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Samaná Peninsula,
the Dominican Republic’s hidden paradise

The Caribbean is a dream destination, and the Dominican Republic is consistently attracting the most visitors in this region with over 5 million travelers each year.

Tourism is not evenly spread out over the island though but rather focused on a few areas. These areas are also known for their large all-inclusive hotels, and chances are if you prefer a more authentic experience, you haven’t been to the Dominican Republic yet. Or, you might have stayed in one of these outstanding resorts and enjoyed the amazing beaches and amenities but missed the island life.

Samaná Peninsula, the Dominican Republic’s hidden paradise

Would you believe me if I told you there’s a place on the island that is less touristically developed but with great accommodations and is truly a hidden paradise? The Samaná Peninsula has some of the best beaches, untouched nature, and gorgeous properties, and gives you a chance for a more authentic experience. 

First things first, the Dominican Republic in a nutshell

Where is the Dominican Republic?

The Dominican Republic is located on the island of Hispaniola, with Haiti on the West of the island and the Dominican Republic on the East (1:2 ratio), and it is part of the Greater Antilles archipelago. This lush tropical island nation is just two hours south of Miami and around 8 hours from most European countries. 

Facts & Figures

The Dominican Republic is the second-largest nation in the Antilles (after Cuba), and the third-largest by population (around 10.8 million in 2020). Over 30% of the population live in or around the capital city of Santo Domingo. 

As a geographically very diverse island, the Dominican Republic not only boasts 250 miles of coastline with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but is also home to both the Caribbean’s tallest mountain Pico Duarte, and the largest lake (which is also the lowest point), Lake Enriquillo.

The topography and climate of the island are also quite diverse with national parks, mountain ranges, rivers, and beaches. The island is surrounded by two oceans – the Atlantic Ocean in the North and the Caribbean Sea in the South. 

Map of the Dominican Republic

Map Hispaniola Dominican Republic

Best time to visit

The varied topography of the island leads to slightly different climates depending on where on the island you are. There might even be some snow on Pico Duarte! However, generally, the best time to visit is between December and March.

However, April and up to mid-May are still good times as it’s not quite rain season and fewer visitors. June to October is also hurricane season, with most storms occurring in August and September. Fortunately, the Dominican Republic doesn’t get hit very often, and most hotels and tour operators are well prepared. 

The weather is generally very consistent with temperatures between 25°C (77°F) and 28°C (83°F) on average. During the summer it can get quite hot and humid with the wet season from May/June to November.

Things to know before visiting the Dominican Republic​


Tourism is a major economic driver in the Dominican Republic and the areas that see the most tourism are Punta Cana (east coast), La Romana (south-east), Puerto Plata (north), and the capital Santo Domingo (in the south-west). Less visited places are Jarabacoa, Samaná, Juan Dolio & Boca Chica, Santiago, Barahona, and of course the Samaná Peninsula.


The currency in the Dominican Republic is Pesos, and it’s only possible to change foreign currency to Pesos upon arrival. While most places accept U.S. Dollars, it is a good idea to have some Pesos on hand.

Car rental in the Dominican Republic

Generally speaking, renting a car in the Dominican Republic is safe. However, you need to be comfortable driving on less than great roads at times and don’t get stressed by a bit of traffic. The roads in Samaná and Punta Cana area are relatively easy to drive and the “new” highway between Santo Domingo and the Samaná Peninsula is well-maintained. We would recommend using a reputable rental car agency and not the very basic car with full insurance.


Another frequently asked question is if the Dominican Republic is safe. One concern of many tourists is the language barrier – the official language in the Dominican Republic is Spanish. However, at least a little bit of English is widely spoken in the resorts and even by locals who are interacting with tourists. The locals are also extremely friendly and helpful. 

Common safety precautions should be taken, and women who are traveling solo unfortunately should expect some catcalling and possibly harassment. Petty theft crimes in very touristy areas are the most common crimes though.

Dominican Republic beach
Dominican Republic colourful house
Dominican Republic colourful bird

The Samaná Peninsula

The Samaná Peninsula is a mountainous region, with lush jungle, gorgeous beaches, and charming small towns. The Sierra de Samaná mountain range dominates the peninsula and there are numerous small rivers throughout this province. In the south is Samaná Bay where the capital of the province, Santa Bárbara de Samaná, is also located. 

