Whenever most U.S. travelers think of the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana and all-inclusive resorts comes to mind. If you’re looking for an alternative paradise that’s decidedly un-touristy, head to Samaná, a narrow peninsula off the north coast home to postcard perfect secluded shores, sophisticated beachside hamlets and epic whale watching.
I was fortunate enough to visit this isolated region of the country through a trip with the Tourism Board on a visit centered around eco-tourism. The Samaná Penisula is refreshingly quiet and isolated compared to the rest of the country and perfect for a truly relaxing vacation and insight into local Dominican life. The region is also well known for its wide range of adventure and eco-tourism opportunities. Here are the top 6 reasons to head straight to Samaná Province!
Top 6 Things to Do in Samaná, Dominican Republic
1 | Ride to El Limón Waterfall
Take an adventurous hike through the jungle to arrive at jaw dropping El Limón waterfall. The falls drop 130 feet (40 meters) from the top of Sierra Samana and are well worth the 1.5 mile (2.5 km) trek. At the end of the journey, we catapulted into the misty falls for the ultimate refresher.
Sher’s Tip: The falls are deep into the forest and best arrived via horseback. Book directly with Ramon and his family for the best rates – the ~30 minute horseback ride and trek to the waterfall includes lunch and a local cocoa lesson!
2 | Zip Lining Above the Forest
See the lush tropical forests and the views from sky high. The Dominican Tree House Village offers a heart racing zip line affair across 12 platforms high above the jungle. Afterwards, you can even stay overnight at the hotel, which offers rooms in multi level tree houses.
Sher’s Tip: Ziplining is such a high, I can’t wait to do it again! Also the tree house rooms on site are one of a kind. Upgrade and splurge on the large bedroom, with swing chairs and a private bath for the most luxurious experience!
3 | Exploring Parque Nacional Los Haitises
Los Haitises National Park is one of the jewels in the crown of the Dominican Republic’s national park system. Los Haitises means “hilly land” in Taino, and the Park nurtures one of the island’s few remaining rainforests. The Park, which also has extensive mangroves, covers an area of 618 square miles (1,600km²). A natural wonder replete with many keys and caves, the jungle there was used as a location for the film Jurassic Park.
Sher’s Tip: Stay at the luxurious Bannister Hotel and book a boat tour to Los Haitises with the on-site tour operator. During the afternoon in the park, spot the shark cave, make a pit stop to see the ancient Taino caves or head to the Eco-Lodge (Paraiso Cano Hondo) for a relaxing afternoon in waterfall swimming pools.
4 | Relaxing in Las Galeras
Las Galeras is truly the end of the road, about 28km northeast of Samaná and quite a far car ride to get to. That being said, once you arrive the local village abounds with options: a yoga-filled retreat at Villa Serena, red sea urchin snorkeling at Playa Frontón or the long, beautiful stretch of coastline at Playa Rincon that’s perfect for sunbathing.
Sher’s Tip: If you’re looking to experience a complete lifestyle change, there’s no better option than a yoga + meditation retreat at Villa Serena. The unique beachfront property offers a variety of yoga practices (including water yoga) as well as a gourmet raw food diet led by raw food chef extraordinaire, Chef Darko.
5 | Dinner at El Cabito
Have a meal overlooking the cliffs at El Cabito, a beautiful rustic spot clinging to the edge of the cliffs. At sunset the ambiance is heavenly, with the crashing waves and the setting sun acting as the perfect compliments
Sher’s Tip: Try the seafood paella, which comes big enough for 2 or the grilled fish in coconut curry broth, a local specialty!
6 | Las Terrenas
The hamlet of Las Terrenas has a decidedly European feel, with sophisticated and colorful Victorian houses along the beachfront. Dine on the water, sip a refreshing beverage or people watch with an espresso in the hamlet.
Sher’s Tip: You can rent an ATV to zip through the town!
Read more: 5 Unique Hotels in the Dominican Republic