Beautiful beaches come standard with most Caribbean islands but if you prefer to be a traveler rather than a tourist, you might want to skip the Bahamas and opt for a less talked about island. SPPR Account Manager and avid wanderer, Colleen Dunn, recently spent a week in the Dominican Republic town of Samaná where she drank piña coladas out of pineapples and ignored TLC’s advice on waterfalls. Here are her five must dos in this underrated coastal town.
Stay in a Treehouse
Get off the beaten path of all-inclusive Punta Cana resorts and fulfill all your childhood dreams by sleeping in a treehouse. We stayed at tropical hideaway the Dominican Tree House Village which features a collection of breezy open-air houses completely surrounded by trees. It was insanely gorgeous and delightfully free of crowds and surprisingly, bugs. The nature immersed hideaways feature comfortable beds, electricity, plumbing and outdoor showers making it a unique step above glamping and the resort comes complete with a rope swing adorned waterfall and all-inclusive rum cocktails. It’s owned by an American but staffed mostly by locals which makes it a good option if your Spanish isn’t great but you don’t only want to hang out with other Americans.
Drink Mama Juana
Did you really go to Greece if you didn’t have Ouzo or Colombia if you didn’t take a shot of Aguardiente? In the Dominican Republic the liquor to try is Mama Juana. This concoction is made of rum, red wine and honey soaked in a bottle with tree bark and herbs. It’s common for a household to keep their Mama Juana for decades, constantly adding to it to keep the bark and herbs from drying out. In addition to giving you a buzz, Mama Juana has all kinds of positive health effects depending on who you ask: curing the flu, digestion, circulation issues and serving as a detox for your kidney and liver. The liquor’s most lauded benefit is as an aphrodisiac and people often add conch to increase these benefits, or in the case of one bakery who offered us a sip of theirs, a small octopus!
There’s nothing like flying through the trees so make sure to put Samaná’s 12 line course on your to-do list. The first (and highest) line is 1,000 feet long and by the time you get to the bottom run you’ll be flipping upside down and spinning like monkeys.
Visit Mama’s Beach
Adventure and Instagram worthy views aside, you came to the Caribbean to lay on the beach. There are nearly a dozen options in Samaná but our favorite was El Valle. This secluded stretch was a short bike ride from our tree house and an immediate favorite for its lack of crowds and availability of chaise lounges. More importantly, there’s Mama. Mama is a toothless Dominican woman who sells amazing fried chicken and piña colada filled pineapples five feet from the crashing waves. It should be at the top of your to-do list. Fair warning though, they call her Mama for a reason so don’t try to go swimming when there’s a riptide. She’ll come out from behind the stove and chase you out of the water.
Hang Out with Locals
This is one of my top five tips for every trip anywhere and always results in my most memorable experiences. The best thing we ate in the Dominican Republic was Tres Leches that a local purchased for us from the back door of someone’s home after taking us to a shop of candy colored magic positions for love, wealth, strength and anything else you could think of. For best results on your own travels, ask a native where their favorite place to eat is or just head to the local market. The local market is the apex of many cities or at the very least an interesting window into the diet of its residents. In Samaná you’ll find local fishmongers and farmers selling bananas, pineapples, pink salt and even snake belts.