While there is a relatively new airport near El Catey (Samaná El Catey International Airport (AZS)), only a small number of airlines operate at it, and therefore, flights to Samana are limited. It’s a around 42km drive to Santa Barbara de Samana. Most people will arrive either at Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, or Santo Domingo. Flights from virtually everywhere are available at these international airports. 

The distance to the airports makes the peninsula slightly more difficult to reach because of a 3 to 5-hour airport transfer. But, it is absolutely worth the extra travel time.

Samaná Peninsula Map

Samaná Peninsula Map Dominican Republic

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Where to go when visiting the Samaná Peninsula

Santa Barbara de Samana - the largest town on the Samaná Peninsula

Santa Barbara de Samaná is not only the largest town, but it is also the main port and the destination of many cruise ships. This makes it the most touristy of the towns on the peninsula. Nevertheless, this town is a great starting point for excursions to the Bay of Samaná. In 1493, Christopher Columbus discovered this bay during his first voyage to the Caribbean and named it Golfo de las Flechas (Gulf of the Arrows) because he was massively attacked by the indigenous Taínos here.

Santa Barbara de Samana Dominican Republic
the Bay of Samana Dominican Republic

Where to stay in Santa Barbara de Samaná

Las Galeras - the hidden gem at the end of the road

We have to admit, we are a bit biased, Las Galeras is our favorite area on the island, and we’ve visited several times over the years. The small village is literally along the road which hits the beach at the end of it. It’s a quaint, tropical paradise and quite a few expats made it their home. From here, you can explore some of the best beaches in the world, take trips to the rolling hills surrounding the village, and enjoy the local culture and food. 

Las Galeras Samana Grand Paradise Dominican Republic
Las Galeras Samana Dominican Republic
Las Galeras Samana Dominican Republic

Where to stay in Las Galeras

One main thing that differentiates Samaná from for example Punta Cana is that you won’t find numerous hotels next to one another here. You’ll only find a good handful of hotels, vacation rentals, and B&Bs in this area, but there is something for everyone. Some of the best hotels & resorts around Las Galeras on the eastern tip of the Samana Peninsula are:

Las Galeras Samana Grand Paradise Dominican Republic

Amhsa Marina Grand Paradise Beach Resort is a medium size all-inclusive hotel with very loyal customers and situated on a beautiful cove

Hotel & Restaurant Villa Serena and Hotel Todoblanco are both located in Las Galeras next to the beach and are small boutique hotels with charming rooms and offerings like yoga classes and vegan food.

21 Palms Bed&Breakfast and Bar is a more budget-friendly B&B with four comfortable bungalows situated in nature and close to the beach and village. 

If you love exploring hidden beaches with white powdery sand, snorkeling, and in some spots hanging out with locals, Las Galeras is the place for you! Here you’ll find some of the best beaches in Samaná and even the world. 

Best beaches around Las Galeras

Playa Frontón

 can be reached by boat from Las Galeras and boasts a white sandy beach lined with coconut trees and as a backdrop a 90-meter (300-foot) cliff!

Playa Frontón Samaná Dominican Republic

Playa Madama

a small but stunning beach flanked by cliffs that offers not only the opportunity to snorkel and see vibrant corals and sea-life, but also access to an old, large cave with cave paintings by Tainos. The beach can either be reached by boat, hike or on horseback.

Playa Madama Samana Dominican Republic

La Playita

is right next to Las Galeras and picture-perfect: white sand, turquoise water, coconut palm trees, and a beachfront restaurant.

La Playita Samaná Dominican Republic
La Playita Samaná Dominican Republic
La Playita Samaná Dominican Republic

Playa Rincón

The quintessential Caribbean dream beach. Ranked as one of the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, Playa Rincón is accessible by boat (recommended) or via a dirt road. A small local fish restaurant is situated at the eastern end of the beach where the boats usually drop off travelers and a river ends. Here the water is very calm and lounge chairs can be rented for ~$1. Playa Rincón is 3 km long with very few visitors and often times you only come across some local fishermen.

Playa Rincón Samaná Dominican Republic
Playa Rincón Samaná Dominican Republic
Playa Rincón Samaná Dominican Republic
Playa Rincón Samaná Dominican Republic

Behind the fish restaurant – around the corner (Rincón = corner) – is a smaller beach that is also absolutely stunning and the last time I was there, I had it all to myself!

