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Forget Punta Cana and Head Straight to Dominican Republic’s North Coast

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I will admit that, prior to my recent trip to the Dominican Republic, I did not recognize the country as having much more than Punta Cana, all-inclusive hotels and rowdy beach life. Therefore, I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit the North coast of the country and have my assumptions blown clear out of the water.

As it turns out, the North coast is home to sweeping coastlines, rolling hills and lush tropical forests. Its quaint and charming towns are decidedly un-touristy and give visitors the feeling that they’ve stumbled upon some magical, secret destination not yet explored by the rest of the world.

So, for your next trip to the Dominican Republic, I have a proposal: Skip Punta Cana and head straight to Samana, Cabarete and Cayo Levantado in the North Coast.


The first place I recommend visiting on the North Coast is Samana. It’s a town located on the Samana Peninsula and is a stunning example of the beauty that lies in the North.

What to do:

Visit El Limon waterfall. El Limon is located only about 25 minutes away from the town of Samana and is a must-see for your North Coast experience. I recommend using Tour Samana with Terry or Nexus Tours for your visit to the falls. Both tours include a guided horseback ride to the top of the Limon Mountains, where you will walk about 15 minutes down a hill to the falls.

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El Limon’s huge size and beautiful waters make the journey well worth it. Be sure to bring sunscreen and a bathing suit!

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bikini: Westerly Swim Skip Punta Cana and Head to Dominican Republic's North Coast

Go whale watching. Samana Bay is well-known for housing thousands of humpback whales in its waters from January to March, so if you’re visiting during that time, going on a tour with Kim Beddall is a must. Not only will you experience multiple whale sightings, but Kim even places a hydrophone under the water to hear the whale’s sounds in real time.

You can’t see it in the below photo, but I got the rare opportunity to watch (and hear!) two males fighting over a female.

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Learn how to surf. Head to Carolina Surf School to take a surfing lesson.

Wander through Las Terrenas. Las Terrenas is a cosmopolitan resort town in the Samana Province that is most known for its white sand and quaint restaurants & shops. There is a strong European influence here and it’s immediately noticeable in the food and in the French and Italians you will see the wandering the town.

While in Las Terrenas, be sure to enjoy breakfast at Boulangerie Francaise, a popular spot with local expats. Wander the streets and shop. Learn how cigars are made by hand at Mundo Puro.

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Where to eat: 

Mi Corazon. Mi Corazon is located in the Las Terrenas neighborhood. With a constantly changing 3-course menu crafted from food made fresh on the premises, you’ll be sure to enjoy a delicious and innovative meal.

Lazy Dog. The perfect “nice, but casual” place to nosh on empanadas and sip on a mojito while sitting just steps from the ocean. Lazy Dog Beach Bar & Grill is located in downtown Las Terrenas.

Boulangerie Française. As I mentioned above, Boulangerie Française is a popular spot among expats that serves up delicious coffee and croissants. Start at least one of your mornings here.

Tierra y Mar. A “nice, but casual” restaurant in Samana, Tierra y Mar offers Caribbean and Italian specialties in an open air space.

El Lugar. A fine dining spot in Las Terrenas, El Lugar is perfect for a more upscale or romantic dinner.

Where to stay:

I recommend staying at Sublime Samana, a luxury beach resort with beautiful suites.

Skip Punta Cana and Head to Dominican Republic's North Coast


What to do:

27 Waterfalls. The 27 Waterfalls of Damajagua are a series of natural waterfalls open to the public for tours. Admittedly, it’s a bit of a tourist activity and will be jam-packed with people when you go, but it’s still such a fun, unique experience. You’ll be jumping from 30 foot heights and quickly sliding down waterfalls into deep pools, so only do this if you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie like me!

Skip Punta Cana and Head to Dominican Republic's North CoastSkip Punta Cana and Head to Dominican Republic's North Coast

Snorkel on Sosua Bay. You absolutely cannot go to the North Coast without snorkeling or diving! For snorkeling, check out Catamaran Dom Rep. They’ll take you out on a nice boat, serve water, sodas and rum & cokes and help you get comfortable in your snorkeling gear.

Skip Punta Cana and Head to Dominican Republic's North CoastSkip Punta Cana and Head to Dominican Republic's North Coast

Swim for a bit and see colorful fish and coral reefs, then climb back onto the boat for some tanning and relaxation.

Learn how to kite surf. Cabarete clocks more than 300 days a year of “kite-able wind,” making it one of the most popular kitesurfing destinations in the world. And therefore, one of the best places to learn the craft.

Skip Punta Cana and Head to Dominican Republic's North Coast

Check out the lessons offered at Extreme Hotel and at Laurel Eastman Kiteboarding. If you go to Extreme Hotel, make sure to check out their Aguaponics Garden and enjoy sushi & a mojito!

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Where to eat:

La Casita de Papi. Head to the casual La Casita de Papi for dinner and enjoy an oceanside meal under strings of lights. Be sure to try one of their signature shrimp dishes!

Eze Bar & Restaurant. A chic oceanfront spot serving Mediterranean and Italian cuisine.

Fresh Fresh. A smoothie & juice bar located in downtown Cabarete, Fresh Fresh is perfect for a healthy breakfast or lunch. Grab an acai bowl, freshly made smoothie or juice or order a healthy bowl or salad for something more substantial.

Skip Punta Cana and Head to Dominican Republic's North Coast

Millennium Aqua Restaurant. Aqua Restaurant is located inside the Millennium Resort & Spa and serves delicious Italian specialties & freshly made pizzas. The best part about a meal at Aqua is that you can dine by the infinity pool and on the white sand. Perfection 🙂

Where to stay:

I recommend staying at Sea Horse Ranch, a gated oceanfront resort in Cabarete. You can read about my experience at the Ranch here.

Sea Horse Ranch in Cabarete, Dominican Republic

Cayo Levantado

Cayo Levantado (nicknamed “The Bacardi Island”) is the perfect day trip from Samana. To get there, take a 20 minute ferry from Samana. Once on the island, shop for handmade souvenirs and eat traditional Dominican food from one of the vendors.

Skip Punta Cana and Head to Dominican Republic's North Coast Skip Punta Cana and Head to Dominican Republic's North Coast

Drink a Coco Loco (fresh coconut milk, coconut milk and rum) and head to the beach for a day of relaxation.

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If you’re interested in staying overnight at Cayo Levantado, check out the luxurious Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado.

I hope you realize now that the Dominican Republic is so much more than Punta Cana! When will you go to experience the beauty of the North coast?


(Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism. As always, all opinions are my own.)

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Skip Punta Cana and Head to Dominican Republic's North Coast

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  1. Sandra says:

    Beautiful photo! Dominican Republic is now on my list. I didn’t know it was this nice.

  2. Carmelisse says:

    Thank you so much for writing this post! Very good information on here. I already forgot about half of the places we went to lol. Will be referencing this a lot. <3

  3. I saw your Instagram post of el limon waterfall and instantly wanted to put it on my bucket list. I would love to go to the Dominican Republic and this is a short & sweet guide 🙂

  4. Claudia says:

    El Limon water fall is so beautiful and if you ask me, its worth the trip ! Though those smoothies at Fresh Fresh sound really good right now. What a great trip!

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