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The Perfect Beach Escape

Catamaran

Looking for a perfect beach getaway that’s not too far from a city, but remote enough to be off the beaten path? Look no further: Las Terrenas is a cute fishing village-cum-beach town on the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic’s Samaná Peninsula. It has great gastronomy, beaches and nightlife, and it’s less than a three-hour drive from the capital city. The town is a haven for European expats, which you’ll discover when you hear myriad languages spoken around town—listen for German, Italian, French and more.

For the full vacation experience, do yourself a favor and stay at Sublime Samana Hotel & Residences. You could honestly spend your whole trip here and get all the relaxation you came for. Stay in suites or casitas, all with an outdoor terrace or balcony and many with Jacuzzis; lounge in the pool or on one of many canopied beds lining the property or melt away the better part of an afternoon at Coconut Whispers Spa with a Holistic Caribbean massage. Be sure to come hungry—the ceviche and the guacamole at the open-air restaurant on the beach are some of the best I’ve had.

During the day, soak up the sun on the hotel’s stretch of private beach or go exploring. Sublime Samana is right on Playa Cosón, one of Las Terrenas’ nicest beaches, making it possible to walk the whole stretch of beach practically starting from your hotel room door. Cosón promises crystal-clear water, palm trees galore, few people and waves for surfing. If you feel like venturing out, you can also try Playa Bonita, which is known for its beautiful views and few crowds, though it’s a bit narrower.

While a big part of the appeal of Las Terrenas is its small-town beach vibe, there are also fun and easy excursions nearby. A favorite is whale-watching in Samaná Bay, about an hour away, and there’s no better guide than naturalist Kim Beddall of Whale Samana. If spotting a humpback is at the top of your list, though, make sure to plan your trip accordingly—whale- watching is seasonal, running from January through March. On the day I went, we chanced upon a male humpback singing, and I’ve never heard anything quite as strange and beautiful—it was well worth braving the possibility of getting seasick. This trip includes an optional visit to Cayo Levantado Island for just $5 extra. The beach here will be more crowded than the beaches in Las Terrenas, but go for the party vibe—and because it’s fun to be on an island! If you make it there, be sure to snag a fresh coconut to quench your thirst—rum optional.

Another not-to-be-missed excursion is El Limón waterfall, about half an hour outside of town. Book a tour with Ramona and Basilio; they don’t have a website but they do have roadside signs, and most hotels in the area know them. Make your way through the mountains and lush terrain on a guided horseback ride to two exquisite waterfalls, the second of which is more than 120 feet tall with a natural pool at the bottom that’s perfect for swimming. The guides love to jump from high rocks into the pool; the show they put on is thrilling. Afterward, enjoy lunch cooked by Ramona and served in her and Basilio’s home.

Where to Drink

If you’re looking for a chill spot to grab a delicious cocktail before dinner or a place to go dancing later in the night, look no farther than El Mosquito Art Bar, a classic Las Terrenas staple, which has both. Sit in the alfresco seating area and take in the breeze while enjoying a passionfruit mojito. 

Where to Eat

For a nice dinner out, try Mi Corazón, a classy establishment run by Swiss restaurateurs Lilo and Daniel, where everything on the eclectic menu is homemade—from the bread rolls to the pasta to the ice cream—and the food is mostly locally sourced. As if that’s not enough, the space alone is worth going for: You dine in an open-air courtyard with a rustic fountain. 

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