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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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!