It’s road trip time! This Samaná itinerary will give you an idea of how to travel in the Dominican Republic to the Samaná peninsula from Punta Cana – either with a rental car, by taxi or with a private driver. You can even use public transport if you factor in some additional time. The Samaná Peninsula is widely known as one of the most beautiful regions in the Dominican Republic. When you are going to see the abundance of coconut palm trees, quaint fishing villages and absolutely pristine beaches during your road-trip, you will immediately fall in love with this region. This Samaná itinerary starting in Punta Cana (but you can also begin in Santo Domingo) will show you the most beautiful locations on the peninsula and will spark your interest in renting a car and heading there immediately. If a 3 day itinerary is too short for you, you can easily add additional days to make it a stunning and more relaxed 4- or 5-day Samaná road trip for your vacation in the Dominican Republic.
- Basics for your Samaná itinerary: rental car and accommodation
- Day 1: From Punta Cana to Samaná
- Day 2: Explore the Samaná peninsula
- Additional days: optional Samaná excursions and activities
- Day 3: Waterfall Salto El Limón and back to Punta Cana
- What if I don’t want to rent a car for this Dominican Republic itinerary?
- What if you want to change this Punta Cana itinerary?
- How can I book this itinerary?
Completely UPDATED: February 2022
Not the road-trip you are looking for? Check out the two following Dominican Republic itineraries:
Are you looking for a longer road-trip? Have a look at this Dominican Republic 1-week itinerary, including a few days in Punta Cana, stunning mountains and important history.
For further super helpful information about exploring the country with a rental car, you can also read our general road-trip guide for the Dominican Republic.
Questing about your Punta Cana car rental – continue reading here!
Google Maps doesn’t show the best way between San Pedro de Macorís and Santo Domingo. You would not use the Carretterra Mella from San Pedro de Macorís, instead you continue on the main highway via Juan Dolio and Boca Chica until reaching the Samaná turnoff.
Basics for your Samaná itinerary: rental car and accommodation
When planning a Samaná road trip, there are usually two questions which are asked first: is it safe to rent a car in the Dominican Republic and what are the best places to stay in the area?
First of all, yes, it is safe to rent a car in Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic. Even though road traffic might be a bit crazy, you are usually well as long as the Dominican Republic is not your first country in the world where you rent a car. Especially the roads from Punta Cana to Samaná are pretty easy to drive, as 90% of them are well-maintained roads and highways.
If you are not sure if it is a good idea to rent a car, check out this post if you shall rent a car in Punta Cana, which also applies to your Samaná itinerary.
If you are wondering where to rent a car in the Dominican Republic, I can recommend Discover Cars* and Sunny Cars*. Both give you the option of renting a car with full insurance, which is particularly important in Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic, as otherwise, the rental car agents will try to sell you a lot of overpriced insurances. While Discover Cars offer the best prices, Sunny Cars can be considered as a premium broker, only working with the best rental car agencies.
If you only want to travel to Samaná and are not going to visit Punta Cana, it is even better to fly to Santo Domingo and book your car from there.
The second thing you need for your Samaná itinerary is a great place to stay. And rest assured, there are some pretty unique places to stay on the Samaná peninsula. Besides accommodation options for all budgets, there are also amazing eco-lodges, one-of-a-kind treehouses and super cute guesthouses, which makes a stay on the Samaná peninsula so worthwhile. Besides the best accommodation recommendations for five different budget options, I have also added three absolutely unique stays, which guarantees an amazing and unforgettable experience in Samaná:
Dominican Tree House Village*: probably the most unique accommodation in Samaná. Around a dozen of individual rooms and casitas are nestled in the trees of the Samaná jungle with amazing views of the lush scenery.
Chalet Tropical*: if you want to stay in the quieter town of Las Galeras and are looking for a unique place to stay, Tropical Chalet is your first pick with an incredibly lush garden, pools and individually decorated bungalows – only a few hundred feet away from the beach.
Samaná Eco-Lodge*: the most unique eco-lodge in Samaná which feels like another world. The bungalows and jungle houses are tastefully designed, offer amazing views and an unforgettable stay in Samaná.
If you’d like to see all those accommodation recommendations at a glance, you can check out this summary here*.
Day 1: From Punta Cana to Samaná
Today is the day to start your short but intense Dominican Republic road-trip to Samaná. Assuming you have already arrived the day before (or earlier) in Punta Cana and have picked up your rental car (check prices for rental cars from/to Punta Cana here*) or have organized your private driver, you can start your Samaná itinerary in Punta Cana as early as 8:00 am to make the most out of the day.
