You’ve certainly heard of Dominican Republic resort towns like Punta Cana… but what about Samaná?
A tiny peninsula on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, Samaná is rimmed with pristine beaches and packed with lush tropical beauty, offering everything travelers are looking for in Caribbean island vacation. Once just an afterthought as a travel destination in the Dominican Republic, Samaná is now finally starting to have its moment in the sun.
Ready to kick back on some of the most beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic, far from the crowds? We tapped local experts and drew on our own experience exploring Samaná to create the ultimate guide to planning a trip to Samaná in the Dominican Republic.
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The province of Samaná is located in the northeastern corner of the Dominican Republic, stretching like a finger into the Caribbean Sea, with the deep Samaná Bay on its southern coast. The provincial capital city of Samaná (or, Santa Bárbara de Samaná) is located on the southern coast of the peninsula. While the city doesn’t have much to offer, it’s a gateway to enjoying the rest of the region.
Small beach and resort towns like Las Terrenas and Las Galeras are popular destinations to enjoy the region’s hidden beaches, an impressive national park, and boutique luxury resorts that feel a world away from the frenzy of the country’s most famous destinations.
The province of Samaná in the Dominican Republic is known for its white sand beaches and lush, mountainous interior, home to some of the best things to do in the Dominican Republic. While there are a number of world-class resorts found along the peninsula’s beaches, it’s relatively untouched compared with other areas of the Dominican Republic.
The Samaná region also has everything from fantastic adventure sports like hiking and ziplining to eco-travel opportunities with eco-resorts and lodges set in the jungle and along deserted cove beaches.
Samaná vs. Punta Cana
In many ways, the province of Samaná and the area of Punta Cana are completely different. The gorgeous beachfront in Punta Cana is occupied by a seemingly unending row of oversized resorts. By contrast, much of the beachfront of Samaná is still undeveloped, with just a few small beach towns dotting the coast.
If you’re looking for a resort vacation in the Dominican Republic, don’t count out Samaná. The luxury private island Cayo Levantado Resort is located just a 10-minute boat ride from Samaná and sits on one of the country’s most pristine beaches.
Las Terrenas is also home to a number of more affordable resorts. Our top recommendation for a budget-friendly resort in the Dominican Republic, Bahia Principe Grand El Portillo, is located in Las Terrenas as well. Or, head to one of the province’s smaller beach towns, like laid-back Las Galeras on the peninsula’s tip, if you’re looking to disconnect.
Samaná Dominican Republic Map
Check out the Samaná Dominican Republic map we’ve made to accompany this article. It includes every recommendation you’ll find here and more. Download it for your trip or revisit it as you plan your stay in Samaná!
Places to Visit in Samaná Province
There are plenty of places to visit in Samaná, with everything from larger cities and towns to tiny, beachfront villages that encapsulate the laid-back hammock lifestyle many travelers to the Caribbean are dreaming of. These are some of the most popular destinations for travelers headed to the province of Samaná.
The capital of the province of Samaná may not look like much, but it’s a great jumping-off point for exploring the rest of the province. Nearby beaches and great excursion opportunities to Los Haitises National Park, and half-day whale-watching excursions on Samaná Bay are some of the main draws to the small city of Samaná.
Samaná is also the gateway to some of the larger resorts in the region. Bahia Principe Luxury Samaná is located just outside of the city, while the stunning Cayo Levantado Resort is perched on white sand Cayo Levantado island just off the coast.
Las Terrenas is a favorite destination in the Dominican Republic and by far the most popular destination for travelers visiting the Samaná peninsula. This resort town is increasingly popular and even has a budding community of expats and long-term travelers. It’s still quite laid back and tranquil, though it now has more to enjoy than just the beach.
For a laid-back, less crowded beach experience in Samaná, consider heading to Las Galeras, located on the northeastern part of the peninsula. This small beach town is the ultimate breath of fresh air for travelers looking to get as far away from built-up Punta Cana as possible.
While the town is small, it has a lot of great conveniences and plenty of cool places to stay, including eco lodges and eco resorts, along with small, local hotels and apartments for those who want to stick around for even longer, like the growing number of digital nomads in the Dominican Republic.
Where to Stay in Las Galeras: Chalet Tropical Biohotel ($$)
Things To Do in Samaná
1. Visit Cayo Levantado (Or Stay There!)
Just off the coast of the city of Samaná is Cayo Levantado, a pristine white sand island that is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the whole of the Dominican Republic. While much of the island is occupied by Cayo Levantado Resort – one of the most impressive resorts in the Dominican Republic – visitors who aren’t staying on the island can visit the island’s public beach for a memorable day trip.
Cayo Levantado is a popular day trip for travelers around the country – even those staying on the white sand beaches of Punta Cana make the trek to these beautiful shores! Cayo Levantado is easiest to access from Samaná, which is just a 15-minute boat ride from the island. These are the excursions to consider with reputable agencies in the area:
Of course, you can’t get the complete Cayo Levantado experience without staying at Cayo Levantado Resort. This recently refurbished resort is more impressive than ever, boasting stunning design, delicious cuisine, two sparkling pools, and a white sand beachfront that puts the island’s public beach to shame.
