Bahía de Samana Dominican Republic is one of the most breathtaking places on the island. The Samaná Bay and it’s surrounding peninsula – known for turning into a whale nursery around February and March – are host to countless incredible beaches, outdoor activities and great eats. Here’s the best way to spend three perfect days exploring this incredible natural paradise in the Dominican Republic.
Bahía de Samana Dominican Republic, Day One
We picked up our rental car from the airport in Puerto Plata and were on the road by about four o’clock on Friday afternoon. The drive was pretty easy and very beautiful, and by the time we arrived at our hotel four hours later we were fully ready to enter into relax mode.
The Digs: Hotel Villa Serena was the perfect home base for our explorations. It’s located at the tip of the peninsula in a beautiful resort in the small town of Las Galeras. Las Galeras is unspoiled natural beauty at it’s best, and with a rental car it’s still easy access to the best tourist destinations.
The Eats: Seafood would be the theme of our trip. On the first night, tired from our drive, we decided to keep it easy and check out our hotel’s restaurant. The prices were moderate, and I enjoyed a lovely seafood pasta – simple, but with hunks of fresh fish, small clams and a few whole shrimp. Not bad for a resort restaurant!
The Activity: If you’ve got more energy, I’d recommend exploring the local town, or grabbing a drink and one of the local bars. We stayed low key however, and retired early to our tropical-colonial style room. Our private balcony provided us with a perfect view of the full moon over the coconut trees. Soon we drifted to sleep to the sounds of the lapping waves.
Las Terrenas & El Limon, Day 2
We woke up early and rushed onto our balcony to watch the sunrise over the bay. Inspired by the incredible beauty we headed down to the beach for early morning dip in the ocean.
Early Morning: The famed caribbean waters won us over. We snorkeled and photographed until our tummies rumbled for breakfast.
Morning Feed: The hotel’s breakfast consisted of fresh juice (although we had to ask them to remake it with no sugar), strong coffee, lightly toasted bread, a few bits of fruit and plate of french toast or pancakes. I wouldn’t say it met the standards of a healthy or natural eater (fake honey, white sugar, sugar in the juice), but for a hungry lot of adventurers it was perfect.
Early Adventure: We took the hotel kayaks and paddled to the nearby island. It was a very small island, mostly surrounded by coral, with a very small white sandy beach. We happily did headstands and rolled around until we were properly empanaded. It was hard to tear ourselves away. With so much to do though, we dutifully paddled back to the hotel and cleaned ourselves up so we could head out. The destination? El Limon Waterfall.
Lunchtime: We stopped for a traditional lunch so as not to arrive hungry. A slightly overpriced plate was piled high with rice, beans and a meat of your choice. Or in my case, fried cheese and fish. There was some more sugar-added juice concoctions – the Dominicans simply aren’t traditionally a healthy eating bunch. However, we figured we could use the energy for our upcoming hike.
Afternoon Hike: El Límon waterfall is one of the most well known tourist attractions in the area. It’s a very, very easy hike. Ignore anyone who says differently. The area is full of tour operators trying to tell how difficult the hike is so they can sell you pony rides or guided tours. Skip them all, the hike is basically a 30 minute stroll in the woods. When you arrive, it’s 50 pesos to enter (the sign that tells you you’ll have to pay is about ten minutes into the trail – we ended up having to go back to the car to get money). The most difficult part of the whole hike is at the end. There are about 100 stairs to walk down to get to the falls. They’re well made and the railings are strong so it’s accessible to anyone with general mobility. The waterfall itself, while full of people, is truly incredible.
Down Time: After we’d had our fill of bathing, we hiked back to the car and heading back towards Samaná town. It was already late, so we headed back to Las Galeras for some downtime at our hotel. Cold beers and books by the pool, a dip in the ocean, a shower and a nap before getting dressed for what would turn into a very interesting evening.
Il Pirata: The reviews on Trip Advisor were splendid. Yet almost all of them mentioned of how difficult the restaurant was to find. They even went as far to advise that you not give up as you drove along dark and winding roads. We almost did give up, since they really were dark and winding. Luckily however, I found an amazing review that explained in painstaking detail how to arrive. We dutifully followed its instructions. We drove to the end of the road. We found the dirt and gravel road. We followed the pirate-shaped sign. Finally we drove up the long driveway towards what seemed to be a private home (are we trespassing?). We parked, and still felt worried we were invading someone’s patio. It turned out it was a private home, and the owners had turned their patio into a traditional Italian-Seafood restaurant. It could only be described as magical.
The Food: All of the reviews were spot on about it being completely worth the adventure. The decor was impeccable. It was like being invited to a magical indoor-outdoor dinner party. There were friendly dogs, and an even more friendly waiter, who was completely un-fluttered by the dog. His good nature was only to be outdone by the hospitality of our hosts, who brought us their three month old puppy to play with. Most importantly, the food was incredible. The homemade, traditional Tagilati was uniformly thin, light and perfectly cooked. The seafood was incredibly fresh and seasoned to perfection. The flavor palate was exceptional.
La Creme de La Creme: Homemade coconut gelato served in a tall ice cream glass. I would go back 100 times just to eat it over and over again.
Playas Rincon, Grande & Preciosa, Day 3
Caribbean Classic: Sunday we woke up and went to Playa Rincon, considered the most beautiful beach in the area. First, we turned left and went down to to the locals’ end, which although beautiful, was full of loud music and the boisterous family gatherings. We decided to try the other end of the expansive beach. We found a crowd more our speed- mostly tourists looking for the peace and quiet of the lapping waves. We parked the car under a shady tree and I parked myself under a coconut palm for a morning of reading and relaxing. DG took his paddle board out to the reef and made friends with a reef shark.
The Way Home: All good things must come to an end, and with grumbling stomaches we departed towards Cabarete. We had a mediocre lunch in Samaná before hitting the road. We made one final stop at Playa Preciosa and Playa Grande to watch the sunset.
Alls Well That Ends Well: After safely maneuvering through the obstacle course that is a Dominican road on a Sunday, we arrived back in Cabarete town around 8pm. It was just in time to grab some really pretty decent Chinese food before heading to our room to ceremoniously pass out after a lovely, fun filled weekend exploring the Dominican Republic.