Our experience with Samana in 2010: very
bureaucratic, very slow. It took us a few trips and long waits just to get permission to sail to the next port (we had checked in at Ocean World without a hassle). I would think check-in to the country will be just as slow (or slower). There are unlit boats traversing the harbour at night and someone approached us about "harbour security". We didn't take up his offer, but were ok (anchored as far from town as possible).
That said, the Samana national park was gorgeous with caves, waterfalls, mangrove explorations, islands covered with birds, stunning sunsets, warm water
A few thoughts on Samana:
in town harbour and go do check-in right away. We waited (wanted to eat and swim before going to town), so ended up with some very upset officials on our boat... Maybe that was the reason for super-slow bureaucracy. They close at 5 and don't do weekends.
- Watch for cruise
ships coming into Samana - there's a small island just before Samana town where they stop.
- You will be required to do check-in and out of every port you call into in DR. Don't take this lightly. If your paper says you're going A to B, don't skip and go to C. It'll be a long process getting everything sorted out. A to C, but stopping in B is better, but we were suggested not to check-in in B in that case.
- Samana town advertises a trip to the waterfalls. It's a long-ish donkey ride up and down hills and a swim in fairly large waterfalls. Pretty, but quite a few groups of tourists. Our friends who came with us on this trip decided the waterfalls weren't worth the donkey ride. We thought it was ok.
- You will be required to get the paper stating your next port of call after Samana inside DR. The advice we were given is not to state that you want to spend a few days in the national park. The DR officials don't like foreign boats going to non-officiated places. We just stated Punta Cana as our next destination
after Samana and spent a few days in the park.
- A bit into the bay after Samana town there is a new marina. When we were there it was still being built, so we had almost free dockage. Maybe it would be easier to check in there.
- Don't miss the national park - there is the main bay where everyone anchors and where the caves are. The caves are worth a dinghy
trip. A bit further into Samana bay there are a ton of smaller islands, coves, and bays - absolutely magical place. People say it looks a lot like Thailand
- In the park when sailing close to small islands and rocks, be careful - rocks and small stones frequently fall and real depths may be much smaller than charted.
- We thoroughly enjoyed explorations by dinghy
, but remember that the wind
starts in the second half of the day, so the drive back to the boat may be much slower, wetter, and wavier. Plan your route
well and watch the weather
- Fishermen in small boats set up shrimp nets at sunset. We stopped one and asked for a few shrimp and he gave us a big bowl of large, still alive shrimps. He asked for $1-2 for all of them, we gave him $5 and everyone was happy. It was our first (and so far last) time eating shrimp so fresh!
- Sailing Samana in the dark is quite an adventure as there are many small unlit fishing
boats throughout the bay.
- The whales were all that was advertised - jumps, flips, and tail shows!
to Puerto Plata:
- We and two more boats sailing through Frenchman's [Englishman's?] bay on the way from Puerto Plata to Samana saw nav lights that would go on an intercept course, jump location, and go too fast for a normal boat for about 2 hours. We also saw radar
blips where the lights were, but one of the other two boats didn't. Very nerve racking. Later locals told us that fishermen see these lights frequently as there is a sad love story of an Englishman's wife running away with a Frenchman, and the englishman's still looking for her.
Puerto Plata: when we were there Cofresi wasn't open, we didn't want to stop in Luperon as the check-in was supposed to be not very simple, so we stayed in Ocean World. Ok, some swell gets in. Note, that if you've ever wanted to touch dolphins
, Ocean World's dolphinarium is told to be "the best", as in the closest contact with dolphins
out of all of them.
But the best thing in Puerto Plata was our trip to 27 waterfalls. You are given a guide, shoes, lifejackets, and hard hats. Then you climb up some waterfalls (3, 10, or the whole 27) and slide back down them. Gorgeous nature and a bit of a thrill
We did 10 as there were too many people going on 3. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
Enjoy this country!