Samana is a small town and the capital of the Samana peninsula and while there is very little to see, it is the main departure point for several of the main excursions in the area. The excursion check-list includes the following: Salto de Limon (waterfall), Los Haitises National Park, Cayo Levantado (an island with a large Bahia Principe hotel and not much else) and whale-watching. Although people travel from all over the world for these activities, make sure that you are aware these are well on the beaten tourist track.
With a high concentration of tourists just passing through the town for a day, there isn't really much of a holiday atmosphere here and while the Limon waterfall, Los Haitises and whale-watching are three of the highlights, the number of tourists at these attractions takes away a large fraction of the charm.
For whale-watching visitors must arrive between January and March to be sure to see them; some guides and excursion companies will insist that you have a good chance of seeing whales even outside of the season, but this is simply false.
For the Limon waterfall and Los Haitises, make sure you leave early in the morning in order to avoid the crowds, which makes the whole experience worth it. The waterfall is a 45-minute journey through beautiful tropical woodlands boasting beautiful views over the surrounding valley; the trip is made on horseback with a local guide.
The excursion to Los Haitises will be the most costly on the trip; prices range between £20-£40, so make sure you shop around first. A recommended excursion agency that really cares about the environment and sustainability is Casa de Las Terrenas (ask for Stéphanie, the French owner). It takes about 40 minutes to reach the islands that are just magical. Wild and natural, the islands look like something out of Jurassic Park. There are also three main caves adorned with several paintings that date back to the Tainos Indians, the indigenous population who lived on the island before the Spanish arrived.
The Los Haitises National Park, a kind of Dominican Halong Bay, has strange formations of limestone that arise from the sea. Here you can find an abundance of 700 vascular plants in the humid subtropical forest, and patches of vegetation sheltering caves decorated with pre-Columbian relics of the Taïnos Indians. It can be visited by boat.
The most beautiful excursion to take is certainly the observation of the humpback whales. In fact, between January and April, around a thousand of them benefit from the warm waters of the Bay of Samana, to come to give birth to their offspring before going back again to the waters, rich in fish, of New England and Greenland via Newfoundland.
A suitcase for the summer: light clothing cotton, open shoes, shorts, shirts, T-shirts, without forgetting the bathing suit, as well as warm clothes and walking shoes for getaways in the mountains. A lightweight raincoat is useful during the rainy season (from May to July).
Inherited from Benin, voodoo is still practiced today. The tradition is rich in fables, that it is sometimes better to avoid!
Rich and spicy, Dominican cuisine is the result of Creole, European and African influences. Starch foods (rice, sweet potatoes and plantain), fish and shell fish as well as tropical fruits are the key foods. The stews (mondogo, sancocho) are common, with goat meat or fish cooked in coconut milk being prime examples.
Jewellery made from amber (brown solidified resin), larimar (blue stone), leather items, baskets, naive paintings, a legacy of Indian Taïnos, CDs of merengue and bachata, cigars, liquid vanilla, jam, rum and coffee are the main souvenirs that you can bring home. They can be found everywhere on beaches and especially in local markets.
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