Cayo Levantado Resort is by far the best place to stay in Samaná, well worth traveling for!
2. Horseback Ride to El Limón Waterfall
Deep within the jungle heart of Samaná province is El Limón waterfall, a gorgeous natural attraction in the area that you won’t want to miss. Known in Spanish as Cascada El Limón or Salto del Limón, this towering waterfall is more than 130 feet (40 meters) tall and has an incredible swimming hole below it.
While the route to reach the falls is a little over 1.5 miles through the jungle, visitors can choose to hike or enjoy the journey by horseback. The falls can be visited independently if you have a rental car, though most travelers visit with a small group or private tour, which can be quite affordable. These are the tours we recommend:
- El Limón Waterfall Tour from Samaná
- El Limón + Cayo Levantado Excursion from Samaná
- El Limón + Cayo Levantado Excursion from Punta Cana
You’ll also find excursions that include visits to Cayo Levantado or other beaches in the Samaná region, so make sure to consider all your options before booking an excursion!
Book It Here: El Limón Waterfall Tour from Samaná
3. Hit the Beach
You don’t have to go far to find a pristine beachfront in Samaná. This province is home to some of the Dominican Republic’s best beaches. Even better? The beaches in Samaná are never as crowded as the resort beaches like Bávaro Beach in Punta Cana.
These are some of the beaches you’ll want to visit as you explore the region.
Playa Las Galeras
Las Galeras is a small fishing town at its heart, making the white sand beaches of Playa Las Galeras some of the most laidback and relaxing on the peninsula. A great spread of tiny beach hotels, restaurants, and bars make it a dreamy place to spend an afternoon, while great snorkeling and diving beckon visitors offshore.
Playa El Valle
Rough roads to reach this cove-like mean that the golden sands of Playa El Valle are usually sparsely populated, perfect for travelers looking for that hidden beach feel. Spend a night at the sustainable El Valle Lodge for the complete experience, or just enjoy the beachfront eateries for a long afternoon.
The stunning white sands of the main beach in Las Terrenas as just as beautiful as their name implies. While the beach can get relatively busy at times, especially during holidays and the high season of travel, it’s nothing like the crowds you’ll find elsewhere in the Dominican Republic. Every imaginable amenity along the shores makes it perfect for a long day at the beach.
Far enough west of Las Terrenas to avoid the crowds of Playa Bonita but close enough to make for an easy day trip, Playa Coson maintains that perfect hidden gem feel. This beach is surrounded by jungle and feels perfectly remote and peaceful; it’s a must-visit destination in Samaná.
Read More: 18 Best Beaches in the Dominican Republic
4. Visit Los Haitises National Park
The province of Samaná is home to one of the Dominican Republic’s most beautiful natural protected areas: Los Haitises National Park. With everything from ocean-carved caves to age-old Taino paintings and carvings and some of the most beautiful and undisturbed beaches in the Dominican Republic, it’s a must on any Dominican Republic itinerary.
Most of Los Haitises National Park is covered with lush, impenetrable jungle, so most visitors access the park via its coastline along Samaná Bay. It’s a popular day trip destination for travelers from everywhere from Santo Domingo to Punta Cana, though it’s most easily accessible from Samaná.
Here are the day trips we recommend to Los Haitises:
- Los Haitises Day Trip from Samaná
- Los Haitises Day Trip from Punta Cana
- Los Haitises Day Trip from Puerto Plata
- Los Haitises Day Trip from Santo Domingo
Most day trips to Los Haitises National Park from Samaná include a stop at the public beach on Cayo Levantado, making this an ideal way to see two of the region’s most impressive attractions at once!
5. Adventure Sports and Excursions
A growing visitor number in Las Terrenas and the entire Samaná peninsula in recent years means there is more to do here than ever, including some seriously spectacular adventure activities and excursions in the area.
In addition to hikes to El Limón waterfall, which is just under half an hour away from Las Terrenas, you’ll find everything from ziplining and ATV tours to guided excursions through the mountains. You’re really only limited by your imagination in this lush, beautiful area of the country.
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6. Go Ziplining
If other adventure sports options aren’t for you, head down the peninsula to Playa El Valle. This northern Samaná beach town is home to some of the best ziplining in the Dominican Republic, with an extensive ziplining course that makes for a popular day trip from Samaná or local activity for those staying nearby.
If you’d love to try ziplining in the Dominican Republic but don’t have time to make it to El Valle in Samaná, consider visiting the impressive ziplining course outside of Punta Cana. It’s a popular day trip and a great way to break up a vacation mostly spent at your beachfront resort.
Where To Stay in Samaná
Samaná might not have the endless all-inclusive resort options of Punta Cana or Puerto Plata, but there are plenty of incredible places to stay here. From private island resorts to ecolodges in the jungle and tiny, local oceanfront hotels along untouched beaches, Samaná has something for every style of travel.
