Our trip was mid May through early June. I started writing the report when we got back and finally got around to finishing it. Better late than never I hope! Thanks for all of the advice from the forum before the trip it really helped (especially with our time in Las Terrenas!!)

Santiago: We flew into and out of Santiago and were pretty much based there at my mother-in-law's apartment throughout the trip. Our time in Santiago was not very eventful, but here are the highlights. We used to live in Santiago (2007-2009) so we spent time visiting friends and family members. My brother-in-law owns a restaurant in La Villa Olympica called La Carpa Universitaria so when we ate out, we mostly ate there. Our only night outings (other than just hanging out at people’s houses) were that we saw the new X-Men movie at Las Colinas and we went to a birthday party at a club (don’t remember the name but it was kind of on the same side of town as Colinas mall). This place was hopping until 4am on a Thursday with live music and all, we had a BLAST!!

Cabarete: We were not supposed to be at the beach until more than a week into our stay but my sweet husband knew the anticipation was killing me. On our third day in Santiago we took a day trip up to Cabarete. On the mountain road that goes through Tamboril it’s only about 90 minutes from Santiago to Cabarete. We got there in time to get some pastries from Dicks, their pan de coco (coconut bread) is my absolute favorite!! We love Cabarete, had our wedding there, and visited frequently when we lived in Santiago and I’ve never seen Cabarete so empty or the water so still and crystal clear. It was just what we needed to start our vacation. We always eat at LAX, and if you eat there you can use their beach chairs for free and eat on the beach. For lunch we enjoyed our standard Hawaiian pizza and chicken wings with curry sauce which we shared and we each had a few drinks (and the bill was under $30).

Barahona: Back in 2004, before I met my husband, I lived for a year in Barahona so we wanted to go for a visit and take my mother in law. I worked for a school in Batey Central and it was amazing to see how much the school and the kids have grown! We only spent two nights so it was a short trip but it was good to see old friends. We took a day trip to beaches San Rafael and Quemaito. It was the first time for my husband and mother in law to see San Rafael and they were not disappointed. This beach is about 30 minutes west of Barahona and is unique because of the fresh water river that flows right into the beach. Usually San Rafael is very rough and not great for swimming but that day we found it relatively calm and enjoyed swimming in the ocean and then washing off in the fresh water pools from the river! We went to Quemaito, which is between San Rafael and Barahona (about 15-20 minutes from Barahona) on our way back to town. I love this beach because rather than sand, the beach is made up of smooth white stones, this makes the water especially clear and beautiful! We got to Quemaito late in the day and just enjoyed lounging in the water for a while before heading back.

Samana/Las Terrenas: From Barahona we (myself, husband, mother-in-law, and my friend from Barahona) headed to Samana by way of Santo Domingo and the new highway. We arrived in Las Terrenas and then were taken to our rental house (Villa Celine which we rented through homeaway) which was about 20 minutes from Las Terrenas, close to the town Limon. The house was beautiful with 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, and a private pool. It was gorgeous! It was located on Playa Estillero (also called Playa Aleman by the locals) which is a bay with rivers on each side. My only complaint with this beach was that because of all of the rain, the rivers at this beach turned the water brown. I think during the dry season it’s probably very pretty though and out past the river at the far end it was crystal clear. The weather wasn’t great while we were there, but most days we had at least some sunshine. Here are the highlights from our Samana adventures:
- Beaches: We went to Playa Limon (arrived by car and some of us walked home on the beach, which took about an hour) and it was beautiful and deserted with big waves. One afternoon we stopped by Playa El Portillo which was beautiful and very calm but we didn’t spend much time there because the weather was turning bad, there were some kite surfers out though so that was fun to watch. We tried to go to Playa Las Canas but once we got out that way the locals told us the roads were too bad. They advised the road to Playa Moron was ok so we headed down that way. Once we got down there the road leading down to Moron had a huge hole/puddle and we were worried about getting stuck. Some local boys said if we followed the road down to the right we would find another beach Playa Senora (first time I had ever heard of this beach) and that the road was ok. It was VERY steep and I was glad we had 4x4 but we ended up on the most wild and deserted beach I’ve ever seen. We also spent a little time (when we could catch a few minutes of sun) at several of the beaches surrounding Las Terrenas itself. If we return to the area I think we’ll stay closer to town and take more advantage of these beautiful beaches that are so close, rather than traveling all over the peninsula.
- Playa Rincon: We took a day trip to visit my favorite beach, Playa Rincon. It took about 2 hours from the house to the beach, which was farther than I thought but SO worth it. We left Las Terrenas rainy and cloudy and decided to go to Rincon anyways and found it sunny and beautiful, and basically to ourselves! We ate lunch there on the beach and it was the perfect day trip, I didn’t want to leave!
- Cascada Limon: Since our rental house was close to El Limon we just hopped in the car one afternoon and drove around looking four the best price for a tour. The first place we stopped they wanted around 500 pesos/person (not including park fees) so we just kept on driving. We decided to switch and I sat in the back with a scarf over my head and big sunglasses on and my Dominican sister-in-law sat in the front passenger seat. The next place we stopped the guy said “I usually charge 300, but since we’re Dominicans I’ll charge you 250” and this included park fees! This did not include a tip for the guide so we gave them a generous tip when we were done as well. By the time we got to the falls mid afternoon we had it all to ourselves!
- Restaurants: Since we were there with lots of family that meant lots of Dominican cooks, so we mostly ate at home. We did get pizza one night from Casa Azul (I think) which was right on the beach in the middle of Las Terrenas, the price was right and the pizza was delicious! For our anniversary we went to “Porto” the restaurant at Balcones del Atlantico (recommended to us by someone from this forum) and we were blown away!! It was breathtaking, our table looked out over the water, the service was fabulous, the food was delicious and reasonably priced for being so nice. They even gave us a complimentary drink for our anniversary! It was a night to remember!

After our week in rainy paradise it was back to Santiago and a few days later home to the US . We also visited Mao and Puerto Plata on day trips but these were just to visit family so nothing remarkable to report. We’re already planning our next trip for the spring. We’ll be taking a group of teenagers on a mission trip back to Barahona but then we’ll stay on for a few days afterwards and we’re planning to go to Punta Cana/Bavaro area. It’s pretty much the only place in the country my husband and I have never visited, and this time we’re going just the two of us, WITHOUT the whole family!!