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Domionican Republic Primer II




NORTHEAST COAST OVERVIEW                                

For those vacationers who dream of a one-on-one with Mother Nature, a visit to the Samana peninsula on the Dominican Republic’s (DR) northeast coast is like pulling up a chair on her front porch.


Samana’s beauty lies in her simplicity.  Here, unspoiled beaches serve as a threshold to vibrant coral reefs and mountain waterfalls intersect lush tropical forests. But while Samana is a top destination for eco-tourists and naturalists, some come to this “off the beaten path” peninsula to interact with humpback whales alone. After all, Samana is home to one of the largest and best breeding grounds in the world for this elusive mammal.


But while Samana’s beauty is the stuff of legends, its history is fodder fit for a fairytale. Columbus stopped here on his discovery of the New World (see “Playa las Flechas” in the Beaches backgrounder) but the area didn’t become populated until late in 1756 when people began migrating from the Canary Islands.  Soon Samana became a lair for pirates who pillaged passing ships. What followed was a short ownership by Napolean Bonaparte and later, settlement by freed American slaves.


All this history and meshing of cultures has made Samana one of the most impressive melting pots in the DR. “Americanos,” descendents of the African-American inhabitants, mix with Europeans from France, Spain and Italy. Not only do people here look different from their Dominican brethren, but the food and even the language has a twist all its own. 


Top Attractions


Whale Watching

From January through March, Samana showcases its status as (according to the World Wildlife Fund) one of the best humpback breeding grounds in the world. In fact, as many as 5,000 whales make their way to this area each year.


Full and half-day whale watching excursions are available through several companies with most departing from Samana (the town). Visitors board a 50-foot vessel equipped with bathrooms, snack bars and hydrophones for listening to the sounds of male humpbacks. Costs average $50 for adults. (See Tour Operator backgrounder.)


Salto de Limon

Considered the most spectacular of Samana’s many waterfalls, Salto de Limon offers a 150 foot cascade of water to a large swimming hole. While the waterfall is accessible by foot, the best way to get there is by horseback. Local tour operators can coordinate travel to Salto de Limon from the town of El Limon. In fact, many include a traditional Dominican lunch in the cost. (Tours can be arranged by hotels. But, for those wanting a more local experience, paradas (roadside tour operators) operate in El Limon.


Cayo Levantado

Accessible by ferry, Cayo Levantado is located just off the coast of Samana (town). Featured in Bacardi Rum ads from the 1970’s, this coconut palm-lined island paradise has become one of the area’s top tourist destinations. Ferries from Samana cost approximately $20 each way.


Insider’s Tip:  While Cayo Levantado does attract a crowd, a short walk to the opposite side of the island provides a bit of a respite. 


Parque Nacional Los Haitises

Located just south of Samana peninsula, this national park is essentially 83 square miles of mangrove swamp. Within it, however, are more than 100 species of birds and mammals and caves bearing pre-Columbian Taino art.

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