Cayo Levantado Resort
The public beach on white sand Cayo Levantado might be a favorite day trip destination in Samaná, but the day trip experience pales in comparison to spending the night at Cayo Levantado Resort, one of the most impressive resorts in the Dominican Republic.
Cayo Levantado Resort boasts six restaurants, eight bars, two pools, and an incredible gym and spa. Its dedicated wellness space, Yubarta, is home to one of the most extensive wellness programs of any resort in the region, offering everything from yoga and meditation sessions to sound healing, breathwork, and consultations with nutritionists for a restorative experience leaving visitors refreshed top-to-toe.
There’s no better place to stay in Samaná than Cayo Levantado Resort, among the very best resorts in the Dominican Republic.
Bahia Principe Grand El Portillo
Our top recommendation among budget-friendly resorts in the Dominican Republic is found in Samaná: Bahia Principe Grand El Portillo. Located in laid-back Las Terrenas along the northern coast of the Samaná peninsula, it’s a beautiful and affordable resort with a gorgeous beachfront, great amenities, and even better snorkeling. It really doesn’t get much better than that.
The resort offers three swimming pools and a kids’ water park, seven restaurants, seven bars, a spa, and an entertainment space, meaning that you’ll barely have to leave the resort. However, with the impressive El Limón waterfall just a 20-minute drive away, you’ll certainly want to! The resort’s outdoor spaces are particularly beautiful, making the most of the gorgeous natural beauty of Las Terrenas.
Reviews and Bookings: Bahia Principe Grand El Portillo
El Valle Lodge
Even if the big resorts aren’t your style, Samaná has something for you. This area has an awesome selection of tiny, local hotels, including the beautiful El Valle Lodge, a sustainable hotel located just outside of El Valle, home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the region. Independent bungalows and cabanas offer seclusion, and all-natural materials enhance the enchanting jungle surroundings.
Despite its ecolodge feel, El Valle Lodge has every amenity for a comfortable stay. The resort is just 300 meters from the beach, making it the perfect destination for both a beach getaway and a jungle retreat all in one. It’s definitely one of Samaná’s hidden gems.
Reviews and Bookings: El Valle Lodge
Bahia Principe Luxury Samaná
One of the best places to stay near the city of Samaná, Bahia Principe Luxury Samaná is a beautiful waterfront resort on the province’s stunning coastline. Affordable and comfortable, this resort is smaller than some of its sisters in Punta Cana, though its delicious, local-inspired cuisine and great amenities offer just as big of a bang for your travel buck.
Just a short drive outside of Samaná, Bahia Principe Luxury Samaná is a great spot for travelers looking to explore the best of the region, including nearby Los Haitises National Park with its indigenous cave paintings and undeveloped beaches and Cayo Levantado. It’s the perfect combination of excellent location, affordable price point, and great amenities for a dreamy Dominican Republic getaway.
Reviews and Bookings: Bahia Principe Luxury Samaná
Getting to Samaná
Samaná International Airport
The easiest way to get to Samaná from abroad is via the international airport in Samaná, known as Samaná El Catey International Airport. This international airport currently receives just a few direct flights a week from the United States and Canada, though its flight schedule changes significantly between high and low travel seasons every year.
It’s tiny when compared to the much busier airports in Santo Domingo and Punta Cana. However, if you’re just traveling in Samaná, it’s an unbeatable option that will cut down on your travel time significantly.
Santo Domingo to Samaná
The drive from Santo Domingo to Samaná is quite a manageable one, with decent roads, and it’s frequently traveled. Driving between Santo Domingo and the city of Samaná takes around 2.5 hours, of from Santo Domingo to Las Terrenas takes just over two hours.
There are also numerous buses connecting Santo Domingo with the region daily, with 8+ buses connecting Santo Domingo and the city of Samaná every day, and just as many that head to Las Terrenas. Buses are greyhound-style and generally quite comfortable, with tickets costing between $6-9 one-way.
Punta Cana to Samaná
The drive from Punta Cana to Samaná is longer and takes about 4.5 hours, or even longer if you’re headed further down the Samaná Peninsula. The ride lasts about 6 hours if you travel by bus. There are plenty of services offering pre-booking for transportation from Punta Cana to Samaná, which is highly recommended.
An alternative option is to take the ferry from Punta Cana to Samaná. The ferry connects these two destinations with just a 50-minute boat ride. This ferry doesn’t permit vehicles aboard.
Samaná, Dominican Republic – FAQ
How Safe is Samaná in the Dominican Republic?
Samaná is quite a safe province in the Dominican Republic. Its laid-back nature and smaller tourism industry make it a welcoming and friendly travel destination that travelers tend to love.
Of course, petty crime exists in Samaná, as it does everywhere from your hometown to every corner of the world. However, with a few easy travel safety practices like not using clothing or jewelry that are too attention-grabbing and not flashing expensive technology, you should have no problems in Samaná.
How Long Is the Ferry From Punta Cana to Samaná?
The ferry from Punta Cana to Samaná takes about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the conditions of the ocean when you’re traveling. The ferry between Punta Cana and Samaná is perhaps the best way to travel and cuts down travel time between the two destinations quite significantly.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.