LAS TERRENAS, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
The Beach Vacation. For most, the most coveted escape for families, couples and extended girl’s weekends is the beach. It can guarantee relaxation and provide rejuvenation for months to come. And, fortunately for us travelers, there are so many options in finding that idyllic beach experience boasting the bluest waters, the whitest sands and the most peaceful landscapes at which to spend our time and dollars.
After having spent a few days in the romantic city of Santo Domingo, Risa and I set out for the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic, specifically a renowned beach territory called Las Terrenas. It’s a resort town on the Samaná Peninsula and is quite popular with tourists and locals of the city of Santo Domingo. A highway was constructed (~8 years ago) which provides a smooth and direct route from the city to the beach, taking a mere 2 hours. Farming is predominantly seen along the roadside and includes sugarcane – the nation’s most important commercial crop, rice and cocoa. Small pop-up towns scatter the vast and lush scenery and make the trip quite interesting…and provide for some good questions and talk-time with a driver.
When the highway starts to head north, like, towards the clouds, and begins to climb and sweep left and right around steep mountain passes, you know you’re not in farmland anymore. The tropical forests are thick and hide miles of trails for horseback riding and hiking. There are hidden waterfalls and caves that can be accessed from the sides of the twisty highway as you approach the beach town. What a diverse terrain! The fields of farming are quickly left behind and the quintessential beach views are overwhelming. Turquoise waters are a stone’s throw away and beckon to the warm and weary traveler.
Sublime Samana is a boutique resort, including both a hotel and individual residences, that sits just east of lively Playa Coson and resides on a private stretch of white sand that extends out to Punta Bonita, a palm-fringed point/beach on Playa Bonita. If the tide is low, you can walk for MILES, enjoying the peaceful waters and rippling waves and warm, warm sun. On either side of the resort, nestled in the palms, are a mix of private residences and neighboring resorts. But, this is not a resort district. The quiet hum of music and warm winds permeate the air, despite a meager distribution of tourists amongst the varied accommodations. It makes for quite a nice “neighborhood” appeal.
The tranquil resort has a variety of accommodations making it easy for anyone to plan their escape here. The minimalist, modern style carries from the hotel single and double bedroom suites to the 2-3 bedroom, multi-floor casitas that form a runway from the landmark hotel to the beachside restaurant and sandy shore. Rooftop terraces and private jacuzzis are a few of the many amenities that can be thoroughly enjoyed while lounging the day away in Samana.
An ample fitness center and Bistro are located in the main hotel. Bistro has seating outside on a terrace beautifully amplified by the outdoor scenery and lit, dimly, at night for a romantic and, cooler, dining experience. The restaurant’s menu changes on a regular basis and is based on the availability of fresh and seasonal local ingredients. Inside, the white-washed walls and furniture are complemented by dark wood accents and bring a more English style to light. However, due to the fact that there is a large community of French and Italian expats in the area, perhaps the style is more European…but, certainly more formal than the island accents outside. Romantic and intimate, peaceful and alluring.
A short stroll through the runway of casitas brings you to the second restaurant onsite: Beachside Grill Palapa. This breathtaking location serves seafood delicacies from morning to early evening on the patio or by waiter, straight to the comfort of your own shaded lounger. The ceviche is amazing and the octopus, scrumptious. For guests looking to cool off and grab a drink without having to leave the comforts of the sand, the grill’s beachside bar offers “cocos fríos,” a local favorite, as well as frozen tropical concoctions perfect for a day in the sun.
And, after a long day in the sun, there is a spa that will cool your body, and relax those overused muscles. Coconut Whispers Spa is found, discreetly, just off the beaten path in a patch of palms that provide solitude and stillness. There is a couples cabin (try the Vichy shower!!) and a “Mangrove” cabin built from lianas and coconut hair woven by local artisans. The Temazcal, a third cabin or vapor house, expresses steam and herbal medicines that help purify the mind, body, and spirit.
If you have the energy and desire to escape Sublime Samana’s paradise, there are options for adventure on the Samaná peninsula: wild beaches, coconut plantations, and rainforests. The Dominican Republic has some of the calmest, virginous beaches in the Caribbean. Sail along the Cabo Samana cliffs for a day of snorkeling and relaxing on the sandy shores of Playa Fronton followed by an exploration through the secluded area of the coconut-rimmed Playa Madama. Hike or horseback to the 170 foot high El Limon Waterfall. Or, enjoy the whales frolicking performances in the middle of the vast, blue sea between the months of January and March.
The town of Las Terrenas has its own call, as well. The combination of boutique shops and fruit stands creates an incomparable, but unique and vibrant community. Recommended places to eat while in town include Boulangerie Française for breakfast and El Lugar for dinner. Another option for dining off-site, and our favorite lunch spot, can be found at The Beach Restaurant…a few steps off the beach and about a 30 minute walk (seaside) from Sublime Samana. It’s part of The Peninsula House residence…but, built completely separate from the main house. Nice little getaway from your getaway.
The Dominican beaches did not disappoint. The warm sun and comforting breezes took our minds well away from any daily stress. And, the people of the Dominican – and, namely, Las Terrenas – were a delight. They make the experience extra special with their warmth and acceptance. “Dominicans have a reputation for being among the friendliest people you’ll meet. They exude passion–in the way they speak a mile a minute, the way they dress, and dance, and in their embrace of their fellow human beings, be it neighbor or visitor.” – Our People
So, next time you’re in planning mode for ‘The Beach Vacation’, consider the DR. It’s calling!