Samana Beaches
Dominican Republic

Starting at Las Terrenas, which seems
to stretch on forever.

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Las Terrenas

What an incredible Las Terrenas is, this ribbon of café au lait sand lined with palm trees that stretches for more than 10 kilometers along the Atlantic coast.

Despite the strong breeze coming from the ocean, the water is relatively flat thanks to the barrier reef several hundred yards offshore.

It's the ideal situation for windsurfers, sunfish and small catamarans but only a few of them are on the water.`

Under the mid-day sun the light brown sand isn't as eye-squinting as white would be, so it's easier to appreciate the remarkable clarity of the water.

I notice several beds of eelgrass growing just offshore and a school of bonefish feeding near one of them. The bonefish are within easy wading distance, but my rod is in the garage back home.

Las Terrenas and the other superb Atlantic coast beaches on the Samana Peninsula are known to only a handful of Europeans willing to drive to one of the least accessible parts of the Dominican Republic.

Compared to Punta Cana and Casa de Campo in the Dominican southeast, Samana Peninsula hardly registers a blip as a tourist destination.

In the early 1990's the small fishing village had only a single hotel. The roads were so treacherous that tourists were advised to fly into the small airport at El Portillo rather than drive.

Today, there are many more hotels, including several all-inclusives with over a hundred rooms. Most, however, have fewer than two dozen rooms and these small properties offer one of the Caribbean 's best bargains. Spacious oceanfront rooms go for just between US$30 to US$60 a night, breakfast included.

Why so cheap? The first hoteliers were French, Germans and Italians who had to cater to budget travelers from their homelands. Those vacationers didn't expect to pay much, either, considering the lack of electricity and decent roads at Las Terrenas.

Electricity has arrived and the roads are greatly improved but the small hotels still attract mostly Europeans and Dominicans on a budget.

Playa Bonito

After lunch, I explore the pot-holed dirt road that leads from Las Terrenas to two other beaches: the mile-long Playa Bonita immediately west of Las Terrenas, and the more developed El Portillo, several miles farther east.

Although the road parallels the beach most of the way, I see amazingly few people. I stop several times and walk out onto the warm sands, thinking that perhaps the thick palms are obscuring my view.

Playa Bonita has a few dozen sunbathers but every time I stop to look on the way to El Portillo the sand is usually deserted for hundreds of yards in both directions. There just aren't that many people here. . . yet.

On to the beaches at Las Galeras

Exploring Samana City

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