I found myself watching the planes on the runway at Barajas airport, trying to control my anxiety because I knew that some very intense days were waiting for me on an island that is very dear to me.
I'm talking about the northeast of the Dominican Republic where I found perhaps the most beautiful beaches I've ever been to.
We left Lisbon very early in the morning for Madrid with Air Europa, from where we left in the early afternoon hours on a Plus Ultra flight that took us directly to El Catey airport, in Samana.
The flight was uneventful, but the plane is already showing its age, like other charter flights to the Caribbean that I have taken.
Upon arrival, we still had time to meet the Mêda family at the airport, who did the favor of "leaving the keys to paradise under the rug"! 🤣🤣
I felt again the impact of the humidity so typical of the Caribbean that quickly turned into tropical rain. After picking up our bags, we went looking for the bus that would take us to the hotel.
The journey between the airport and the hotel is, in itself, fascinating, and the approximately 40 kilometers are covered on a road that winds between mountains and the sea, offering real postcards of incredible landscapes at each turn.
The Grand Bahia Principe EL Portillo hotel is relatively small compared to other resorts in the Caribbean. Its gardens are immaculately maintained and it's easy to get everywhere quickly. It was recently refurbished and now stands out as the most attractive swimming pool with a swim-up bar and the restaurants with new decorations surrounding us and providing delightful moments.
Rooms are divided into apartment blocks, some of which have also been refurbished.
We stayed in block 3, next to the lobby in the central area, but those who are further away also can move around easily in the buggies that the hotel provides throughout the day.
They are equipped with a mini bar, TV, and all the necessary features for a peaceful stay. We stayed in rooms that were recently renovated and perhaps because of this, they didn't have the typical signs of wear and tear that the Caribbean climate usually induces.
The pool now also has a wet bar and even though it is not very big, there are always many Dominicans who prefer this water to the beach. The staff is the best we can find, always available and ready to help.
The outdoor spaces are made up of excellently maintained gardens, similar to other hotels in the same group. Some places set up stalls selling handicrafts and local products, which lends a very pleasant atmosphere to the hotel.
The main restaurant is EL Limon, it has a wide variety of food with meat, fish, salads, pasta, as well as magnificent desserts, but long queues form at the opening hours of the meals, with local tourists invariably taking pole position... This restaurant has a very pleasant outdoor area that allows for long, relaxed meals.
Fish Market Restaurant
This Mediterranean cuisine themed restaurant recreates a marine environment and allows you to taste truly delicious dishes and always with the friendliness of the smiling employees. Recommended.
During the day, this restaurant allows for quick meals for those who don't want to go to El Limon, which always has more variety. At night, grilled Brazilian meat served at the table is the highlight of this space, which only accepts appointments. Its location by the water helps to compose the environment and makes it very special.
At night, the whole hotel gains new energy, with live music in the lobby and every day there are theme parties in Pueblo Principe, an area next to the hotel entrance, which entertains us before returning to our rooms.
Right next to the hotel's beach, there is also a coral barrier that allowed me to spend long hours enjoying fish of all kinds and that was my company practically every day.
But here the most important thing is not really the hotel at all, and so the plan was essentially to take advantage of every day to take long walks between dives along the coast.
As I said before, this was not the first time I visited this area, having previously visited incredible places such as Los Haitises, Santa Bárbara de Samaná, and Cayo Levantado/Isla Bacardi. That's why this time I chose to explore some areas a little further away by motorcycle and buggy... But I'll talk about that later on.
Walking to the right side of the hotel along the deserted beaches
The entire northern area of the Samana Peninsula has immense beaches, some very famous that are visited through paid excursions and others that, not being so famous, are less frequented and these were the ones I looked for. The location of the hotel is ideal for long walks by the sea, so I took the opportunity to walk for miles and enjoy the nature of this place...
So right after the hotel's beach, I visited Playa Calolima in a bay where there are signs that remind us that we have to be careful and respect the turtle nests, having to watch where we step.
Here, a stream also flows into an area where Dominican families take the opportunity to gather and picnic in the shade of coconut trees that defy the law of gravity and almost touch the water.
The tides do not vary greatly, but at low tide, a long strip of sand stretches out into the sea. At the end of this beach, mangroves appear and the beach ends, but there are still small pools that invite you to relax.
Once here, the mangroves make it impossible to walk further, so we opt for an inland path for about 200 meters until we reach the next stop, Playa El Anclón.
Playa El Anclón
We took advantage of the shadows of the coconut trees and stayed in one of the several bays to enjoy the magnificent environment. I tried to catch some coconuts but was unsuccessful.
Luckily a Dominican who worked nearby came to see what was going on and offered to climb the coconut trees and offer us some fresh coconuts picked on the spot, a real privilege.
