If you’re planning a trip to the Dominican Republic and are looking for a location other than the crowded beaches and all-inclusive resorts of Punta Cana, consider the town of Las Terrenas: small town charm with plenty of day trips available to quench your thirst for adventure!
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Las Terrenas is a small town on the beautiful Samana peninsula in the Dominican Republic. Located on the far eastern part of the country, Samana peninsula draws many tourists to its breathtaking natural beauty.
The Samana peninsula is known as a nature lovers dream: Mountains of dense jungle, lush vegetation overlooking crashing waterfalls, leveling out to pristine white sandy beaches all around its rim.
On the northern part of the Samana peninsula is the town of Las Terrenas, home to an eclectic blend of tourists, European and North American expats, and Dominican locals. It is located in the middle of the northern coast, about equal distance to its many attractions.
The town itself lies along miles and miles of golden sand beaches, much of it with sidewalks for romantic beachside strolls.
From sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling to kitesurfing, sailing and surfing, there’s something in Las Terrenas for all water enthusiasts!
Choose Your Adventurous Day Trips
Yet just down the road from Las Terrenas, or across the sparkling turquoise waters… Samana peninsula beckons with its many other tourist attractions provided by nature. Amazing excursions you’ll only find in the Dominican Republic.
Let’s take a look at some of the many great day trips and excursions you can take from Las Terrenas.
I will also share a few tips on:
- accomodations in Las Terrenas,
- how to find and book that trip, and
- what to bring along on your day trip.
Let’s get started!
Where to Stay in Las Terrenas
(Note: This section may look familiar if you’ve read my post about the El Limon Waterfall in the DR; however, I added a few more accomodation options to this section.)
While the popular tourist destination of Punta Cana is known for its mass of lavish all-inclusive resorts, Las Terrenas has a smaller, more local vibe. While there are a couple of all-inclusives, most accommodations are smaller hotels, private villas or vacation homes.
There are hundreds of choices for places to stay in Las Terrenas, so decide on your budget and your non-negotiables as you set the filters on sites like hotels.com, airbnb.com, expedia.com or vrbo.com.
Consider what type of transportation you will use when deciding on a location. Many hotels and villas in Las Terrenas are within walking distance of stores, restaurants and local beaches. If you’re staying further out in more remote areas, you may want to rent a car.
Here are a few examples of accommodations in Las Terrenas, arranged from higher end, all-inclusive hotels, to more budget-friendly and even more rustic/frugal stays. Prices in USD.
All-Inclusive Resorts in Las Terrenas
- Viva Wyndham Samana All-Inclusive Resort – Adults only, meals included at resort’s 4 restaurants, fitness center, on the beach, spa services, water sports and equipment, classes and lessons, onsite entertainment. $254-$304/night incl. meals.
- Bahia Principe Grand El Portillo – All Inclusive – Family friendly resort includes free water park and babysitting (extra), onsite scuba diving, snorkeling and parasailing, spa, 6 restaurants, nightclub and more. Price range per night: $203-$476/night. Limited availability, fills up fast.
Budget Friendly Hotels & Apartments in Las Terrenas
- Beautiful Sea View Apartment – Vacation rental located 5 min. walk to center of Las Terrenas, 50 m from Playa Punta Popy. 2 BR, 1 BA, $100/night.
- Hotel Atlantis – Charming 18 rooms facing Playa Bonita, described in guides as “one of the most beautiful beaches in the world”. French cuisine restaurant. Rooms and suites, $120-$230/night.
- Puerto Plaza Las Terrenas – Landmark hotel in center of town, shaped like a cruise ship and feels like one too! 2 pools, swim-up bar, near the beach, room service, restaurant, ATM, designer shops, great services. $154-$313/night.