Playa Rincón Samaná Dominican Republic
Playa Rincón Samaná Dominican Republic
Playa Rincón Samaná Dominican Republic

Las Terrenas - nightlife and wind

The previously quiet fisherman’s village is now known for great kite-surfing and wind-surfing spots and schools. Many expats have settled down in Las Terrenas over the past decades, and a vibrant nightlife scene developed.

Las Terrenas Dominican Republic
Robin Canfield Las Terrenas Samaná Dominican Republic
Las Terrenas Samaná Dominican Republic

Where to stay in Las Terrenas

The Las Terrenas area boasts some beautiful new 5-star hotels like the Bahia Principe Grand El Portillo and Sublime Samana Hotel & Residences, Viva Wyndham V Samaná as well as upscale private Villa Manglar. Other great options are Mahona Boutique Hotel, Residencia El Balata, and Takuma Boutik Hotel.

Best beaches around Las Terrenas

Playa Portillo

At the edge of town, Playa Portilla stretches along a 5-kilometre part of the coastline and the Bahia Principe Grand El Portillo as well as Villa Manglar (amongst others) can be found here. It’s a beautiful beach with a coral reef close to the shore and ample opportunity to snorkel and relax. 

Playa Punta Popy

If you love water sports, this is the beach for you! Playa Punta Popy offers a perfect wave and wind conditions for kitesurfers and several surf schools can be found between the palm trees here.

Playa Las Ballenas

Is the perfect beach for families as the sea is very calm and shallow. It’s also situated in the heart of Las Terrenas and several hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops can be found here. 

Playa Bonita

The name says it all – it’s an absolutely beautiful beach. A crescent-shaped white sandy beach with extremely calm water on the western end and great waves on the eastern end. Also, several boutique hotels, restaurants, bars, and villas can be found here. 

Daniel Bernal Playa Bonita Samaná Dominican Republic

Playa Cosón

Rated as one of the top tree beaches in Samaná, this golden beach is great for kitesurfing, surfing, and long beach walks.

Playa Cosón by Emely Marchena Samaná Dominican Republic

El Limón - more than just a waterfall

The El Limón area of the Samaná Peninsula is for nature lovers and adventurers. The most well-known feature is without a doubt the Salto El Limón waterfall which attracts countless tourists from all over the island. And while it is an impressive waterfall with pools of turquoise water, it is not necessarily a must-visit sight for us as the crowds are a bit much. However, if you do decide to go, go as early as possible and with a guide because it requires a 30 – 45 minute hike to get there. It is possible to book a horseback riding excursion to get to the waterfall but we do not recommend those.

Salto El Limón waterfall Samaná Dominican Republic
Salto El Limón waterfall Samaná Dominican Republic

Where to stay in El Limón

Nestor Pool El Limón Samaná Dominican Republic

El Limón is also well known for its great zip lining adventure as well as for the Dominican Tree House Village. For more budget options, great accommodations in the area are El Valle Lodge and La Colmena DR.

There are also two great beaches nearby: Playa Morón and Playa El Limón. Playa Morón is a very secluded beach that requires a (well worth it) trek that is rewarded by a long golden beach almost to yourself. Playa El Limón is also only reachable by hike but this hike along the El Limón river bed can be quite an adventure and a sight to see.  

Best things to do on the Samaná Peninsula

Whale watching

Probably the activity that the Samaná Peninsula is most famous for – whale watching. Every year between December and March, several thousand humpback whales migrate from the North (Canada, Iceland, Greenland, etc.) to Samaná Bay. During this time, Samana Bay is a sanctuary for the whales and after mating, they then give birth to their calves. Due to this fact, Samaná Bay is one of the best places in the world for whale watching!

Several tour companies are offering boat excursions and it’s an amazing experience for adults and kids alike. However, beware that the water can be rough at times, and people who tend to get sea sick should consider the weather conditions before taking the tour. 

Because of this spectacle, whale watching season is the busiest time of year on the Samaná Peninsula. Another option for whale watching with fewer crowds is to enjoy the migration from the coast or a boat near Las Galeras.

Whale watching Samaná Peninsula Dominican Republic
Whale watching Samaná Peninsula Dominican Republic

Horseback Riding

As an avid horseback rider since childhood, riding while traveling is one of my favorite activities. Of course, it is first and foremost, important to make sure that the horses are healthy, well taken care of, and the stables in good condition before going on an excursion. One place we can highly recommend for a horseback ride is La Hacienda Hostel near Las Galeras. It is run by Karin, an expat from Belgium, who has lived in the Dominican Republic for a very long time and takes exceptional care of all her animals. The excursions can take you to Playa Madama, or other beaches and places. La Hacienda Hostel is also great for long-term vacation rentals!

