The Dominican Republic is like nowhere else in the Caribbean. It has all the classic draws – great beaches, delicious cocktails and glorious sunshine, to name a few – on top of being a verdant jungle paradise with majestic waterfalls, nature reserves and dramatic mountain landscapes. Most visitors flock to Punta Cana in the east, but to see the most unique side of this diverse country it’s the little-known north-east that beckons.
Here are six reasons to visit Dominican’s Samana Peninsula:
It’s quieter than the rest of the country.
As we’ve already mentioned: most holidaymakers spend their beach holidays in Punta Cana to the east, or sometimes La Romana, to the south-east. That leaves Samana open for the more savvy travellers. Despite being the oldest part of the country, it’s actually less developed than the south and east. That means less hotels and smaller, more intimate resorts. Properties are either nestled on beaches or within the jungle, allowing for a more authentic – and less crowded – experience.
The beaches are still beautiful.
You might think people are avoiding Samana because its beaches aren’t as breathtaking as the ones in Punta Cana or La Romana, but you’d be wrong! The north-east may face the Atlantic Ocean, but the waters are still blissfully warm here and the silica is still flanked by swaying palms. It’s likely you’ll get a bit more seaweed washed up on the sand, but that just adds to the natural, untouched feel of the region.
You can spot whales.
Wildlife lovers take note. Another advantage to being on the Atlantic side of this island-nation is the whales. Between January and March each year, humpbacks migrate to mate and calve in Samana Bay, meaning your chances of seeing displays of fluking, tail lobbing and breaching are fairly high.
There’s an island so good, it’s (probably!) been on TV.
Cayo Levantado, otherwise known as ‘Bacardi Island’, is simply beautiful. The sand is blindingly white and pillow-soft and, if you go for the day, you’ll only share the beach with one or two others. Marine lovers can snorkel or explore the island’s rock pools, while those who really fall in love with this paradise can stay the night – there’s only one hotel on this tiny landmass. Of course it earned its nickname from the famous rum: rumour has it the drink adverts were filmed here.
It’s a jungle out there.
Literally. The abundant mountains glow a wonderful emerald green, only interrupted by a rogue coconut tree or two. Offerings in Samana’s town are basic and the colonial architecture limited as a result of a fire in the forties, but the region as a whole is undoubtedly the prettiest in the country. It almost feels like a lost destination, reclaimed by blissfully unkempt forests, wildlife and a laid-back lifestyle.
Speaking of green, the Dominican Republic has 14 national parks…
…and the best one spills into Samana. Verdant Los Haitises National Park is 80 square miles of mangroves, islets, ancient sea caves and subtropical rainforest, as well as being home to 700 species of plant and 110 types of avifauna – like the pelican. You can get there by boat across Samana Bay from Sabana de la Mar, or from the south in a 4X4. Keep an eye out for manatees and turtles, which may make an appearance in the surrounding waters – if you’re lucky, that is.