Ahhh! Punta cana!! This is usually what you think of when you think Dominican Republic…yet, there is so MUCH more!!! I love the plush big resorts..don’t get me wrong, but there is something magical about being alone on a huge beach, and this is what I discovered in the DR. I spent my week ends at the beach there so this is where my expertise lie…in the sand!
I will give you a super subjective list of MY beaches (but they really are the best, if you want to sense you have shipwrecked on a deserted beach ) as well as where to stay and where to eat when you are there, and I’ll do another post with a summary of what to see in Santo Domingo, since I wouldn’t want you to think I just spent my time on the beach…
My favorite place in the DR is Samana, by far. Not only the beaches are all bordered by palm trees (do not take a nap under one of them, please), but there are no seaweeds. I personally hate seaweeds which explains why I am not too thrilled with Punta Cana beaches that have been constantly fighting them for the last few years.
1- My dream, Tahiti-like beach (coconut trees on the beach), Playa Coson in Samana. (For those who are too lazy to get the map out, Samana is the peninsula on the right of the island, it takes 2 hours to get there from Santo Domingo through the most amazing national park los Haitises, completely worth the drive). You can stay at the Hotel Sublime (fancier and more people) or my favorite “ Coson Bay” hotel (nice large apartments with a great restaurant, very few people, ask for Mr Roberto, the manager, and he will be very helpful!...they are building a new aisle, so make sure the project is completed before going there. You can go there for a day as long as you eat at the hotel restaurant). Next to Coson Bay, you can rent houses that are close to the beach (really close) and that can accommodate a large group, in the community las Nomadas. I especially like villa Tres Casas, with pool, and excellent price (call Milta 829-806-9175)…and you are 5mn from the restaurant of Coson Bay, so no cooking to do (or ask for a cook when you book).
2- If you are looking for more waves because you love to surf or board, I love to go to my secret beach…it is inside a “ military installation” (you see a military guard behind a gate on your left just after passing the expensive toll on the way from Santo Domingo to Las Terrenas, you smile and ask if you can go see the beach, he will ask for your driver license and here you are in a COMPLETE isolated beach (the sea may have thrown some stuff back on the beach, but it is simply gorgeous, full of shells on the beach that is at least 10 miles long). The water is warm, perfectly clean, and it usually has nice waves (not washer -machine like, just pleasant to jump around and board).
3- Another isolated beach that is gorgeous (actually among the 10 best in the world) is Playa Rincon, you need to have a very solid vehicle to get there (really really bad road..which explains why so few people go there) or you take a small boat from the port of Las Galeras, it usually drops you at a small beach where the tiny restaurant is ..you will have ordered lobsters earlier obviously..for 15 dollars a lobster!). You can stay there (snorkel on the right) or you can ask to go along the beach and when you see a spot you like, ask the captain to stop and swim there. Some nice waves occasionally…! Those small boats can also take you to visit Playa Fronton (great snorkeling but bring your water shoes), playa Madama, etc.. make sure you get a good deal. My recommendation for the boat, call Leo: 8496340287 (Explora Samana): it is about 60 dollars per person the day (includes visit of playa fronton, playa madama, playa Rincon, eating lobster in playa Rincon and returning). He is an excellent captain (careful about handling the big waves).There are cheaper alternatives but usually once you get there, difficult to organize beforehand , less reliable. I do not recommend taking the “safari tour”, you are in a bus and you just look at the beach..how frustrating! Even the ATV tour is frustrating since you cannot stay at the beach a long time.
In Las Galeras, departure for rudy’s rancho (horsebackdriving..i think about 45$ for 3 hours…3 hours is mighty long on a horse, thank goodness for the stop at la playita)
4- There are plenty of wonderful beaches in Samana, near las Terrenas…busier (10 persons…) ..playa Bonita, Playa Punta Poppy… one that looks just like a pool is playa Portillo. (nice resort there Bahia Principe). I would avoid Playa Moron..full of mosquitoes. Close to Playa Valle is a very exotic hotel (Dominican Treehouse Village) …a little too exotic when I slept there with no window, but others rave about it). You can do some serious and safe ziplining (German -owned zipline…you can walk from the hotel…almost killed me, or just take the bus that takes you there). Playa Las Galeras is beautiful but full of rocks so I avoid it, but la Playita is just really lovely…a small low-key beach with fabulous green and turquoise colors. If you are in Las Terrenas, you will find a lot of French restaurants since many retired French moved there (Mi Corazon, excellent, Chez Sandro, El Lugar), or Italian (Las Tre Caravelle), Casa Azul for a pizza right in front of the sea. For just a snack go to the French bakery Panam near the hotel that looks like a boat. If you really want to treat yourself ($40), call Mariana for an unbelievable massage (809-914-0793)!
5- Cayo levantado is of course very famous…and therefore busy (boats take you there from the town of Samana). From the city of Samana, you can take the boats to see the whales…an amazing experience from end of January to March. I do recommend Kim Beddal expeditions, more expensive but more interesting.
6- If you have a very powerful vehicle, you can try to go to Monte Azul (a French restaurant on top of a very, very ..did I say ..very steep hill), and you get to eat very well in a magnificent place overlooking Samana Bay.
7- In every hotel , you will be encouraged to go do a horse backing tour of Limon Waterfall…if you are there for a long time, take the time. However, if you have just a few days, I would suggest to tour the beaches rather than doing that tour…
Let me do another post on the other beaches in Dominican republic…I really did spend a lot of time playing…!