Right at the end of this beach, it is still possible to walk among the mangroves or opt for the inland path and visit other small virgin beaches that are so small they don't even have a name but they all seem to be taken from postcards!
Walking to the left towards Las Terrenas
On another day and after a "reinforced" breakfast I decided to go to Las Terrenas, but walking along the coast. After the hotel limits, we walk to Punta Portillo, passing by some tourists who also enjoy the beginning of the day for a refreshing morning walk.
Eddy, the painter next door to the Hotel, was still putting his paintings on display when we passed him on the longest walking tour of this vacation.
In this little corner of paradise, the sea reminds us that it is in charge and cuts the coast as it pleases. Some coconut trees seem to be suspended, with their roots in the water and others end up falling. This area is also a meeting point for Kitesurf practitioners, there are several schools around here and it is easy, in the afternoon, to find practitioners of all ages flying in the warm wind so typical of these places.
As we walked, we picked up areas with a lot of seaweed deposited along the waterline, which the sea brings and takes away depending on the tides. In areas that have explored beaches, groups of local workers work tirelessly to collect and bury them in large holes that they dig under a sun that spares no one... In other areas, there are no traces of seaweed.
Continuing on walking we arrive at Punta Popy Beach, from where we can see the entire bay where Las Terrenas is located and where some yachts and sailboats are moored. Here, the locals choose the best shade and strategically place their sun loungers and beach chairs and calmly wait for the arrival of tourists who rent them for a few pesos a day.
We take the opportunity to go diving as the sun is already high and the sea is really calling for us.
This is also the beach that marks the beginning of the urban area and that's why we now have a walk along the road that takes us to the center.
We quickly cross the urban area, always very busy where all kinds of vehicles cross, especially the motorcycles that Dominicans love so much. Punta Terrenas is the destination, already on the eastern edge of Las Terrenas, where we can appreciate the arrival of local fishermen in their boats that wander between the corals to reach the beach.
This journey of about 14 kilometers is truly wonderful and it is a privilege to be able to walk along the seafront without seeing anyone, which makes it even more special as it allows you to appreciate all the beauty of this area with all your senses. I recommend!
Safari in Moto 4 and buggy through the mountains to the coast
The Samana peninsula is a very fun place and in order to get to know this place in more detail, we chose to visit its interior on a quad bike and buggy.
We tried, together with some beach vendors, well known among the Portuguese who visit this hotel, to build a circuit to our measure, but their proposals always included long lunches that we did not value because what we really wanted was to make the most of the day to go around and discover more at our pace. So it was at the hotel that we managed to put together an excursion to our liking that allowed us to have a fantastic day.
On this tour through the interior of the Peninsula, we had the opportunity to visit several places and cross some small towns full of people who waved as we passed. We also visited a typical farm in the Dominican countryside where we can taste some local fruits and taste freshly made chocolate with ground cocoa, local coffee, and Mama Juana, the Dominican national drink that the gods say has magical powers...
We alternated between the quad bike and the buggy but always with the hot wind in our faces on each ride. We cross colorful villages and hills with dense vegetation, full of coconut trees and we also visit Playa El Limon and Playa Lanza del Norte. We were sure of one thing, here all the beaches are postcards, except that some are more famous than others. That's why some are deserted and others always have tourists.
These walks outside the environment of large resorts or urban centers, serve to find the genuineness of this island as we feel that this is the only way to enter the local daily life and either you like it or you hate it. I love! It's something you feel inside. The deserted beaches are incredible but the magic of the island is felt when we walk in the open air along dirt paths or tarred roads, where it seems that there is a natural harmony and that time does not pass.
Playa Lança del Norte and Playa EL Limon
Far from any urban center, these beaches are the most untouched that we can find and it is impossible not to be moved by their natural beauty. It's not easy to get there and maybe that's its secret.
El Limon, was the small town where we recharged our batteries with lunch and where we changed vehicles as the plan now was to take a truck back to Las Terrenas and visit the coast to the north before returning to the hotel.
This day was spent without the company of Portuguese and the group that accompanied us of Spanish and Canadians was divided, some returned to the hotels and others stayed with us until the end of the day.
Playa Bonita is quite famous around here not only for its beauty but also because it is a hotspot for surf lovers. When we visited it after a bath in its warm waters, São Pedro offered us a tropical downpour that we will not soon forget. We were lucky to find shelter in a private beach house where we could wait until the storm had passed.
At the end of the day, we still had time to stop in the center of Las Terrenas in an area where it was possible to do some shopping and at the same time feel the pulse at rush hour in this town where motorbikes seem to appear from everywhere in organized chaos but where it takes courage to walk around...
It is usually said that we should not return to places where we were happy, but this one is special and, after visiting it once, we will definitely return because there is still much to visit and here I feel at home! ;)