Santa Bárbara de Samaná
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For the majority of the year, the seaside town of Santa Bárbara de Samaná (commonly referred to as Samaná) is mainly quiet. Then in January, Samaná’s population dramatically skyrockets with tourists from all over the world who have come to see the humpback whales that migrate to the waters of the Bahía de Samaná. A fresh energy fills the area. In the bay, the huge beasts lob their tails and breach just meters from the tourist-filled boats. In the town, the normal tranquility is replaced with the drone of motoconchos, tour buses, and vendors.
Since 2005, Samaná has evolved into a cruise-ship stopover port. This new identity has caused an explosion in the local tourism industry there, multiplying the amount of visitors and services offered in Samaná.
The popularity of Samaná during whale-watching season cannot be denied. It is truly a remarkable natural event that must not be missed.
Samaná has, until recently, been able to claim independence from the all-inclusive crunch. But since the Bahía Principe chain has opened a couple of its hotels and with their “Pueblo Principe” in downtown Samaná, they have given the seaside town both a more commercial feel and a major tourism boost.
Getting to Santa Bárbara de Samaná
By Car: From Puerto Plata, after the town of Cabarete, Carretera (Highway) 5 starts its southward bend toward the town of Sánchez, where it continues along the southern coast of the Samaná Peninsula. After Carretera 5 runs east through the town of Samaná, it curves upward along the eastern coast of the peninsula to end in Las Galeras.
In January 2008, the Santo Domingo–Samaná (officially named Juan Pablo II) Carretera opened. The motorway is only 110 kilometers long, but it cuts travel time in half. This highway leads directly to Carretera 5. Once you exit the new highway onto Carretera 5, turn right toward Samaná. What was a smooth ride will no longer be as luxurious. This road takes you past the town of El Catey and the International Airport El Catey. Continue along the same route and you will find yourself in Santa Bárbara de Samaná.
By Air: There are three airports on the peninsula: Aeropuerto Internacional El Catey (tel. 809/338-5888) in the town of El Catey, near Sánchez; Aeropuerto Internacional Arroyo Barril (tel. 809/248-2718), on the southern coast; and Aeropuerto Internacional El Portillo (tel. 809/248-2289), just outside of Las Terrenas on the northern coast. The first is the newest and began operation in 2006 with flights daily from Puerto Rico, Canada, and Europe. The second and third are more for private charters.
Takeoff Destination Service S.A. (Plaza Brisas de Bávaro 8, Bávaro, tel. 809/552-1333, www.takeoffweb.com), located in the Southeast, has flights Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between Punta Cana and Las Terrenas for US$149.
Aerodomca (Aeropuerto Internacional de Herrera, Santo Domingo tel. 809/826-4141, Las Terrenas tel. 809/240-6571, www.aerodomca.com) offers flights from the airport at El Portillo to Santo Domingo (US$80). Reservations are required with a 24-hour advance notice.
Both of these companies also offer taxi services.
By Bus and Guagua: The station of Caribe Tours (Av. La Marina, tel. 809/538-2229) is directly across from the Port of Samaná. Rides (4.5 hours) are offered to and from Santo Domingo at 7 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4 p.m. (US$8.50) daily.
Another bus company, Metro (Av. La Marina, tel. 809/538-2851), just a block away, offers the same ride to Santo Domingo for US$8 but only twice a day (8 a.m.and 3 p.m.). Both of these companies’ routes stop in Sánchez, Nagua, and San Pedro de Macorís along the way.
The Samaná guaguas stop at the mercado (a block north of Av. La Marina, no phone), and you can catch rides to Las Galeras (US$2), El Limón (US$2), and Sánchez (US$2) nearly every 15 minutes 6 a.m.–6 p.m. Guaguas to Sánchez stop at 4:30 p.m. If you want to get off at any point along the way, just tell them and they will let you out. Similarly, you can flag down guaguas on the main roads, but it is usually best to go to a guagua stop to ensure getting a seat.
By Ferry: Traveling from Samaná to Sabana de la Mar is possible via the Bahía de Samaná. At the Transporte Maritimo (Av. La Marina, tel. 809/538-2556, US$3.50), you can catch a ferry for a one-hour ride across the water. They leave at 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., and 3 p.m. If you have arrived into Samaná from a ferry departing from Sabana de la Mar, you will be left at Playa de las Flechas. From there you will need to catch a motoconcho or a guagua into town (US$1).
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition