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The formerly sleepy fishing village of Las Terrenas is located on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic in the province of Samaná, the island’s most rustic — and arguably prettiest — province. Decades of international tourism, combined with a local population that includes French immigrants and European expats as well as generations of African Americans from the United States, give this town a global vibe. Quaint fishing shacks, painted in an appealing rainbow of colors, have been repurposed as boutiques, bars, and bistros serving international cuisine. At night the beach pulses with music.
But Las Terrenas also retains ties to its fishing roots. You can still eat freshly caught fish here, served beachside. And those beaches are a sight to behold: white sand, calm waters, and skinny palm trees. Venture outside the town and you’ll find a plethora of natural wonders, including moss-covered waterfalls and lush forests threaded with hiking trails. Las Terrenas is one of those rare places where you can leave the city without leaving behind its urbane comforts.
Fly into Samaná El Catey International Airport (AZS), located about 30 minutes’ drive from Las Terrenas. Once on the ground you can grab a taxi to get you the rest of the way to Las Terrenas, or pick up a car rental. If you plan on spending most of your time in Las Terrenas, a car isn’t required. You can walk most places or take a taxi or motoconcho (motorbike taxi). However, if you plan on taking day trips around Samaná, a car may come in handy.
Thanks to their tropical setting, Las Terrenas and Samaná enjoy pleasant weather year round. Visitors from chillier climes arrive in winter, making it the high season here, and crowds amass in February to celebrate Carnival throughout the month. May and June may bring afternoon showers, while hurricane season, which runs from June to December, can usher in large storms.
Just getting to this gorgeous waterfall is an exercise in choosing your own adventure: you can ride a horse, kayak down a river, or set off on a short hike through the jungle. You’ll be treated to breathtaking scenery either way. Once you arrive, your prize is an epic waterfall that splashes into an impossibly blue pool where visitors play and relax on a small beach.
Generally believed to be the loveliest beach in the area, this four-mile stretch of golden sand lures visitors with its limpid, aquamarine waters; thick stands of waving palms; and beachside dining featuring treats hauled straight from the ocean. If you’re feeling adventurous, Playa Cosón is popular with kite surfers: You can buy a lesson right on the beach.
There are few things more astounding than encountering a whale in the wild, and Samaná is one of the best places to do it. Between mid-December and late March, thousands of humpback whales migrate past this part of the coast, so your chances of spotting staggeringly large adults and their calves is quite high. Several whale-watching tours operate out of the region. Get an entirely different perspective on these creatures at the Whale Museum in the nearby town of Santa Bárbara de Samaná, home to a 40-foot humpback skeleton, found on the coastline in 1993.