Bargain Price (but oh so nice!!) Hotels in Las Terrenas
- Hotel Castillo Romano – Amazing hotel, breathtaking views of ocean and mountains, close to Las Terrenas, Breakfast, Laundry, Pool. $33-$82/night
- Hotel Casa Pierretta – Breakfast included, near Playa Ballenas, pool, pet friendly.$54/night
- 1 BR Apt 70m from Playa Punta Popi – Large pool, near the beach, wash machine, plus a kitchen to save money cooking your own meals. $55/night
Where to Stay in the Towns of Samana or Las Galeras*
(*Some of the day trips mentioned in this post are closer to the town of Samana or Las Galeras. While not as lively as Las Terrenas, they are also lovely places to visit and have some great accommodations, too. )
Higher End Stays in Samana or Las Galeras
- Grand Bahia Principe Luxury Samana – best views of the bay from this all-inclusive hotel. Adults only, private beach, full-service spa, meals included at hotel’s 5 restaurants. $213-$235/night.
- Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado, on the island in Samana Bay – 5-star all-inclusive resort, favorite for honeymooners. (note: they are currently under renovations and did not have availability at the time, check back again for true luxurious awesomeness!)
- Dominican Tree House Village, Samana – Literally stay in a tree house-mosquito-free tiki huts in a gorgeous jungle setting! Includes meals, drinks, massage, zip line activities and more. Package prices per week, $1450-$3150.
- Grand Paradise Samana in Las Galeras – the only all-inclusive hotel in Las Galeras, near the paradisiacal beaches. Rooms and suites, $108-516/night.
- Samana, where “The Lost City” with Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum was filmed – 2 BR/2 BA apartment between Samana & Las Galeras, mid-range $119/night, includes personal tour guide.
Budget Friendly Stays in Samana or Las Galeras
- B&B La Isleta Apart Hotel – Las Galeras. Wonderfully charming, airy rooms overlooking gorgeous Las Galeras beach. Kitchens in some rooms, $85 cash or PayPal only.
- Perfect Paradise🐚🌴, Oceanview Samana – Entire apartment overlooking Samana Bay, watch whales in season, private beach, infinity pools, washer/dryer, restaurant and more, $79/night.
Day Trips from Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic
- Playa Rincon
- Cascada El Limon (El Limon Waterfall)
- Los Haitises National Park
- Cayo Levantado
- Whale watching in Samana Bay
- Scuba diving and snorkeling offshore
Day Trip #1. Playa Rincon (Rincon Beach)
The little fishing village of Las Galeras, on the Samana Peninsula, is a great choice for a day trip from Las Terrenas. It takes about an hour and a half to reach by car, and it feels like an entirely different world once you get there.
Las Galeras is a small town with not much going on besides the tourists coming to visit the beaches.
The main attraction in town is Playa Rincon, one of the most beautiful beaches in all of the Dominican Republic. This sparkling white strip of beach is located just 10 minutes by boat from Las Galeras Village. While the local boat captains will not likely speak English, just mention the name of the beach and negotiate a price before setting out.
Enjoy this long, long strip (3 km!) of white sand beach, picture postcard perfect with its backdrop of thick palm forest. The multihued water is good for swimming.
Hungry? A few restaurants serve seafood dishes and rent beach chairs. Before leaving, you can refresh yourself with a cool dip in a small freshwater stream at the far western end.
While Playa Rincon is heralded as the main attraction of Las Galeras, two other beaches there, Playa Fronton’ and Playa Madama are also not to be missed. Playa Fronton’, the former site of the Survivor series, heralds breathtaking beauty, though the beach is not easily accessible. There are boat tours from Las Terrenas that will take you to all 3 of these lovely beaches, often with drinks and a lobster lunch included!*
(*Note: Occasionally there may be a short-term ban on lobsters and crabs sourced in the Dominican Republic. Lobsters are key to ecosystem balance; thus another type of seafood will be served until the lobster and crab supply can be replenished.)
If your schedule permits it, try to stay overnight in Las Galeras. There are some really cool boutique hotels and restaurants along the beach that are worth checking out. You’ll want to bring your camera; this place is seriously stunning.
How to Book aTrip to Playa Rincon:
- Book ahead on Expedia, if staying in Las Terrenas,
- or Orbitz, if staying in Las Galeras or the town of Samana.
