More Fun On The Samana Peninsula

Heading to the beach, Las Galeras.

There are plenty of reasons to spend time exploring the Samana peninsula on the Northeast end of the DR. Beautiful beaches around every bend, whale watching and Los Haitises National Park being on the top of our list.

The tail end of a humpback whale in Samana Bay.

Whale Watching

Kim Beddall of Whale Samana is a marine mammal specialist who cares deeply for the 2,000 or more Atlantic humpback whales that arrive each year to Samana Bay. This is where the whales mate and give birth. She guarantees you’ll see whales if you go out on one of her tours, and we weren’t disappointed.

Dorsal fin of a humpback whale.

A highlight was seeing a mother with her tiny calf riding on her head while a male escort fended off a younger, more brash competitor male. Whale’s have unique markings on their tails (no two are the same, like fingerprints) which help scientists around the world keep track of their migrations.

Las Galeras

The white sand beach of Playa del Aserradero.

Las Galeras is a 45 minute drive from Santa Barbara de Samana. It’s a smaller, quieter town whose big draw is gorgeous uncrowded beaches. We stayed at a guesthouse within walking distance to Playa del Aserradero. Fine white sand and towering palm trees make this an especially gorgeous beach.

The west end of Playa Rincon.

A twenty minute drive from Las Galeras is Playa Rincon. There are restaurants on each far end and a freshwater stream to swim in on the west end. Besides that we found the long beach empty except for ourselves.

The east end of Playa Rincon.

After exploring many of Las Galeras’s beaches we returned to Santa Barbara de Samana in order to visit the National Park and visit a waterfall.

Los Haitises National Park

The Magnificent Frigatebird showing off for the ladies in Los Haitises National Park.

To visit Los Haitises National Park we booked a boat tour from Santa Barbara de Samana the day before. It left at 9:30 in the morning and returned at 4:30. We took a motorboat across the bay and visited several caves with petroglyphs drawn by the extinct Taino indigenous people in the 15th century. We toured around limestone islands where rare birds nest each year and moss and ferns hang into the water.

One of many bird nurseries in the park.

Our tour also took us among the extensive mangroves. Mangroves play an important role in the ecosystem here by providing fish nurseries and combating erosion due to hurricanes.

In among the mangroves.

Rio de los Cocos Waterfall

The easy to hike to but hard to find Rio de los Cocos waterfall.

A fifteen minute drive from Santa Barbara de Samana is non-touristed Cascada de Rio de los Cocos. This waterfall was a short hike through the jungle. There is no sign for the path on the road and we parked next to a house where the locals were playing outside. Unfortunately the water was brown due to recent heavy rains along with some trash washed down stream from the communities above.

The view of Samana Bay from our guesthouse was pretty sweet.

The actual large, sometimes loud town of Santa Barbara de Samana is somewhat lacking in charm but it’s a great jumping off point for lots of fun adventures!

Hiking to El Salto del Limon Waterfall, Dominican Republic

El Salto del Limon Falls

About a half hour drive from the town of Las Terrenas brings you to four different entrances to the waterfalls. At each entrance they’ll offer you horseback rides and guides. We found the best price for horses was $10 USD plus a tip for your guide. However we decided to use our own two feet and skip the ride.

The beginning of our hike had a few steep inclines.

We parked our rental scooter in a large grassy field and paid a local 100 pesos ($1.75 USD) to guard it. Then began an uphill trek that brought us through a tropical farm that passed by coffee trees, passion fruit vines and coconuts.

Colorful farm house on the hike to the falls.
A lush tropical farm on the hike.

It was an hour hike through some extremely muddy spots and a river crossing. I recommend river shoes. You’ll see tourists wearing rubber boots provided by their guides. It had also been raining for several days which added to the quagmire.

You can’t avoid getting muddy on this hike!
A smaller cascade on the way to El Limon.

