Thinking of visiting the Dominican Republic? Reader and Traveler Yvonne Jimenez recounts her Dominican adventure below:
If you seek a bit more adventure, independence and character during your stay in the Dominican Republic you’ll want to skip the DR’s most famous vacation destiny Punta Cana and head straight for the less-commercialized and less expensive Samana Peninsula.
Despite its reputation as being the DR’s most remote area, the Samana Peninsula is quite easy to reach by road due to the relatively recent construction of a highway that cuts directly across the island connecting the peninsula and its cities and beaches to the Dominican Republic’s capital Santo Domingo. Most international flights are going to take you into Santo Domingo or Punta Cana; the more convenient of the two for reaching the peninsula would be Santo Domingo (3.5 hour drive v. 6 hour drive from Punta Cana). If you would like to avoid renting a car and driving you can opt to catch a ride on one of Aerodonca’s (Dominican Republic’s small regional airline) small airplanes that traverse the island in about 40 minutes. Schedules seem to vary and you must call to schedule a flight and pay at the airport before departing.
**Fearful fliers be weary…you are very likely to end up on a tiny three passenger prop plane; fortunately the pilots and staff are friendly and reassuring, hopefully easing your nerves a bit. There is very little in the way of public transportation connecting the Peninsula and Santo Domingo or Punta Cana aside from taking local ‘Guaguas’ that can require half a dozen transfers and add hours to your trip.
We flew into Las Terrenas from Punta Cana and arranged pickup with our hotel owner. This is advisable as the single airstrip ‘airport’ does not appear to be serviced by any ground transportation. Once in Las Terrenas you will find dozens of lovely beach front hotels, villas and apartments, the small streets heading away from the beach also contain a good number of lodging options. We researched a lovely villa/casita style hotel offering free daily breakfast for the bargain price of $110 a night for two.
The city of Las Terrenas boasts a very large European (mostly French and Italian) expatriate and tourist community. Many have set up restaurants, bars, and hotels providing the town with a unique Euro-Dominican character. While the beaches may not be quite as picturesque and sea foam clear as those in Punta Cana, the beach-side bars, diverse dining options and mixture of residents provide a charming and unique atmosphere that Punta Cana’s formulaic resorts simply cannot. In addition to this, the peninsula and its towns are able to provide a level of independence and adventure not available at the all-inclusive resorts of Punta Cana.
You are not limited to dining options only available at your resort and are able to go on excursions when are where you want at a fraction of the price you’d pay at a resort. Since the roads are still quite rudimentary en Samana the best and most popular way to get around is on motor-bike or ATV (four-wheelers). These are easily rented in town or through your hotel for reasonable rates and provide you with a practical and fun way to get around town and even to neighboring towns for day excursions.
One such excursion that is well worth the approximate half hour trip on ATV, is to Limon-a small town lying about 20 km east of Las Terrenas. Here you can enjoy a large authentic Dominican meal at a great price and then embark on a half-day trip on horseback to the beautiful waterfalls hidden deep within the mountains and forests of Limon. Our hotel owner arranged our excursion through a Spaniard who owns a restaurant in Limon and arranges tours to the waterfall with native guides who are eager and pleased to take you to the falls for a tip of your choosing at the end of the trek.
The vistas are breathtaking and vendors along the way will sell you anything from coffee and cacao to jewelry made from the Dominican Republic’s wonderful blue gem-larimar. Their rates are reasonable and they are always willing to haggle!
All in all we found our time spent on the Samana Peninsula to be more enjoyable and appealing than that spent at Punta Cana. The people are warm and welcoming, the beaches and scenery gorgeous, and the food delicious and diverse. Most importantly the peninsula and its towns provide visitors with a much more authentic experience in the Dominican Republic than any all-inclusive resort ever could.
Article image courtesy of: Jay Look