- Book with a local tour company, such as Emmanuel Tours in Las Terrenas. Reserve online, then pay in cash upon arrival.
- Ride to Las Galeras via taxi, car, or gua gua and negotiate an excursion price with a boat captain. (requires knowing some Spanish)
What to Bring:
- camera (consider an underwater camera or a waterproof case for your smartphone)
- swim suit
- beach towel
- water (purified water only; Do Not drink tap water in the DR!!)
- snorkel gear (if going there independently, not on an organized tour. Tour companies will provide use of equipment. While I’m rather picky about my snorkel gear, I really LOVE that this one has a camera mount, perfect for one of these underwater cameras! Gotta snap those fishies while in the gorgeous Caribbean waters!!)
Day Trip #2. Cascada El Limon (El Limon Waterfall)
This excursion is best arranged with a trusted tour company, in my opinion. My sister and I used Emmanuel Tours, a company from Las Terrenas that provides a variety of exciting trips throughout the Samana peninsula. The price for this waterfall tour was reasonable, ($40) and we were given a receipt upon payment the day before the trip.
The tour begins at a small station, typically an area with a restaurant, gift shop, restrooms, and horse stables, as most tourists opt for the horseback riding tour to the falls. It’s possible to find your own ride to these stations near the town of El Limon, but we found it easier and probably more cost efficient to choose a tour that included transportation. Our tour included an air conditioned van that picked us up from our hotel and brought us back again later in the day.
The almost 2-mile trail to the El Limon waterfalls is muddy and steep, so wear sport sandals or other appropriate footwear. You may even be walking through streams of water during rainy season.
Along the way, your guide will point out the many natural attractions such as fruit trees and farm plantations of pineapple, bananas, mangos, coconut, cacao trees and more.
When you reach the cascading 130-foot waterfalls, you can change into your swimsuit in the facilities there and go for a swim in the natural, emerald green pool, if you wish. Or just relax and enjoy the majestic beauty of these thundering falls.
Some brave Dominican locals may be seen climbing the falls and performing daredevilish dives into the water far below. Do Not Attempt! Only a few locals know the whereabouts of deadly rocks that lurk beneath the ever-changing water depths. Even climbing the slippery moss covered rocks in the midst of the cascade is extremely dangerous.
After hiking or riding out of the waterfalls, you will be greeted back at the station with a lovely, typical Dominican meal, served buffet style. Rice and beans, fruit salad, all the typical fixin’s, plus a steaming cup of cafe con leche (coffee with steamed milk) to finish off the perfect day.
For more about this exciting adventure, see my post, El Limon Waterfall, Dominican Republic: What to Know Before you Go.
How to Book a Trip to El Limon:
- Book with Emmanuel Tours, Las Terrenas. At this time, their website is not set up to receive payments. You will need to pay cash at their local office. I am not affiliated with them in any way, but I highly recommend them as their prices are very reasonable and their services were excellent. Prompt and comfortable transportation, courteous staff, great experiences. Contact them via their website here. They can tell you where to find their offices in Las Terrenas to confirm your reservation.
- Book with Orbitz.com.
What to Bring:
- Drinking water
- Bug repellent. Optional, we were fine without it.
- Rain gear. Optional, though recommended if it’s rainy season.
- Sturdy walking shoes or sport sandals
- Water shoes. Optional, to keep feet safe from rocks if swimming in the falls. Sport sandals may suffice.
- Small snacks. Optional. You will enjoy a hearty lunch at the end, but it’s a good 2 hour hike, so plan accordingly. I’m a snacker. 😀
- Towel, if planning to swim.
- Swim suit. There are changing rooms near the waterfalls.
- Camera. You won’t want to miss out on taking selfies below those spectacular waterfalls!
Day Trip #3. Los Haitises National Park
A second highly recommended day trip is to Los Haitises National Park, located on the southern side of Samana Bay. It’s a protected natural area, designated by as a UNESCO world heritage site. It is also well known for being the filming site of some scenes in Jurassic Park.
