Samana emerges in the D.R.

The pool area at Viva Wyndham V Samana.
The pool area at Viva Wyndham V Samana. Photo Credit: Gay Nagle Myers

Sisa, age 6, sized up the jewelry I was wearing and picked out a perfect pair of lightweight, bright-yellow fish earrings.

"Here," she said, and handed them to me.

I thanked her and paid her mom, who ran the store. I told her that her daughter was destined for a great job in sales.

Small restaurants serving local specialties dot the D.R.’s Samana peninsula.
Small restaurants serving local specialties dot the D.R.’s Samana peninsula. Photo Credit: Gay Nagle Myers

This took place in a small shop on a side street in Las Terrenas, the third-largest town in the peninsula province of Samana, in the northeast Dominican Republic. Las Terrenas is charming, with beach vendors selling juices, small cigar stores lining narrow streets, and stalls stocked with handmade baskets, bright fabrics and artwork.

While Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, La Romana and Santo Domingo attract the bulk of the D.R.'s stayover foreign visitors, which topped 5 million in 2015, Samana is emerging as a destination for adventure-seekers, beach lovers and those seeking a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the capital city of Santo Domingo, two hours south.

Whale-watching season was from Jan. 15 to the end of March, with more than 42,000 visitors taking boat trips in Samana Bay, part of the protected Sanctuary for Marine Mammals, according to the Ministry of Environment. As whale-watching has grown, so has Samana's hotel stock, which now totals 3,600 rooms in small and midsize properties.

The newest is the 144-room, all-inclusive, adults-only Viva Wyndham V Samana, which opened in December. "We have a mix of guests from the U.S., France and South America and have had a good season, considering it was our first winter," said Cirilo Avila, the hotel's general manager.

The contemporary beachfront resort is a member of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts' V Collection and the second in the brand after the Viva Wyndham V Heavens in Puerto Plata. The resort offers three a la carte restaurants, a spa, swim-up bars and a wide beach with ample seating and shade.

Forty-eight rooms are in a section called Vibe, and each offers a private plunge pool.

During my brief time in Samana, I visited Parada La Manzana in the small community of Arroyo Surdido, near Las Terrenas.

The locals refer to the Parada complex as a ranch, and it offered horseback rides through the countryside to the nearby El Lemon waterfalls and an open-air buffet restaurant serving Dominican cuisine.

Diners sat at picnic tables covered with red-checkered tablecloths, drinking Presidente beer or juices like jugo de chinola (made from passion fruit) and chowing down on fried plantains, rice and beans or meat stew before finishing off with dulce de coco, a creamy coconut dessert.

That setting, like all of Samana that I visited, was authentic and real, just what a Caribbean experience should be.

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