First, head west on the well-maintained four-lane highway towards Santo Domingo. On the way I recommend stopping either at the Cueva de las Maravillas or the Barceló Rum Distillery. Both attractions are located directly along the highway.
While the Cueva de las Maravillas (“Cave of Wonders”) is a large and illuminated cave system with paintings and engravings on the walls, which are over 500 years old and date back to the Taínos, the native inhabitants of the Dominican Republic, the Barcelo Rum Distillery showcases the history and the production of one of the most popular rum brands in the Dominican Republic. It doesn’t matter for which one you decide on your road-trip from Punta Cana to Samaná, factor in around an hour for the visit.
Once you reach the limits of Santo Domingo, make sure to check the signposting and not to miss the Samaná turnoff. It’s a bit hidden right after the toll station (the one where you don’t pay) close to Las Américas International Airport. The Samaná highway is a modern and well-maintained toll highway bringing you in a bit more than one hour from the South Coast of the Dominican Republic to the Samaná peninsula, passing through the territory of Los Haitises National Park, making it a particularly scenic drive.
You can also start and end this Samaná itinerary in Santo Domingo, which would decrease the driving time by approx. 2 hours.
Once reaching the Samaná peninsula with your car rented in Punta Cana or Santo Domingo, you turn left on the first round-about to follow on the Boulevard de Atlántico, passing the last toll station for the day. Unfortunately, the way from Punta Cana to Las Terrenas has quite a lot of tolls – 7 in total, summing up to 1300 DOP for this part of your Samaná itinerary (260 DOP for Punta Cana – Santo Domingo paid in 3 toll stations, approx. 500 DOP for Santo Domingo – Samaná paid in another 3 toll stations and approx. 550 DOP for the Boulevard de Atlántico to Las Terrenas).
However, even the drive on the Boulevard de Atlántico towards Las Terrenas is expensive, it’s worth the money as the road winds through the mountains in a spectacular way. This toll road was just opened around 8 years ago to considerably shorten the travel time to Las Terrenas, making the connection from Santo Domingo to Samaná possible in around 2 hours. This is to most impressive section of your road trip to Samaná on day 1.
At the end of Boulevard de Atlántico, make sure not to miss the panorama viewpoint (signposted as “Mirador”) with a gorgeous view of Playa Cosón and Las Terrenas.
Las Terrenas is the main beach town on the Samaná peninsula and your destination for the day. Many restaurants, bars and shops directly at the beach or in the bustling village are waiting here for you, without oozing the image of a too touristy place.
You should arrive in Las Terrenas in the early afternoon and therefore can decide: time for a small adventure or relaxing on the beautiful beaches of Las Terrenas.
If you decide to relax in town, I recommend heading to Playa Cosón, where you can swim, relax, have a drink and admire the amazing beach with its thousands of coconut palm trees.
If you’d like to continue your Samaná itinerary with an adventure, you can visit an absolutely pristine and virgin beach, where you have more than 3 miles of sand all on your own, without a single other person. If you’d like to live this experience in Samaná, a region in the Dominican Republic dotted with the most pristine beaches of the country, you can head towards El Limón to visit Playa Lanza El Norte. Check out this article to see how you can get to this beach. In combination with neighboring Playa Las Canas, it features a natural backdrop you won’t forget.
Once you return to Las Terrenas in the early evening, you can get prepared to spend a night out in the several beachfront restaurants or bars in the low-key atmosphere of the town.
Total distance: 195 miles / 315 kilometers
Driving time: approx. 4 hours in total + side-trip to Playa Lanza del Norte if desired (45 minutes each way)
BACKPACKER ($) – Dan & Manty’s Guesthouse*
VALUE ($$) – Beach Hotel Casa Nina*
MID-RANGE ($$$) – Hotel Playa Colibri*
SPLURGE ($$$$) – Samán Boutique-Hotel*
LUXURY ($$$$$) – Sublime Samaná*
Insider tip: on the way to Samaná, I’d recommend having lunch at the rest stop Marbella, right after the toll station “Marbella”. You can get good and fresh Dominican food in a clean environment.
Further information on Punta Cana Travel Blog:
– Best day trips from Punta Cana (incl. Cueva de las Maravillas and Barceló Rum Factory)
– Best beaches on the Samaná peninsula
Day 2: Explore the Samaná peninsula
While you would have the option to relax in Las Terrenas and its multiple surrounding beaches today, I highly recommend taking your rental car to make the most out of your Samaná itinerary from Punta Cana or Santo Domingo.