Horseback riding Samaná Peninsula Samaná Dominican Republic
Horseback riding Samaná Peninsula Dominican Republic
Horseback riding Samaná Peninsula Dominican Republic
Horseback riding Samaná Peninsula Samaná Dominican Republic

Cayo Levantado

A boat excursion to Cayo Levantado is very touristy but at the same time, the island is just absolutely stunning! Rumor has it that the island was the filming location for a Bacardi Rum commercial. We wouldn’t be surprised, it is that beautiful. One way to beat the crowds (at least in the morning and evening) is to stay at the five-star Cayo Levantado Resort. The resort does have a private beach and occupies around half the island. Visitor boats land on the other half during the day.

Cayo Levantado by Juan Rojas Samaná Dominican Republic
Cayo Levantado by Michelangelo Assariti Samaná Dominican Republic
Cayo Levantado Samaná Dominican Republic

Los Haitises National Park

An activity you can’t miss when visiting the Dominican Republic is an excursion to the Los Haitises national park. The park is actually not located on the Samaná Peninsula but across from it on the other side of Samaná Bay. Most excursions start at the port of Santa Barbara de Samaná and will then cross the bay to Los Haitises. The water can be choppy sometimes and it’s not the best activity for people who easily get seasick. The excursion to Los Haitises is often offered with a stop at Cayo Levantado for swimming/snorkeling. 

Once the park is reached you’ll cruise through lush mangroves and around the rocky islands that are the home of countless pelicans, frigatebirds, and other large birds.

Los Haitises national park Samaná Dominican Republic
Los Haitises Samaná Dominican Republic
Los Haitises national park Samaná Dominican Republic
Los Haitises national park Samaná Dominican Republic
Los Haitises Samaná Dominican Republic

Further inland, Los Haitises also has one of the few remaining tropical rain forests on the island. If the landscape reminds you of Jurassic Park, that might be because a bit of the movie was filmed here. Another treasure are the vast caves with large amounts of petroglyphs and pictographs which might even predate the Tainos (indigenous people of the Caribbean).

Los Haitises Samaná Dominican Republic
Los Haitises Samaná Dominican Republic

What to wear, packing & general tips for Samaná Peninsula, Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic has generally a very hot and humid climate, therefore, casual, lightweight clothes are most suitable. It’s also important to remember to protect your skin from sunburn, so cover up on the beach or when walking around outside. I once forgot to re-apply sunscreen/covering up after swimming and got a bad sunburn even though it was super cloudy – lesson learned.

What to wear

  • Sun hat
  • Sun glasses
  • Beach cover-up
  • Wet-suit shirt (for water activities)
  • Scarf (for air-conditioned spaces)
  • Sandals
  • Sneakers
  • Linen and other natural fiber textiles
  • Lose fitting clothes
  • Summer dresses
  • Something chic for a night out (Dominicans dress to impress)
  • Long-sleeve shirt
  • Flip flops for the beach
  • Cute swimsuit or bikini

What to avoid

  • Heavy fabrics including jeans
  • Synthetic fabrics, as you’ll sweat a lot
  • Wearing a lot of jewelry or expensive watches
  • When visiting churches or rural villages, try to cover up a bit to be respectful – the Dominican Republic is a catholic country.

Packing tips

  • Mosquito spray or wristbands
  • Hidden wallet for credit cards, cash, etc. 
  • Foldable rain poncho
  • Waterproof phone case
  • As the tap water is not for consumption, a good option to cut back on waste is a water bottle with a filter system
  • Tavel “pharmacy” / first-aid kit
  • Sand-free beach towel (to keep your suitcase clean)
  • Power bank
  • Camera and extra SD card (don’t forget the charger)
  • Sunscreen + after-sun lotion
  • Small backpack for hikes
  • Don’t forget your favorite book (or kindle)

General tips

  • Do not drink the tap water
  • Do not eat raw fruit that can’t be peeled or food that has been sitting out 
  • Always remember to wash and sanitize your hands
  • Check if your vaccines are all up to date, and talk to your doctor if other vaccines or medication is recommended

Hopefully, we were able to inspire you to add the Samaná Peninsula to your travel destination list! 

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