Exploring Samanà and the North of the Dominican Republic in a week
Exploring Samanà and the North of the Dominican Republic. Today I want to finally share with you the story of my last trip to the Dominican Republic. You may remember the first time I visited it (you can find HERE the related blog post). It was only six months ago, in January, and my photos and videos really catched the eye of the Dominican Republic Tourism Board, so much that they ask me to came back and discover the most naturalistic and ecological part of the island. From the peninsula of Samanà, of which we visited Santa Barbara, Las Galeras and Las Terrenas, we continued along the north-west coast to reach Cabarete. Finally a stop in my favorite Dominican city… Continue reading to find out more!
Exploring Samanà and the North of the Dominican Republic: what to see, where to stay and eat
We arrive in the Dominican Republic with the direct flight operated by Neos from Milan Malpensa, departed at 2 pm on Saturday and landed, after nine hours, at 6 pm local time in La Romana. Waiting for us Carlos, our guide, and Giancarlo, our driver, who have accompanied us step by step throughout the week. We spent the first night in a hotel near the airport, to be able to get up early the next morning full of energy and leave for Samanà!
It can be reached in about a couple and a half hours by car from the main airports of the island, La Romana and Santo Domingo. On the way to reach the capital, Santa Barbara of Samana, we found many rice fields and many mahogany trees, the Dominican Republic’s national tree, as well as an endless expanse of palm trees. The peninsula is in fact one of the places with the highest density of coconut palms in the world. About 7 million are counted! One coconut palm can live up to 100 years and can make up to 150 coconuts a year!
We stopped at a lookout to drink the water of the first of the many coconuts we drank on this trip. The view is on Santa Barbara, famous because there, in the months of January to March, you can see the whales, so keep this in mind if you decide to organize a trip around there! Why do they come? It seems that they find the ideal temperature and water depth conditions for mating and giving birth!
Carlos, our guide, explains that Samanà is a word of Taino Indian origin (the Taino were the first population of the Caribbean) whose meaning is a place of peace and tranquility. Samanà was also the name of the queen of one of the most aggressive Taino tribes of all, so much so that it is said that when Christopher Columbus set foot on the island, in the gulf which is now called Playa Rincon (name which means “side beach”) he had a very strong fight with this tribe. So strong that he wrote in his book that he never saw so many arrows fly together! This gulf has been nicknamed the Gulf Of The Arrows. We reached it from Las Galeras, aboard the La Esperanza boat.
Playa Rincon is a beach of pure beauty. We arrived there for lunch time: you will find a huge gazebo and many people who cook the fish they have just caught on the grill! It is said that in Samanà you can find the best prawns and shrimps in the country: of course I ordered them, along with white rice, beans and fried plantain. Which I discovered to be a constant of every self-respecting Dominican meal!
Always under the gazebo we came across the banquet of a girl who hand-made flip-flops with colorful threads: I bought a pair for myself and one for my mother! After shopping I went to finally explore the beach… It was Sunday, there were very few tourists: only some Dominican who took his children to swim. An absolute peace!
We then headed back to our Esperanza to sail along the coast of the peninsula until reaching Playa Fronton, another beach with wonderful colors.
We then headed to our first hotel, Chalet Tropical. It is located in Las Galeras, a few steps from the beach. Here we stayed in a really fabulous villa, nestled in the park of the Chalet between palm trees and flowers. All made by wood, perfectly integrated into the context. From the patio with the huge table you enter a large living area with a living room, a kitchen, a study area and double bathroom. A spiral staircase, always made entirely of wood, leads to the first floor where there are two double bedrooms, each with its own balcony: from each room you have access, thanks to an internal staircase, to another one located exactly above, with another double bed.
We have had dinner and breakfast on our terrace, in the company of some kittens.
The chalet is run by an Italian girl, Sara Paradiso, who came to greet us after breakfast to tell us about her beautiful story. He lived in Milan where he was an interior designer (at that moment I realized the reason for that attention to details and color combinations throughout the Chalet: did you notice the sofas and matching sheets?), then he met a boy whose family lived in the Dominican Republic, went to visit them and fell in love with the island, so much that she decided to stay there. Now she has been living there for 18 years and has realized the dream of running her own business, along with five gorgeous kittens!
After leaving Chalet Tropical we move to another Caribbean dream beach: it’s called La Playita. Here the sea has a lovely color and there are giant shells everywhere!
Then we rent two quads and went on until we reached a point with a privileged view, El Cabito. This is a ranch, hotel and restaurant, boasting a truly incredible panoramic terrace. In the picture below you can see me with Carlos, our very nice guide!
We went back on the quad to reach Rudy’s Ranch: Rudy in person was waiting for us on his horse to guide us during our first ride from the ranch to La Playita. For me, the sweet horse Moreno!
Last dip at La Playita before moving into a new beach for lunch, Playa El Valle. The beauty of the vegetation here takes over!
On our third night in the Dominican Republic we had a big surprise: we stayed at the Dominican Tree House Village! As you can guess from the name, these are real tree houses (three in total) connected to each other by rope bridges which are suspended in the air. There are no windows, only red tents to shelter from sunlight. Even the doors do not close (there is only a lock, but it serves very little). Nobody seems to worry about having to lock their own things: the feeling is that nobody touches anything here! The house is divided as follows: you enter the double bedroom, with a curtain of thick net to protect yourself from insects during the night. There are two rocking chairs to admire the view. Then a pontoon, without curtains, connects this to the second bedroom, with a bunk bed. Adjacent to the entrance “door” another wooden door that leads to the bathroom with a shower. There are no hairdryers. There are two electrical outlets, one for each room, and one in the bathroom. To make sure that guests feel completely inserted into the context, moreover, there is no wi-fi. You simply have to relax and enjoy the atmosphere!
It was a very different night than usual. The atmosphere was special: I had never slept with the sound of crickets and cicadas, but I must say that I rested very well! It was a really unique opportunity to sleep here, in the heart of the jungle, suspended in a real house built on the tree!
Everything at the Dominican Tree House Village is built with ecological materials and in full respect of nature. Below you see the pier that connects the house to the hall where the reception and restaurant are located. During dinner we have been approached by an Italian girl who we discover to be there a volunteer: for a month she offers five hours a day of free work for the village, in exchange for food and lodging. I had never heard of the WorkAway platform before and I found it really interesting!
Before leaving the tree house we thought that there was no better place to fly the drone. While we were making a beautiful panoramic video, however, a really bad thing happened: the drone crashed on a very tall almond tree! Panic! Fortunately, the boys of the Dominican Tree House Village are used to climbing and managed after several attempts to recover it, despite the tree was really high!
So we continued our journey to Samanà visiting Las Terrenas and stopping for lunch at Louis Restaurant in Playa Coson, which is super recommended! Here too we had fresh fish grilled together with rice, beans, salad and the inevitable fried plantain!
North Coast of the Dominican Republic
In the late afternoon of Tuesday we left the peninsula of Samanà towards North-West direction to reach, shortly before the city of Cabrera, our new Hotel, Baoba Beach. The first hotel located directly on a beach bordered by incredibly tall coconut palms.
The next morning we head towards a new destination, Dudù Lagoon. Here you can do the zip-line, but I preferred walking down: the water here is fresh and inviting!
Then we headed to Playa Diamante: a white sandy and very soft beach, where you can walk for hours without ever reaching the high water. There is also a swing on the left side of the beach, under the shade of a giant almond tree!
We then moved to Playa Grande to have lunch on the beach, really a few meters from the water. Here we took the opportunity to take a bath and then, before leaving, we ordered a delicious cocktail made of pulp and pineapple juice with coconut milk and ice, which was served directly in the pineapple: simply delicious!
The next day we headed to Río San Juan, where we took a boat to explore the Gri-Gri Lagoon. It takes its name from the thick mangrove trees that you can admire as soon as you leave the port, populated by beautiful white herons. Then, once you leave the port, you will be blinded by the intense blue of the lagoon water, super inviting for a dip, and finally you will reach the Cave of the Swallows.
Swimming in Gri-Gri is really awesome!
For lunch we moved to Cabarete: the village is so beautiful, with its row of restaurants and shops along the beach, renowned for kitesurfing. Windsurfing and kitesurfing annual race take place here!
We decide to order also a cocktail! Carlos explained that here the locals usually order Santo Libre, which is prepared with rum and SevenUp! We opt for two piña colada with passion fruit!
On the way back we stopped to have a snack at one of the many banquets on the road and took bananas and mango!
Then we reach the last Hotel, the Millennium Hotel, which is located near Cabarete.
For dinner we went back to the village and discover that, with the sunset, all the restaurants are lighten up with threads of colored lights! We went to Ristorante Da Papi, which I highly recommend: I ordered shrimps papi style, topped with a sauce made of tomato, onion, curry and a secret ingredient. The best ones I have ever eaten on this trip!
The next morning began with the first surf lesson of my life at Playa El Encuentro. I did not even take a wave but I survived without bruises!
After we moved to Playa Sosua, where you can snorkel among the corals. And there we spent a good hour underwater with mask and fins, to admire this beautiful underwater world.
We also took a walk in the village, very lovely!
Lunch again in Cabarete and then we did the last trip on horseback of this wonderful week in the Dominican Republic!
We went back to the hotel early to prepare our luggage because the next morning we had to wake up very early. In fact, we met around 7 am to go along the road that leads to the capital, going up the Northern Cordillera where there are the highest mountains of the Dominican Republic.
Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo
Here we are at the last stage of our journey!
For lunch we stopped in the restaurant I had discovered last time in January with my boyfriend and of which I was literally in love!
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the Zona Colonial, before heading to La Romana airport to take the flight back to Italy.
We are greeted by the beautiful family of Carlos… We could not wish for a better guide, thanks for everything!
A big thank you to Dominican Republic Tourism Board for this amazing opportunity!
I wish you all a very happy Friday!