The Dominican Republic’s Eco Escape

El Valle Beach, SamanaA lush peninsula on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic, awash with mountains, jungles, beaches and islands, Samaná is somehow just under the tourist radar. The region has always marched to its own bongo drummer–from fiercely fending off invaders in the Columbus days, to unique cultural celebrations like their three-month harvest festival and own spin on Carnival, to their evangelical beliefs that leave room for sexy salsa dancing. The 15,000 people that live here are proud of the region’s beauty and are making efforts to develop it slowly and sustainably. To help spread the word on the new eco-tourism initiatives, the Dominican Republic tourism board invited us and five other journalists on a seven-day adventure. Ziplining, island hopping, bachata dancing, horseback riding, sleeping in exquisite hotels and dining on hand-caught seafood, they pulled out all the stops from luxury to local experiences and made us fall in love with seductive Samaná.

 

Bumpy Beginnings

#EcoTripDRAfter our four days of solo city exploration in Santo Domingo, we went back to the airport to meet our crew: Jeana of Surf and Sunshine, Steph of Travel Break, Neil of A&H Magazine, Taylor of TaylorBurk.com, Natalie of Traveler’s Bookcase, our hosts Annie & AJ, and expert guide Carlos Batista. Carlos is the go-to guy when National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and most major media outlets need unfettered access and local savvy. He was a not only knowledgeable about all things Dominican Republic, he made everything more fun…including the few rough-patches. The best laid plans went awry in the first 24 hours of the trip: A flat tire, an impassable hill that resulted in a muddy hike in the dark to our hotel, torrential rain, a lightening strike knocking out the power, and a jungle spider invasion. Once we had all that out of the way, we had enough fodder for a trip full of laughs and smooth sailing.

 

Ecocampo La Sangria

Eco campo, SangriaWe arrived to Ecocampo La Sangria late at night covered in mud and weathered from the storm, but the family-run lodge whipped up an incredible feast of grilled swordfish, sauteed vegetables, and a dulce de coco desert that revived us. After a night in our charming cabanas, the owner Maria Corporan gave us a tour of her sustainable property. They are 100% solar powered, grow 70% of the food on the premises, and all the resources are local. Her grandmother grew up in La Sangria and Maria always wanted to give back to the area and share its beauty with the world.

 

Samana Ziplining

Samana ZipliningDriving from the jungle of La Sangria, we wound our way along the coast and into the valley of Samana for some ziplining. Set at the top of the highest mountain in the region, with 12 ziplines zigzagging through the canopy (some as high as 450 feet off the ground), Samana Ziplining was the best course we’ve ever experienced. We had never done tandem ziplining or tried flips, twirls, and upside-down kisses, but that made it that much more fun. Between squeals and spins, we’d take in the incredible views of the valley, jungle, and beach beyond.

 

Dominican Tree House Village

Tree House Village SamanaThe success of Samana Ziplining prompted the owners to expand their vision for eco-tourism in El Valle with the Dominican Tree House Village. Twenty open-air cabins are perched in the trees, connected by bridges and canopy-covered pathways. It’s a total fantasy land—like the tree houses you dreamed of as kid, but with stylish décor, a yoga dome, a fully stocked bar, and a delightful restaurant. We got the chance to chat with the co-founder, Tomás, and he was so passionate about the property and its future projects–mountain biking trails, rum making, scuba trips, cooking classes, and a sister hotel on the beach–it made us want to come back.

 

El Valle Beach

El Valle Beach, SamanaDescending from the treetops, we followed the winding road out to our favorite beach in the DR. Playa El Valle is a cove surrounded by mountains dotted with palm trees, rugged cliffs, golden sand, and an endearing local’s scene. Fisherman pushing their boats ashore, boys throwing the baseball around, and a beach shack serving the day’s catch, pushed it our kind of paradise.

 

El Limón Waterfall

El limon WaterfallOne of Samaná’s most famous natural attractions is El Limón waterfall. It drops 130 feet into a pool perfect for swimming and a little deep water solo climbing, and the 1.5 mile trip up the mountain is just as impressive. We rode horses up through winding rivers, tropical jungles, and along mountain ridges with panoramic views. The locals were saying the waterfall was a trickle compared to its usual pounding cascade but to us it was gorgeous nonetheless.

