From January though March, more humpback whales migrate to the warm Caribbean waters near Samaná, a peninsula on the Dominican Republic’s northeastern coast, than anywhere else on earth. Here, they mate while voyeuristic travelers watch the courtship up close and do a bit of frolicking of their own amid hidden coves, lush rainforests and green mountains. In short, Samaná is one of the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets. Though despite its 19 national parks, six reserves and the world’s first sanctuary for whales, the areas has been largely bypassed by those visitors more drawn to the island’s over-developed resorts (like Puerto Plata and Punta Cana).
Well, no more. Visitors are now coming to Samaná from all directions: An international airport opened in 2006, plus a new highway was inaugurated last year, cutting travel time between the capital of Santo Domingo and the province from four hours to just 90 minutes. The increased accessibility is quickly turning this sleepy seaside village into the country’s latest hotspot, with the requisite construction crews building upscale lodgings along white sand beaches.
Fortunately — if the Peninsula House is any indication of what’s to come — we can expect a level of exclusivity that has long eluded the DR, which is known more for its litany of large-scale all-inclusives. Opened last year, the restored 18th-century plantation is now a boutique B&B with six suites designed by French architect Serge Robin, featuring museum-quality art, antique crystal chandeliers and handwoven Turkish carpets. For outside diversions, guests should note that Peninsula House is set on a 15-acre bluff overlooking the unsullied 12-mile stretch of Coson Beach.
Nearby, the Terrazas de Coson residential estate is being built to include a boutique hotel with 28 solar-powered bungalows, while Banyan Tree’s Angsana Resorts & Spa is constructing its first Caribbean property, replete with a 284-slip, casino and spa. Both projects are being touted as peaceful retreats in harmony with the natural surroundings. Let’s hope they follow through.