Sabana de la Mar
- Where to Go
- The Best of the Dominican Republic
- A Nature Lover’s Dominican Trek
- The Sexiest Dominican Beaches
- Historical Dominican Road Trip
- A Dominican Culture Tour
- Carnaval and Its Masks
- Planning Your Dominican Wedding
- Dominican Adventures
- Golfing the Dominican Republic
- Dominican Music and Dance
- La Ruta del Mango
- Day-Tripping in Monte Plata
- The Best Small Resorts
Accommodations and Food
The resort Paraíso Caño Hondo (Sabana de la Mar, tel. 809/248-5995, cell 809/889-9454, www.paraisocanohondo.com, website in Spanish only, US$40 d with all meals included) wins top honors. It truly is one of the most special places to stay in the entire Dominican Republic for so many reasons. One, savory authentic Dominican food at the restaurant, El Cayuco. Two, green design while maintaining their own unique style without sacrificing comfort. Three, the pastoral view over the rice fields, clearing the Parque Nacional Los Haitises, all the way to the Bahía de Samaná. Four, management, staff, and tour guides who are all passionate about the environment and maintaining the natural resources in the Dominican Republic. And five, it is Dominican-owned, making it a sustainable tourism option.
Located right at the foot of the Parque Nacional Los Haitises, it is a fantastic choice as a base to explore the park. This small hotel offers very comfortable rooms decorated with rustic elements of the area, containing two or three full-size beds, a ceiling fan, and private hot water bath. In the quiet surroundings, you can hear the sounds of the nearby river and the native birds from the park. Nature lovers will fall hard for this place.
Stone pathways lead to various river-fed pools where, amid the waterfalls and thick vegetation, you can take a dip in the heat of the day. One of the best views is from the Carpintero room in what is the newer of the two buildings. It’s quite a hike up a hill—not for someone not able to walk steep hills—especially at night. Boat and hiking excursions are available.
Rates are less expensive in low season and less expensive if you choose to not include all meals in your plan, although keep in mind that food choices outside the hotel are sparse. If you’re looking for the ultimate privacy, try to book for midweek; most excursions and student groups pass through on the weekends. If you’re just in the area for the day, ask about a pass so that you can enjoy a swim in the pools without staying the night.
Besides being a great hotel choice, the Paraíso offers ecological excursions ranging from walking tours (US$18), camping, horseback riding, and moonlight and other boat rides (US$15–33) to excursions to the park’s caves. During humpback whale season you can go on a whale-watching tour in the Bahía de Samaná (US$57 per person).
Hotel Riverside (tel. 809//556-7465, US$15 with a/c, US$10 without) is a very basic but clean seven-room hotel on the main road into Sabana de la Mar from Hato Mayor. All rooms have a refrigerator and tile floors. Since it is on such a busy road, ask for a room on the second floor in the back. You will have a better night’s sleep and a breeze. Coffee is offered up in the morning (included in the price of your room), and you can buy soda and beer at the front desk. The accommodating staff will even make grocery store or pharmacy runs for you. This is a good location if you want to remain in the town of Sabana de la Mar.
Hotel Lomas Lindas (Carretera Miches, tel. 809/520-2387, www.lomaslindas.piczo.com, US$17) is a four-room hotel five kilometers outside of Sabana de la Mar as you are driving toward Miches and is a last choice for places to stay overnight. However, coming here to enjoy a traditional Dominican and European meal in the low-key, open-air eatery amidst acres of rolling greenery, as geese stroll by, is another matter. As for the three rooms available, when the electricity works they have air-conditioning and TV but no windows. Every room does have its own bathroom, and they are rather clean despite their small size.
Let it be known—this hotel is for the adventurer and the thrifty traveler. At night, they have a small dance floor. Internet access is available on-site but there are no phones in the rooms. There are many hiking trails around and they will arrange for horseback riding, tropical nature walks in Los Haitises, boat trips, and day trips to Santo Domingo at negotiable prices. French, German, English, and Spanish spoken.
Getting to Sabana de la Mar
There is a guagua stop at the convergence of Highways 103 and 104 in Sabana de la Mar. A ticket to Santo Domingo (via Hato Mayor) will cost you about US$4; buses leave every half hour 6 a.m.–4 p.m. A ticket to Miches will cost US$2.50, and buses leave every half hour.
Transportation Maritimo (tel. 809/538-2556, US$3.50) is the only choice to get across the bay to Samaná and, surprisingly, is the most direct way to get to the Costa Ámbar (via Samaná). The ride takes about an hour, leaving at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m., and 5 p.m. daily.
You may want to rent a sturdy car for this journey if you plan on going it on your own. Driving from Santo Domingo, go east on Carretera 3 (past the airport) and transfer to Carretera 4 east and then north so that you bypass San Pedro de Macorís. If you end up in that city, you will end up in a maelstrom of traffic. Head to the town of Hato Mayor and switch to Carretera 103 north toward Sabana de la Mar. Prepare for a bumpy ride. Try to make this trip in daylight since this last stretch of highway can be curvy and at times try your nerves. Dominican drivers swerve like young stockcar racers trying to prove themselves to miss potholes.
The road from Miches to Sabana de la Mar is notoriously horrendous. You will need an SUV and a strong stomach. If you still insist on driving it on your own, just don’t drive at night since drivers tend to swerve to avoid potholes, sometimes without headlights!
Going to Paraíso Caño Hondo? Once in Sabana de la Mar, you take a left off the main road in town that is well-marked with a sign to the hotel. To head to the ferry docks, just drive straight to the water after entering town.
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition