Samana: A New Hot Spot in the Caribbean

Tourism investment puts this Dominican Republic vacation spot on the map By: Mark Rogers
The eco-friendly Viva Residence Las Terrenas recently opened its doors. // © 2011 Viva Residence Las Terrenas
The eco-friendly Viva Residence Las Terrenas recently opened its doors. // © 2011 Viva Residence Las Terrenas

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Read a report about the allure of Grenada, including the Spice Island Resort, in Grenada Hotels Beckon

The Details

Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts

Balcones del Atlantico, A RockResort

El Portillo Beach Club & Spa

Viva Residence Las Terrenas

The Dominican Republic has developed one resort area after another, from Puerto Plata to Punta Cana to Cap Cana. Though, if your clients are looking for the next big thing in the D.R., they will want to consider Samana, a peninsula on the northeast coast of the country. For decades, Samana was relatively isolated, but a new airport and improved roads have sparked the construction of high-end resorts catering to the U.S. market. Samana El Catey International Airport presently receives commercial flights from Canada and Europe, and the region hopes to have scheduled commercial flights from the U.S. later this year.

“While still in the discussion stage, there are presently talks with JetBlue, from JFK, and American Eagle, from Miami, about flying directly into Samana,” said Fabeth Martinez Fernandez, the executive director of the Samana Hotel Association.

Choosing Samana
So, why should vacationers choose Samana over other destinations in the D.R.? The Samana Peninsula is considered more lush and green than Punta Cana — a common observation is that the Samana Peninsula reportedly has 6 million palm trees and 110,000 people. The Bay of Samana is considered by many to be the best in the country for observing humpback whales during the January through March migrating season. The town of Las Terrenas has an international ambience, since Europeans have been vacationing on the peninsula for decades. Exploring the small shops, restaurants and bars makes for a great off-resort experience.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Samana is its link to African-American heritage. In 1824, approximately 6,000 African Americans who were freed from slavery migrated from Philadelphia to Samana.

Well into the 20th century, Samana was only accessible via boat. While this isolated the Samana Americans, it also kept their culture and cuisine intact. The Samana Americans even have their own unique music called bambula, with African-influenced rhythms.

Rooms With a View
It was back in 1990 that the private sector in the D.R. decided to invest in Samana. The region currently has 3,500 rooms. It’s predicted that, in three to five years, this figure will jump to approximately 5,500 rooms.

One of the earliest players on the scene was Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts. The brand has three all-inclusive resorts in Samana: the 462-room Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo, the 109-room Gran Bahia Principe Samana and the 295-room Gran Bahia Principe Cayacoa. The Cayacoa is on its own island off the peninsula, so if your clients have their hearts set on exploring the region, this property might not be the best fit as they will have to spend a lot of time traveling back and forth to the mainland.

Balcones del Atlantico, A RockResort, has completed its first phase of construction, with the second phase scheduled for completion by the end of the year.

“We’re a fully operational hotel,” said Pedro Sanchez, general manager of the resort. “We’re also the first American-based brand in Las Terrenas.”

Fittingly, considering the resort’s name, its villas have huge balconies. Kitchens are fully equipped with Viking and Cuisinart appliances. The beachfront resort has its own restaurant, Porto, which serves three meals a day, and both room service and pantry service are available to guests.

El Portillo Beach Club & Spa, also located in Las Terrenas, will begin taking reservations in January 2012 for spring arrivals. El Portillo’s villas are available in three categories: Beach Villas, Beach Island and Beach Lagoon. An unexpected feature of the resort is its farm, located about a six-minute drive from the resort. There, guests can horseback ride, cycle and play tennis.

Viva Residence Las Terrenas recently opened with 76 units (a three-bedroom villa is the property’s most spacious accommodation). This eco-friendly resort has virtually virgin beaches. Within the year, the resort will open its own full-service spa; meanwhile, spa services are available when booked 24 hours in advance.

If agents are looking for a dependable guide to this up-and-coming region, reach out to Luis Penzo (809-846-6238, Penzo drove me around Samana for half a day and was an excellent source of good-humored information.

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