All guestrooms at Sublime Samana feature kitchens and are able to accommodate families. // © 2016 Sublime Samana
Feature image (above): The central pool area features walkways and cabanas. // © 2016 Sublime Samana
The province of Samana in the Dominican Republic is a hidden eco-destination and soon-to-be revealed secret among luxury adventure travelers. Discovering this area will give visitors a sense of what it’s like to be an explorer; unspoiled lush rainforests brush up against the Sierra Samana mountain range, filled with waterfalls, and extend toward the tempting Caribbean water. Sublime Samana, a Small Luxury Hotels of the World property, is a perfect oasis in Las Terrenas, an even-more-tucked-away region within Samana. Upon arriving at the resort, I felt I had voyaged through uncharted territory to a sanctuary all my own.
The lobby of Sublime Samana is cozy and inviting, despite the high ceiling. A local artist designed the wicker hanging lights, which are reminiscent of elongated jellyfish. Much like my travels on the island, where each turn gave way to unexpected pleasures, I found beautiful details throughout Sublime Samana’s property.
The decor guides guests through sea-life-inspired art. A short path leads to the central pool area, a series of inviting waterways lined with cabanas. This area is magnificent in size and is the focal point for the hotel’s 26 private suites and casitas. Eighteen suites in the main building and nine private two-bedroom and three-bedroom casitas have floor-to-ceiling windows, balconies or terraces, plus a modern architectural scheme that blends in with the surrounding nature. All rooms are equipped with kitchens and can accommodate families. My favorite feature was my casita's rooftop Jacuzzi, perfect for watching the sun dip below the horizon. Even the pink palette of the sunset peeking around the white walls across the courtyard seemed to be part of the design.
Concise but excellent dining options are available on property. Bistro, led by award-winning chef Christian Baez, focuses on Mediterranean cuisine with locally caught fish. Wood paneling, plant art on the tables and open walls create a relaxed setting by the beach. I devoured Dominican “tostones” (twice-fried plantain slices), barbecued sausage with Dijon mustard atop plantains and "flaming" meat skewers that arrived on mini-grills. I originally opted out of the venomous lionfish coconut dish, but braver souls said it was fantastic, so I took a bite — and it was delicious. Baez serves lionfish as a way to help balance the marine life in the nearby water. Guests can reserve a table at Bistro or request a private dinner on the beach with the same menu. For lunch or cocktail hour, the resort offers a beachside grill featuring ceviche, salads, fish, wraps, lobster and burgers.
Sublime Samana caters to families, couples, groups and corporate retreats. The activities available reflect this diversity, and excursions are intimate and educational. Giant humpback whales choose Samana Bay every winter as a location to mate and play, so whale watching tours are a great option here. Travelers can also sail along the Cabo Samana cliffs, snorkel, picnic on the beach and sample the day's fresh catch, hike to waterfalls or go horseback riding.
A living wall of orchids adorns the indoor Sublime Spa, where the service menu includes massages, facials and body wraps. Treatments are available for couples or singles, with chilled coconut milk served afterward. Try the divine “Coconut Whispers” signature service; my skin felt like new, and my mind was floating. Yoga classes take place every Thursday and Sunday by the main pool in an open-air gazebo.
There is always a delicate balance between luxury and eco-tourism. It is hard to imagine that a resort so impressive in size and service can also be devoted to the environment it serves. Sublime Samana seamlessly combines impeccable facilities while respecting the land that draws guests to the area in the first place.