There is a lot to explore on the Samaná peninsula when driving through the area. You will see plenty of fishing villages, rolling hills, abundant vegetation like you only can see in the Dominican mountains, a lot of fruit stalls along the roads, coconut vendors and much more. Samaná is also home to many local delicacies, such as Arepa de Coco (a baked coconut dough), Pescado de Coco (fish in coconut sauce), Camareros de Sanchez (shrimps right from the Samaná Bay) or Queso de Hoja (cheese made out of goat milk), so it’s worth to explore this particular region of the Dominican Republic during this Samaná road-trip.
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Your highlight for today is a visit to Playa Rincón, which was elected to one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. And indeed it is, considering the spectacular scenery, the not-existent tourism, the crystal-clear river flowing into the ocean, the surrounding hills overgrown with coconut trees and the intense turquoise color of the ocean – it’s a scenery you hardly can find anywhere else in the Dominican Republic. I also recommend to have lunch at one of the two ramshackle local restaurants along the beach and order a freshly grilled fish.
To reach Playa Rincón, you head with your car towards Santa Barbara de Samaná and continue the road until Las Galeras. From here, you have two options: the first is to take the turnoff to Playa Rincón until you arrive directly at the beach. Take the road straight to paradise!
The other option would be to go to the town center of Las Galeras, where the fishermen are waiting with their boats. Here, you can go with the locals to Playa Frontón first, another unique beach in Samaná, which is only accessible by foot and by boat and which offers some good snorkeling conditions on top. After a stop here, you head by boat to Playa Rincón and if you negotiate well you can make an additional stop at the romantic bay of Playa Madame. This tour by boat is usually around 60 to 100 USD per boat, depending on the number of passengers. You can also prebook a speedboat to only Playa Frontón and Playa Madame here*.
Once you have finished your beach day, you head back to Las Terrenas to have a second night there. You could also stay in Las Galeras, but as it’s just a 90-minute drive, it’s more comfortable to stay in the same accommodation for both nights on this particular Samaná road-trip.
Total distance: 85 miles / 140 kilometers
Driving time: approx. 3 hours in total (1.5 hours per way)
BACKPACKER ($) – Dan & Manty’s Guesthouse*
VALUE ($$) – Beach Hotel Casa Nina*
MID-RANGE ($$$) – Hotel Playa Colibri*
SPLURGE ($$$$) – Samán Boutique-Hotel*
LUXURY ($$$$$) – Sublime Samaná*
Insider tip: make sure to stop along the road and buy a fresh coconut plus some oven-baked (and if possible still lukewarm) Arepa de Coco, it’s so delicious. Furthermore, make sure you explore the crystal-clear river Caño Frio at the western end of Playa Rincón.
Further information on Punta Cana Travel Blog: best beaches on the Samaná peninsula
Additional days: optional Samaná excursions and activities
This Samaná itinerary gives you only an example of how you can spend a couple of days on this beautiful peninsula. The idea is to get away from the all-inclusive resorts in Punta Cana for at least 2 to 3 days and get to know the authentic Dominican Republic.
However, you could also opt for an entire vacation in Samaná which would give you additional time to explore the stunning attractions and things to see the Samaná peninsula has to offer.
A couple of those things to do in Samaná are already mentioned for day 1, 2 and 3 of this Samaná itinerary, such as:
- Discovering the pristing beaches Playa Cosón, Playa Lanza del Norte and Playa Las Canas (see all the beautiful Samaná beaches here)
- Visiting Playa Rincon and Playa Frontón in Las Galeras
- Hiking to waterfall Salto El Limón
However, there are much more excursions and activities you can do on a Samaná road-trip, such as:
- Going on a ziplining tour (check details here*)
- Book an ATV adventure
- Explore beautiful El Valle
- Visit Cayo Levantado, also known as Bacardi Island
- Hike to more waterfalls (for example in El Valle or to Juana Vicente Waterfall)
- Go whale watching from Santa Barbara de Samaná (check a local tour here*)
- Head to Los Haitises National Park from Santa Barbara de Samaná (check a local tour here*)
- Hike to Playa Ermitaño I and II (or alternatively go on a guided tour from El Valle to Ermitaño*)
- Walk along the 7 beaches from Las Galeras to Playa Rincón (or alternatively book a guided 3 beaches tour*)
- Discover Playa Jackson and the crystal-clear river
- Go on a mountain bike tour with local experts
As you can see, there are so many things to do in Samaná, you won’t get bored even if you stay one week or two. If you have any specific questions about these activities, let me know in the comments.
Day 3: Waterfall Salto El Limón and back to Punta Cana
After the focus on the beach on the previous days, the last part of this Dominican Republic itinerary for the Samaná peninsula will get you wet – one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the Dominican Republic is waiting for you: Salto El Limón.
