Pony ride to El Limon Waterfall
On the last day of our stay in beautiful Samana, we hired a car with an English speaking guide to see the El Limon Waterfall which is only 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Samana town. Miguel the guide came to pick us up at our hotel at 9 in the morning. On the way we stopped briefly to have a look at part of the Los Haitises National Park which is a protected virgin forest, although we didn't enter it for lack of time.
When we arrived at the place we saw a lot of ponies and mules with their handlers waiting for riders/customers. The waterfall itself is very secluded and accessible only by hiking (30 to 45 minutes) or by horseback riding (15-20 minutes). There is a restaurant located right at the entrance of the beginning of the trail, and where we had lunch later.
Now, I have never ridden on a mule before, let alone a horse and I was feeling a bit apprehensive as my handler helped me settle in, making sure my feet were firmly in the stirrups. However, once we started going it was fairly easy going, except for the poor pony as the nature trail was quite rocky and steep at times along the way. The handlers also acted as guides, and the one I was assigned walked besides or behind me prodding the pony with his stick every now and then.
The area along the jungle route is predominantly agricultural, with home gardens and vegetable plots bordering plantations of banana, cacao, coffee and coconut. My guide was a young boy whose English was very limited, but he pointed out all the plant life and trees to me. Halfway along the jungle pathway I tried using French with him and he seemed more confident in that language, so we got along fine afterwards.
The horseback part of the trip ended at the ticket station where we had to pay 100 Dominican pesos (USD 2.50) to enter the waterfall area which is considered to be a national forest. At the station there is a small gift shop selling local handicrafts and souvenirs. From there it's a 10 to 15 minutes walk down to the main El Limon waterfall, no problem going down, but the steps back up can be quite exhausting. I had to take a couple of short rest stops to get my second wind! The guides will also accompany you to the waterfall and stay there until you're ready for the return trip.
El Limon Waterfalls is widely regarded to be the most beautiful waterfall in the Dominican Republic, and indeed, with its height of 171 feet (52 meters) it looked pretty spectacular. While we were there we saw other tourists, not that many though, as it was still relatively early in the morning. A few were swimming in the natural pool below the falls, and even my guide took a quick dip. At the end of the tour I gave them a tip of $10.00 each (for the two guides) which was expected, and they seemed quite happy with the amount.
Back at the restaurant we were served with a typical Dominican meal for lunch, consisting of rice, chicken and beef curries, rolls, a big plate of salad, beans and fritters, plus a dessert of fresh tropical fruits. Water and a big bottle of Coca-Cola were also provided.
The total cost for the waterfall/horse ride tour came up to USD65, including the lunch and tips, plus transportation which I thought was reasonable.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Jungle and Rain Forest
- National/State Park
Whale watching is an experience of a lifetime!
While making our travel plans to visit the Dominican Republic, we booked this tour with 'Whale Samana' managed by Kim Bedall, as it was a unique opportunity to observe humpback whales in their natural environment. We were not disappointed at all.
So, on Valentine's Day 2014 we sailed out of the boat pier in Samana on the "Pura Mia" a specially designed whale watch vessel with about 55 enthusiastic people all eager to see the whales in their calving and mating grounds.
Kim and a Marine Mammal Specialist accompanied us and gave an excellent live narration throughout the voyage in three different languages, English, Spanish and German. The boat itself was a 55 foot double decker with two modern restrooms and a snack bar. There was plenty of space to move around, and to get a better view we decided to sit on the upper deck. We were also provided with soft drinks, water, soda crackers and ginger mints, and most importantly Dramamine tablets, plus pressure bands for those prone to sea sickness. At the end of the tour we were also given an educational booklet on whales.
The scenery was beautiful as we departed Samana, and about 40 minutes later the boat stopped at the public dock of Cayo Levantado Island to pick up a few more passengers. We saw a big cruise ship, a sailing ship and other smaller vessels as the boat made its way to the part of the waters where the whales are known to be sighted. This section is called the Marine Mammal Sanctuary and the $3.00 "Admission fee" is included in the $62.00 total cost of the tour.
We were told that humpback whales have been migrating to Samana Bay (which connects with the Atlantic Ocean) for centuries during the months of January to March, their calving and mating season. As we were there in mid February it was an ideal time to see them. And saw them we did!
A pod of whales 'performed' for us by showing off their acrobatic skills such as coming up to the surface, diving and breaching. The last action is that of a whale launching itself into the air exposing some of its massive body before crashing back on the surface of the water. There were a lot of 'oohs and ahhs' from the watchers on the boat, and indeed, it was such a delightful and thrilling sight! We were all busy aiming our cameras to catch those marvellous moments. However, the photos we took of these wonderful mammals really don't do justice to what we actually witnessed.
This whale watching tour lasted about 3 hours. There was a competent captain and professional crew on board. As mentioned before, Kim and the other lady gave a running commentary on the boat. All the staff were very knowledgeable, and I am sure everyone of us who took the tour were quite happy with their services. As we disembarked the boat at the jetty, Kim was there on the dock to bid each of us goodbye.
I can't think of a better way to spend VALENTINE'S DAY WITH THE WHALES AT SAMANA BAY!Related to:
- Whale Watching
Santo Domingo Catholic Cathedral
This cathedral is especial for sheltering the corpse of Columbus. We have in Sevilla, inside its Catholic Cathedral, another tomb whcih is supposed to belong to Columbus. Presently nobody knows for sure which on is the real one.
