After Christmas we flew to the Dominican Republic for a few days. It was the first time I took a summer vacation in the middle of winter because I was somewhat reluctant. Thomas had been trying to lure me to the palm trees and pristine beaches of the Caribbean for years, but until now I had fairly successfully countered with irresistible fantasies of Georgia, Maine, Canada, upstate…
It was different this time because the goal wasn’t any random Caribbean beach, Thomas wanted to go back to one of the most beautiful beaches he had ever been to, 22 years ago. After high school he traveled through Mexico and Guatemala, continued onto the Dominican Republic, to Cabarete, where he started working in a windsurfing shop.
But after a few weeks Cabarete felt too crowded. Thomas was looking for truly remote, the end of the road. So Dominicans pointed him toward Samana. There he found a beach, with nothing but white sand and palm trees and wooden fishermen cabins. There was one place to stay, he was the only guest.
Somehow, the story convinced me. Naturally, things would have changed a little since 1990, but by the sound of guide books and travel sites, Samana was still fairly underdeveloped.
So on December 28 we flew to Santo Domingo and drove through the Dominican Republic to Las Galeras, the northeastern tip of the Samana peninsula.
Las Galeras beach, pan de coco picnic, hotel garden, snorkeling, palm trees, waiting for the motoconcho, Playita beach, playing cards at the hotel, coconut milk
Well, Las Galeras isn’t really remote, even by today’s standards. There are at least half a dozen small hotels and guest houses, and one modest resort a short walk away. But there are palm trees, beautiful beaches, and the turquoise ocean. And despite the few tourists strolling the beach, time there seems to expand, to stretch and wane. Quite soon your step slows down. You stop walking — you amble. You read a book. Finish a book. You mean to start a second book. But your gaze wanders up at the palm trees, down to the water. You do nothing at all.
For lunch there is a shack on the beach; it is quite literally at the end of the road. There are a few minuscule kitchens from which one can order lobster, fish, shrimp, octopus, or chicken. It comes with coconut rice, salad, and fried plantains. They also sell delicious pan de coco, an unleavened but very fluffy flatbread made with coconut milk. And if you order a piña colada — with or without alcohol — you get a pineapple, its inside crushed to a pulp, mixed with coconut cream, an (unnecessary) spoonful of sugar, and rum (or not).
There are plenty of little cafés and restaurants in Las Galeras, but this was the best and most simple, though, despite its appearance, not necessarily the cheapest.
This weekend the New York Times travel section suggested that Samana was a place to go in 2012, before the new highway from Santo Domingo and an international airport on the peninsula bring in too many tourists. It’s worth a thought.
When to go: Whale watching season is from mid-January to mid-March. Apparently April is to be avoided; Las Galeras gets very crowded during the weeks around Easter and the beach disappears beneath a mountain of trash.
Stay at Hotel Todo Blanco. A simple but handsome hotel with 8 spacious rooms, each with two double beds, a small fridge, and ocean-facing balcony.
Breakfast at Casa Por Que No
Lunch at the shack at the end of the road