Los Haitises Park must be reached by boat, as its surrounding mangroves and wetlands prevent roads leading to it from the southern side. Boat excursions commonly leave from the town of Samana, crossing the 9-mile stretch across Samana Bay.
During the 45 minute boat ride, you will pass small “islets”, or keys. One of these towering rock mounds is called Bird Island, where hundreds of birds are nesting or flocking overhead.
As you approach this dense tropical forest, you will slide into the mangrove tunnels, which hide many caves containing pictographs and petroglyphs from the Tainos of long ago.
Boat excursions will often include cruising by the cays, bird colonies, and stopping at beaches that allow access to the caves. The caves are easy to visit on foot and include handrails and good lighting.
There is an amazing abundance of birds, including many rare and endangered species. The diverse environment of rain forest and coastal wetlands is home to 230 species of birds and 700 species of plants.
Just offshore are coral reefs which support a variety of fish, crustaceans, and even marine mammals, such as manatees and dolphins.
Some boat excursions will include stopping off at Cayo Levantado in Samana Bay, which we will cover in the next section.
How to Book a Trip to Los Haitises Park:
- Book at Viator.com. Viator has a good variety of trips available that include Los Haitises Park. Some include a stop at the island Cayo Levantado, while others include kayaking, rain forest hikes, swimming and boat tours. Check them out here!
- Book at Orbitz.com. Again, lots of great choices of trips. Choose the one that’s just right for you.
- Book at Expedia.com.
*Note: Read trip descriptions carefully. Some include transportation from your hotel, either in Las Terrenas or sometimes Punta Cana. Others require you to find your own ride to the trip’s starting place.
What to Bring:
- insect repellant
- water bottle
- sturdy shoes, sport sandals or hiking boots if longer hike included.
- camera (get this waterproof smartphone case if riding in boats)
Day Trip #4. Cayo Levantado
Another “can’t miss” excursion from Samana is to Cayo Levantado, a small island about 4 miles out in Samana Bay. This island is also called “Bacardi Island”, because of a rum commercial made there in the 80’s.
Cayo Levantado is everything a tropical island paradise is imagined to be: crystal clear waters, pure white sand beaches, great snorkeling, and extraordinary seafood, too!
While part of the 3 square kilometer island belongs to a private, 5-star hotel, public visitors are welcome to enjoy the gorgeous Bacardi Beach and the tempting seafood restaurants and bars lining the shore.
Most tours will include road transportation from your hotel. When I took this tour, I was staying at a hotel in Sosua, which was a four hour drive, one way. Just to show you the popularity of this island tour! In fact, the island’s popularity has also drawn cruise ships to the area and can become anything but relaxing in the busier seasons. For a slower, more relaxing experience, try visiting at mid-to late afternoon.
How to Book a Trip to Cayo Levantado:
What to Bring:
- Swim suit
- Water bottle
- Camera (hint: grab this underwater camera to catch those views under the sea, if snorkeling! This waterproof smartphone case is a good idea, too.)
Day Trip #5. Whale Watching in Samana Bay
If you’ve ever put whale watching on your lifetime adventures’ bucket list, you’ve got to come to Samana Bay! (And if it wasn’t on your bucket list, you’ll still be grateful for this once in a lifetime trip!)
Samana Bay is known to be one of the top 10 whale-watching destinations in the world. And for good reason.
Every year between January and March, humpback whales migrate from northern waters to breed and birth their little ones in the warm tropical waters of Samana Bay. Some whales even stay in the area year-round, but the best chance to see them is around February.
There are about 40 vessels with legal permits for whale-watching in Samana, so it’s not hard to find a ride. Tour companies must follow strict rules in keeping with the safety of both the passengers and the animals.
The most highly recommended whale watching company is Whale Samana, owned and operated by Canadian marine mammal specialist, Kim Beddall. She first recognized the scientific and economic value of the whales in Samana Bay, back in 1985.
