My first trip to the Dominican Republic was spent on one of the many all-inclusive resorts dotting Punta Cana’s turquoise beaches. It was 1998, and I was about to start law school. What better way to dive into the next chapter of my life than by relaxing in the sun and doing some actual diving? Except I wasn’t relaxed – I was bored. I snuck away from the group and made my way to Cabarete beach, finding much more to keep me entertained on the northern coast. I quickly implemented a formula that I’ve stuck to ever since: less lounging, more adventure. (Full disclosure: I did spend 2 weeks doing nothing on the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia, but since I was waiting for 4 toenails to grow back after climbing Rinjani, I deserve a pass.)

During this press trip, I joked that the official DR slogan should be the Staples’ catchphrase “Yeah, we’ve got that.” Crystalline beaches? Yeah, they’ve got that. Lush, humid tropical forests? Yes, that too. As well as kite-surfing, waterfall-hopping, frenzied late night merengue dancing, amber-finding, cave-spelunking, mountain-biking, whale watching and baseball-cheering. For an island typically associated with beaches, rum and cigars, they’ve got a lot more going on than meets the eye.

We started our trip on The Samaná Peninsula. A thin slice of land jutting out into the Atlantic, with tropical forests and tiny beaches curled into hidden coves, Samaná is a different type of beach destination than the more open Punta Cana shoreline. Though we only skimmed the surface of what the peninsula has on offer, it quickly became somewhere I want to explore in more detail, especially the more laid-back Las Terrenas beach. In winter months (January through March), humpback whales drift into the Samaná bay and whalewatching has become a primary source of tourist dollars for the province, with thousands flocking to see the whales as they migrate through.

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  • Jodi Ettenberg

    Born in Montreal, Canada, Jodi Ettenberg is a former new media and technology lawyer who quit her job after 5+ years of working…

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