 

Dominican Dominoes

Dominos in the DRAt the point where you hop off your horse and hike down the final stretch to the falls, there is a small gift stand and food stall. It’s made for tourists but doubles as a local’s hangout for dominoes and cervezas with a view. Dominoes is a Dominican pastime that we’d seen everywhere around the country from parks to street corners to cafes…it was time we learned a thing our two about the game. We bellied up to the table and followed the Dominicanos lead–slamming down the tiles with each move, cajoling your partner to go faster, and high fiving with each win.

 

Next Up in Samaná, Dominican Republic Part 2

And this was just the beginning of our seven days in Samaná province. Next up on the blog, we’ll be exploring the bayside capital of Santa Barbara, taking a “local bath” at the salsa clubs, sailing to the stunning Haitises National Park, snorkeling “Bacardi Island,” and hitting up more spots you won’t want to miss.

 

Samana Photos
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25 thoughts on “The Dominican Republic’s Eco Escape

  • January 1, 2016 at 6:18 pm
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    That Tree House Village sure looks enticing. I bet even my kids would like that, and would agree that nature is better than electronics if we went there! The waterfalls look lovely as well. Looks like you had a great trip!

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    • January 3, 2016 at 1:05 am
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      It was an incredible trip for sure! DTHV is definitely a great place to detach and enjoy the nature. For kids 7 and up it would a dream! As would El Limon waterfall!

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  • January 1, 2016 at 8:59 pm
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    Looks like an amazing trip after quite a rocky start. Jungle spider invasion!?! YIKES. It looks like a lovely place and we are certainly intrigued by the Tree House Village. We tried zip lining once in Belize but do stay in a house amongst the trees sounds like a fantasy!

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    • January 3, 2016 at 1:00 am
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      The Dominican Tree House Village and Ecocampo La Sangria were both amazing–and the spiders weren’t so bad afterall 😉 The DTHV is only going to get cooler too with all the developments–definitely check it out!

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  • January 3, 2016 at 2:55 am
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    How much fun is zip lining – outstanding. And, I don’t mind a good loud game of dominoes. Plus the best beer ever, Presidente comes from the Dominican Republic.

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    • January 4, 2016 at 6:17 pm
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      You’d love the DR, Susan or have you been? It has a really special Latin flair, especially because the music is incredible (aka not quite like banda lol).

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  • January 4, 2016 at 5:40 pm
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    I’m down with dominoes, it’s a game I’m pretty champion at! It’s really refreshing to hear about the Dominican’s positive future. It’s very much still viewed as an ‘all inclusive’ destination in the UK, wasn’t on my radar for travelling around until now. I do love waterfalls! Looks like a fun press trip.

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    • January 4, 2016 at 6:19 pm
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      A domino champion? Well then you definitely have to get to the DR! I definitely hear you on the all-inclusive reputation–that’s why we are trying to debunk it! Everyone heads to Punta Cana when there is so many more authentic and beautiful sites to see!

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  • January 5, 2016 at 12:49 pm
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    Oh my gosh! I think you had me at eco camping! And zipling! I want to go there now! But I think I will wait until we are back living in the good ol USA.

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  • January 7, 2016 at 1:33 am
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    Wow, just wow! Love this kind of adventure. A big fan of Tree house here. 😉

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  • January 8, 2016 at 2:00 am
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    Amazing! I’m always searching for eco-friendly destinations and Dominican Republic looks like it fits the bill! I love that tree house, too. And I adore zip lining!! 🙂

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    • January 9, 2016 at 10:29 am
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      Samana was an incredible eco-destination. Our next blog will cover Los Haitieses National Park and other natural wonders that will blow your mind too!

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  • January 8, 2016 at 1:45 pm
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    The tree house village looks amazing! And zip lining is always a blast!

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    • January 9, 2016 at 10:27 am
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      The Dominican Tree House Village was definitely awesome! hope you get to stay there and try the ziplining!

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  • January 9, 2016 at 5:48 am
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    The tree house looks fantastic. I bet the view out the window is just amazing.

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  • Pingback: Samaná: A Different Dominican Republic - HoneyTrek

  • September 8, 2016 at 12:58 am
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    I’ve been struggling all week to find ideas for my essays. It’s great when I accidentally read your blog, suggested to me very much.

    Reply

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