Whale Samana has daily tours beginning in January, and lasting through mid-March. They use a large double deck boat for safety and easier spotting of whales. The boat has a sound system with underwater hydrophone, so you can hear the songs of the whales! $59 per person includes sodas, water and snacks, and a booklet about whales. Bathrooms with running water on board; strict adherence to all safety regulations and Covid restrictions, where applicable. Learn more about Kim Beddall and Whale Samana here.
How to Book a Whale Watching Trip to Samana:
What to Bring:
- Comfortable clothing: The air feels cooler out on the water; a light sweatshirt might come in handy. Rain gear is provided (sanitized between uses), or you can bring your own.
- Flat bottomed shoes, rubber soled sneakers are best for stability on the boat.
- Binoculars (optional, but these travel size binoculars on Amazon are a deal, they’re even waterproof!)
- Motion sickness pills or patches if needed, though they are usually available onboard, as are water and snacks.
- Camera or smartphone with waterproof case (just to be safe from splashes)
Day Trip #6. Scuba Diving and Snorkeling from Las Terrenas:
If you’re crazy about underwater adventuring like I am, you’ll love the snorkeling and scuba diving near Las Terrenas!
There are a few dive shops in town to take you out diving from a boat; however the one most recommended to me by locals was The Dive Academy, located on the second floor of the Beach Garden Plaza. (or visit their website here). I love that this dive center caters to divers and snorkelers of all abilities, offering experiences the whole family can enjoy together.
From shallow reef dives suitable for snorkelers and beginner divers, to deeper and more advanced dives on wrecks, walls, caverns and pinnacles, The Dive Academy is well equipped to safely take you to the best diving spots on the Samana peninsula.
If you’re serious about scuba diving, or just want to try it out, The Dive Academy Las Terrenas offers 8 courses on various levels: from the very basics needed for an easy shallow dive, to obtaining your open water certification, to advanced skills and becoming a scuba instructor.
How to Book a Diving or Snorkeling Trip from Las Terrenas:
- Visit The Dive Academy Las Terrenas website and book a trip online.
- Book with Expedia.com. Trips include boat tour to island with snorkeling, and island trip with both kayaking and snorkeling.
- Book with Orbitz.com. Trips include a 3-Hour Try Scuba in Shallow Water and Boat Trip to Bacardi Island with Lunch and Snorkeling.
What to Bring:
Trips featuring diving or snorkeling will provide the necessary equipment. Full day tours will usually include a lunch, water and snacks. You will only need to bring the basics for a day in the sun and surf:
- swim suit
- beach towel
- sunscreen (reef-safe, please! Let’s protect that beautiful coral!)
- extra water bottle
- motion sickness pills (if needed, for longer boat rides)
- waterproof camera for underwater photos (optional, but a great way to preserve those memories of the wonderful undersea world!)
- OR…underwater phone case– There are lots of underwater phone cases/ phone pouch/ dry bags to choose from on Amazon, designed to keep your phone safe and dry, down to a certain depth underwater. Even if you’re not ready to risk taking it down below, they’re inexpensive and well worth it to keep your phone safe on the boat or in your hands while swimming. Check them out here.
- swim fins or underwater swim booties *These are totally optional. While scuba trips will probably include fins, snorkel trips are likely to only provide the mask and snorkel. If you like to surface dive and want to maximize your underwater breath time, fins are great to get you around fast among the fishies. You’ll at least want a pair of the swim booties to protect your feet from rocks, sea urchins, sharp coral or shells, depending on the underwater terrain. (Click on the blue links to see my recommended products on Amazon.)
And now just for fun… a quick slideshow of my own snorkeling and scuba photos. (Excuse the poor image quality, most of these were taken by a disposable underwater camera back in the day, lol! I didn’t have a Go-Pro or digital underwater camera on my latest trip.)
I hope this has given you some day trip ideas for your next trip to the Dominican Republic. Las Terrenas and the whole Samana peninsula is truly a treasure in all its natural beauty. For a more detailed look at the El Limon Waterfalls day trip, visit my blog post, El Limon Waterfall, Dominican Republic: What to Know Before You Go. Read it here.
Thinking about that trip to the Dominican Republic?
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