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Samana, Dominican Republic

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Samana Peninsula, Dominican Republic
Named after a word from an indigenous Dominican Indian Taino word, Samana is a town, province, and peninsula in the northeast of the Dominican Republic. The Samana Peninsula is one of the most beautiful but yet undeveloped locations in this lovely island nation.

Surrounded by white sand beaches and covered in coconut trees, the Samana Peninsula has long been very independent from the rest of the island mainly because of its inaccessibility. Among the residents of the area are the English-speaking descendants of slaves brought from the United States and countries in the West Indies (although, peculiarly, the dialect is dying there, with aging descendents failing to pass English to their young offspring).

Although it is off the beaten path, with few of the all-inclusive resorts of Cabarete, Punta Cana, and other Dominican tourist towns, the Samana Peninsula is still a much visited and traveler-friendly place. Many people come to this area in winter and spring to see the humpback whales mating ground, or to visit the Haitises National Park, just across the bay from the peninsula.

The peninsula is more open to visitors since the opening of Samana El Catey Airport and a highway connecting it to the capital of Santo Domingo. The main towns, where hotels and other facilities can be found, are Las Terrenas, Sánchez, Las Galeras and Santa Barbara de Samaná.

Santa Bárbara de Samaná, known simply as Samaná, is the largest of these towns. It was discovered by Columbus on his first trip to the New World. Highlights include the Malecon, from which boats and tours depart to view the humpback whales. Almost all the boats make a stop at the island of Cayo Levantado. Two other islands, Cayo Linares and Cayo Vigia, are connected to the mainland by dilapidated “Bridge to Nowhere,” a failed pet project of former strong man Dominican president Joaquin Balaguer.

The island sits in a bay opposite the town beach, Playa Escondido, a nice enough place, but one far overshadowed by the beautiful white sand beaches elsewhere on the peninsula. Our favorites are near the town of Las Galeras, accessible by gua gua or taxi from the market in Santa Barbara de Samana: try Playa Rincon, Playa Colorado and Playa Fronton.

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