coast of the peninsula, off Las Terrenas.
If you are staying in Las Terrenas, visit Playa Rinc?n Beach on the other side of the peninsula. Considered one of the best in the Dominican Republic, this beach can be reached by four wheel car, horseback over the mountains or by a short boat trip from Las Galeras. To get to Las Galeras, take the Samana road east to the end.
Whale-watching excursions from January 15-March 15. Some of the better excursions leave at 9 am and make a stopover at Cayo Levantado island, which wouldn?t leave time to make it back on the bus. Samana and whale-watching are really worth a visit on their own. Or at least try to overnight in Las Terrenas (one hour away), or Las Galeras (half an hour away from the port), or Samana (right there).
There are several all-inclusive resorts in Samana, but most of the accommodation is located in small hotels that do not include meal plans with their rates. Even if you choose to stay at an all-inclusive hotel, venture out and sample the fare of the many good restaurants in Samana.
Dining outside the hotel
Since most hotels in Samana do not book guests with all their meals included, there is a wide selection of small restaurants to choose from in Samana City, Las Galeras or Las Terrenas.
Places to shop
The better shopping areas are located in Samana city and Las Terrenas town. Las Terrenas has a small but well-stocked supermarket.
At the present time there is no golf course open in Samana. Those interested in golf, can travel to the Playa Grande golf course, about an hour and a half distance from Samana.
Samana features the best adventure diving of the north coast of the Dominican Republic. This rocky coastline with high cliffs leads to an exciting underwater world of sheer drop-offs and pinnacles that rise from 165 feet to within 15 feeet of the surface. Underwater visibility in this region can range from 100 to 150 feet. During the winter season (January 15-March 15), visiting humpback whales can be seen and heard underwater as they migrate toward Silver Shoals. Dive shops take their divers to Punta Tibisi (Cabo Cabron) for snorkeling and swimming. For advanced divers, there is the site known as The Tower. This underwater pinnacle rises from 165 feet. Down below at 40 feet, views are serene and majestic.
The sea floor of the Samana peninsula varies broadly from shallow, reef sites featuring multitudes of deep undercuts, to systems honeycombed with large caves, tunnels and swim-throughs such as those surrounding the small rock islands of Las Ballenas (The Whales). Beneath the moderate depths of 30 and 50 feet, their vast collection of dave and tunnel formations, are difficult to count in the course of one dive. The El Portillo-Las Terrenas area also offers attractive dives to a mixture of shallow and deeper coral reefs and caverns, as well as coral gardens for snorkeling.