Las Terrenas is a picturesque town on the North East coast of the DR, on the Samana Peninsula.
LT is a special place, and not just because of its stunning beauty. Yes, there are 17 kilometers of mostly unpopulated beaches. But it is also set apart because of its unique cultural mix.
LT is made up of 2,000 foreign-born permanent residents out of a total of 15,000 in the town. Mostly French, with a large minority of Italians, at the time of writing; there are 11 Americans, three Brits and an Irish woman as well. This gives LT a particularly European flair, very different from the 'all inclusive' resorts aimed at people coming on package holidays to the North Coast resorts. This is obvious in the style of high-end cuisine available at Las Terrenas: the emphasis is on restaurants that combine European cooking with Dominican flavour.
But, most importantly, the fact that the majority of foreigners are permanent residents mean that they are invested in the community in a completely different way from other areas of the Dominican Republic. It also means that they have imposed certain standards on the services available. While the lights go out most days in the capital for a few hours, blackouts are rare in LT.
Broadband internet connections are easily available (though not particularly cheap). After the hurricane in September 2004, the whole town got together to clean up the beach over the weekend, and in thanks the foreign residents put on a charity concert to raise money to re-house Dominicans who had lost their homes.
Things to do: Our favourite answer is - nothing - and that's the way we like it. A towel, sunscreen and a good book and we're set. But for the more actively inclined, there are plenty of things to do:
- Whale Watching - on the south side of the peninsula is the Bay of Samana. Something like 90% of the humpback whales in the Atlantic are conceived in that bay, with January and February prime times for whale watching scuba diving.
- Wind Sports - Cabarete up the coast is the capital of the western hemisphere for windsurfing and kite surfing, and there are some outfits that cater to LT as well (while the wind is not as strong as it is up the coast, this is good news for beginners).
- Island Horse Treks - are a great way to see the area, especially to the Limon waterfall.
- Hiking - further south is the Las Haitises national park, great for nature walks.
- Food & Entertainment - restaurants serving nearly every major cuisine.
Weather: A strong hurricane hit LT in September 2004. This is noteworthy precisely because it was noteworthy - although hurricanes are frequent in the Caribbean, they are very rare on the Samana peninsula: they usually pass by the southern and western part of the island.
Samana has one of the highest rainfalls in the DR. However, most of this tends to happen at night - it is not uncommon to have a torrential downpour during the night followed by a bright morning, where everything looks green, refreshed and 'washed'. You'll find plentiful sunshine - part of what you will want in a house is lots of shade, in fact.
The Dominican Republic: Things happen on island time here. Having said that, the DR is a functioning democracy governed by the rule of law. Things do work, and you do have recourse in the event that things go wrong. As tourism brings in significant income to the country, a well paid Tourist Police force is there to help protect visitors.