After we passed the smaller falls with no other tourists we joined the main path where dozens of tourists on horseback and guides on foot are passing by. If you’re on foot you have to get out of the way. Up next is a ramshackle ‘bar’ selling rum drinks in fresh coconuts, a souveneir shop and the booth where you pay 50 pesos. Then its another 250 steps down the final stretch. There were LOTS of tourists there with their guides and a crazy horse ‘parking lot’ with horses tied up all over the jungle side by side.

The horse ‘parking lot’ before the steps.
Descending the 250 steps.

Once you reach the bottom you can swim in the cool refreshing water under a 170 ft waterfall, the highest in the Dominican. Local boys are climbing up and jumping off. There are caves behind the falls and an amazing back massage if you stand directly underneath.

If you are patient you can get a photo that makes it look like you’re all alone!
A more realistic view includes the tourists.

In summary, it’s worth the 1.5 mile (one way) muddy hike to this beautiful spot. Depending on your method of travel you can have parts of the trail all to yourself. Gracias to the DR for sharing this treasure!

Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic

Beautiful Playa Las Terrenas!

Getting There

Our trip to Ecuador was canceled because I had tested positive on a Covid PCR test and currently you have to wait a full month after a positive result in order to enter Ecuador. So after quarantining in Jamaica we decided to go to the Dominican Republic. We flew from Montego Bay Jamaica to Miami, turned around and flew into Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Taking a stroll down Las Ballenas Beach.

Santo Domingo is a short two hour flight from Miami. We spent the night in the city and then climbed aboard an air conditioned bus for the two and a half hour ride across the island to Las Terrenas. The bus didn’t have a sign on it and there wasn’t a typical bus station. No place to even buy tickets. Ian just asked a couple locals and they pointed at the bus parked in the street. We just hoped it was going in the right direction! After driving through the city streets and making a stop the bus attendant walked down the aisle asking for 500 pesos per person. We arrived at the bus ‘station’, a grass roofed uninhabited palapa shack, and were immediately inundated with moto taxis asking more than double the amount we expected. So we walked down the street and finally found two moto taxis to take us to the beach for 100 pesos each.

Yummy grilled seafood salad lunch!

We didn’t have a place booked yet and it started raining so we sat at a beach restaurant and used their wifi while we ate a late lunch. After a yummy lunch we walked to our first guest house.

Dominican Republic Pesos are so pretty!


The water is warm and an incredible blue color unless there has been a lot of rain. Playa Bonita is great for strolling, bar hopping, people watching and surfing if the surfs up. Playa Las Bellenas is long, mellow and tranquil, but there are beautiful bungalows and fancier homes to rent tucked in the trees and several beach restaurants.

Playa Bonita lives up to its name!
Renting a scooter is an affordable way to explore at $18 USD per day. Sunset at Coson Bay.

Playa Portillo offers a long dreamy quiet beach with our favorite restaurant for cocktails and Peruvian dishes named ‘Porto’.

Sunset from Porto restaurant.

Further out of town is Playa El Alcon with mangroves climbing into the water and manatees (if you’re lucky, we didn’t see any).

Mangroves in the clear waters of Playa El Alcon.


There are plenty of things to do besides beach hopping. There’s fishing, snorkeling, surfing and shopping and we recommend a great day trip either on foot or on horseback to see El Salto Limon Waterfall. You can read my earlier blog about our experience. Kite surfing is another popular activity here.

El Salto Limon Waterfall is an affordable excursion close to Las Terrenas.
Kite surfing off Playa Portillo.

Travel Tips

Pack light, the most common modes of transport are guaguas (small buses packed with locals) and motorcycle taxis unless you rent an ATV or scooter. A big suitcase would be more than awkward.

Try to speak Spanish even if it’s just a few words. The Dominican’s are super warm friendly people when you try.

RELAX! Things go slower here and sometimes unexpectedly. The power was out for over an entire day, and we don’t always have running water. Just look at the gorgeous water and remember you’re on an island in the Caribbean!

Playa Las Terrenas