The Península de Samaná is a small sliver of land – just 40km long and 15km wide – of rolling mountains, a sea of hillocks pushing their way to a long coastline of protected beaches and picturesque coves. A new international airport and a new highway to the capital, either ominous signs of development or economic lifelines to the rest of the country and the world, suggest that Samaná’s character, defined in part by its relative inaccessibility, is trending more to the mainland and the mainstream. However, for now it’s still a place where the stereotypical image of a vacation in the DR need not apply; where the European vibe is as strong as an espresso at a Las Terrenas café; where escape – both from the workaday, urban milieu of New York or Paris and from Santiago or Santo Domingo – is the operative word; where French and Italian are at least as useful as Spanish; and where it’s only a short motoconcho ride from a luxurious second home to an open-air disco pumping merengue.
Tens of thousands of tourists, following the migratory pattern of the North Atlantic humpback whale, bus and fly in to Samaná from mid-January to mid-March, seeing little else of the peninsula – though if there’s time for only one thing, this is definitely it. More urban and more Dominican than either Las Terrenas or Las Galeras, Samaná is also the transport hub for bus connections to Puerto Plata and Santo Domingo, and for the ferry across the bay to Sabana de la Mar and the southeast. Las Terrenas, the most developed in terms of tourism, is the place to base yourself if you crave a lively social scene, and Las Galeras, a sleepy one-road town, boasts several of the best beaches in the DR, their beauty enhanced by the effort it takes to get there.