In any case, the Catholic Cathedral in Santo Domingo is a must visit, so do not miss it if you happen to visit Santo Domingo.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Historical Travel
One of the many options available to tourists (gasp) is a journey to Paradise Island, which is about a 45 minute ride into the Atlantic Ocean via a speed boat, which our particular "skipper" thought was fun riding the waves, splashing us , and making us dizzy. :-) I asked him jokingly (I never joke...lol) if this was his first day on the job, and he gave me a "high five". He liked my silliness.
Paradise Island is a fairly small island , perhaps at the most 600-700 feet long and 200-300 feet wide. There are only the thatched huts which serve drinks and sandwiches and provide the snorkeling gear. No bathrooms anywhere. The locals are there to help you with the snorkeling and even provide bread to attract the beautiful fish. (to be continued...........)Related to:
- Spa and Resort
- Diving and Snorkeling
Playa Las Ballenas
If you walk for about 10-15 minutes on the village beach of Las Terrenas in a westernly direction, you reach the Las Ballenas beach (there are three tiny islands visible from the beach). This is a great beach close to Las Terrenas if you are not in the mood to drive to a more distant beach. Some great beach bars and not crowded at all!
Many say that Playa Rincon is the most beautiful beach in the Samana Peninsula. It is a little hard to reach though, either by an organized boat trip or otherwise by car to Las Galeras, and from here through a dirt road (4WD only) to the beach. Worth the effort though! They say Playa Rincon has great snorkeling, but I was not so lucky and spotted only a couple of fish.
My favourite beach in the Dominican Republic! I admit the name is not very original, but it is still fitting! Mile-long white sand beaches, palm tree groves, turquoise water, but also just a little more developed than Playa Rincon or Playa Coson, with some great beach restaurants and -bars. About 5 miles/10 minutes drive with a moto-taxi to the west from Las Terrenas.
Roughly 8 miles northwest from Las Terrenas, a ca. 15 minutes drive with a moto-taxi, and you find the great beach Playa Coson. To me, this is the classical caribbean beach: miles of white sands, palm tree groves, turquoise waters and rather good snorkeling. The one beach restaurant was OK, but not great. It is advisable to organize a fixed pick-up time with your moto-taxi when you go here.
Las Terrenas - a former fishing village off the beaten path for some decades, but now sensibly touristically developed, is the ideal base for exploring the Samana Peninsula in the northeastern Dominican Republic. It has plenty of smaller hotels and more restaurants and cocktail bars than you can point a stick at, and is also very close to great solitary beaches (Playa Bonita, Playa Coson..). It even has its own beach, though the village beach was a little dirty - so I rather recommend to drive a little to the more distant beaches. Another "con" point is that Las Terrenas is rather noisy; "pro": it seems quite safe, even at night, as our local hosts confirmed. Las Terrenas is well connected with Santo Domingo - about 3,5 hours by bus.
This peninsula in the northeastern Dominican Republic has some of the best beaches in the country (Playa Coson, Playa Bonita, Playa Rincon, Las Ballenas and many more ..). It is also home to the Saltos de Limon waterfalls and the base for boat excursions to the Los Haitises National Park. It is well-connected with Santo Domingo (frequent bus services, ca. 3,5 hours to Las Terrenas). First impression: The area is not (yet) dominated by big all-inclusive resorts, but well-developed with plenty of smaller hotels and restaurants. All around, a great place to relax and unwind!
The oldtown of Santo Domingo - called "zona colonial" is small - you can see most attractions in a day - but worth the effort of a brisk hike.
Among the main attractions are
- the cathedral - the only gothic-style cathedral in Latin America
- the Plaza Colon (the main square, great for people- and pigeon-watching)
- the Alcazar de Colon, seat of Diego Colon, son of Columbus and governor of Hispaniola
- the Museo de las Casas Reales (history museum)
- Casa Tostado (a wealthy family home from the 19th century)
- the main streets Calle de las Damas and Calle Conde
- the National Pantheon
- the ruins of the San Francisco Monastery.
Saltos de Limon - Waterfall
My superficial impression is that the Dominican Republic is not really a hiking mekka, but this is one hike you should not miss out on. Limon - a 15 minutes drive from Las Terrenas - is the entry point for this hike. At the park office/shack, guides will offer their services (most will want to take you on horseback), but the hike itself is not particular strenuos or difficult. It does involve two river crossings with almost knee high-water though. It takes about 1 1/2 hour to get to the waterfalls, where you can swim in a refreshingly cold pool at the bottom of the falls.
Jardin Botanico - Santo Domingo
The botanical garden of Santo Domingo is not in walking distance from the "zona colonial" area, so a taxi is necessary which will cost ca. 200 Pesos one-way. The garden covers quite an extensive area - they even have a toy train who makes the round-trip if you don`t want to walk all the way. A beautiful place and nice location to unwind.
Aquario Nacional - Santo Domingo
This aquarium is a short drive from Santo Domingo along the Malecon towards the airport. You will certainly have seen more fascinating aquariums (it is quite small and a little dated), but they have sea turtles, iguanas, mooray eels, stingrays, ground-dwelling sharks, and the location with a view of the south coast cliffs is quite spectacular. All in all a good spot to spend 1-2 hours if you have no other plans.
Santo Domingo is the DR's capital and also the oldest European city in the New World. It has enough attractions for 3-4 days of exploration. Sadly, most of the tourists including me, only get here on a day trip from the beach resorts.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
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