While Salto El Limón is reachable from Punta Cana as well, when leaving from Las Terrenas you have the big advantage of being able to arrive early – which guarantees you the waterfall in all its beauty as you won’t be disturbed by other tour groups.
Therefore I recommend leaving Las Terrenas at 07:30 am latest and head to one of the several ranches of Salto El Limón – check out this article here to get all the details on how you can organize this trip on your own. Alternatively, you can book a guided excursion here*.
Once on the way to Salto El Limón, you should reach the waterfall before 09:00 am, which usually gives you the exclusive use of the natural swimming pool, as most tour groups only arrive at 09:30 am or later. Even I have visited more than 50 waterfalls in the Dominican Republic (check out some of these waterfalls here), Salto El Limón is still one of the most beautiful ones and offers a picture-perfect scenery – it is really worth the trip. In case you don’t want to hike here (usually 30-45 minutes per way), you can also go horseback riding, even I don’t recommend this option. As mentioned, check out my comprehensive guide about Salto El Limón to read all the details and to make the best out of this very special Samaná attraction.
Depending on which hike you choose and how long you spend at the waterfall, you should be back at your rental car before noon to slowly head back to Punta Cana, which is a 4.5-hour drive from here. You can either have lunch at the ranch where you parked your car or head to Sanchez to “La Plaza del Marisco” if you are looking for a cheap local seafood lunch. Alternatively, if you’d like to enjoy the beaches of Las Terrenas one last time, you can head back there and have lunch at one of the various beachfront restaurants – a perfect ending for your Samaná road trip itinerary.
If you still have time once on the way back to Punta Cana, you can either stop at Salto Socoa, a waterfall right on the Samaná highway (you can find details on how to arrive at this waterfall here), or at the Tabacalera Garcia close to La Romana to learn everything about the cigar production and buy some to take home. Alternatively, you can also visit the option you have not done on day 1 of this Samaná itinerary from Punta Cana, but keep in mind that both are usually closing around 4 pm.
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Once back in Punta Cana, you can either return your rental car at the Punta Cana airport or head back to the same hotel where you have been before you started this road-trip from Punta Cana. I hope you enjoyed this road trip for the east of the country. I am available to answer any questions you might have. If you’d like to explore more, you can also check out the ultimate Dominican Republic itinerary or the 1-week Punta Cana itinerary.
Total distance: 215 miles / 350 kilometers
Driving time: approx. 5 hours in total
Insider tip: if you want a spectacular view of Salto El Limón, choose Sendero El Café as you will see the waterfall from above.
Further information on Punta Cana Travel Blog: Comprehensive guide about Salto El Limón
What if I don’t want to rent a car for this Dominican Republic itinerary?
Don’t worry, this Dominican Republic itinerary is also possible without driving a rental car. In this case, you have three options:
Taxi: this is the most expensive option, but of course the easiest. Just grab a cab, negotiate a rate for the daily itinerary and head off. However, taxi prices are not cheap in the Dominican Republic. I would not recommend this option.
Private driver: this is the most recommendable option if you don’t want to drive on your own. You can book a car as described above, but instead of driving on your own, you hire a private driver. In this case, you pay gas and tolls as for every other road-trip plus the expenses (daily fee, accommodation, food) of the driver. I can help you with arranging it if you need a reliable private driver in Punta Cana and beyond. I can also put you in contact with a local tour operator, who has a long track record of organizing some of the best self-drive tours in the Dominican Republic. Contact me here!
Public transport: this 3-day Punta Cana to Samaná itineraryis easily possible to do by public transport – just count in two days more as you will need a full day to get from Punta Cana to Las Terrenas with the public busses. Connections are via Santo Domingo, but the ride (2x 3 hours) is quite comfortable. Minibusses are plying the route between Las Terrenas and El Limón to visit the waterfall. If you would like to visit Playa Rincón by public transport, it might be a better option to include one night in Las Galeras so that you won’t lose too much time by shuttling around – or you can book an organized tour to Playa Rincon here*. If you need help re-arranging this itinerary to make it even more suitable for public transport, please contact me as I am offering personalized travel coaching.
Please pack light to make moving around easier!
What if you want to change this Punta Cana itinerary?
If you would like to change the activities, add more days or have a different route for this Samaná road trip, no problem. First, this Samaná itinerary is just an idea factoring in many of the experiences I made in the last years in the Dominican Republic, so everything is customizable. Feel free to change it according to your preferences.
If you’d like to have a tailor-made itinerary like the one above but with different conditions, you can also send me a travel coaching request. I am happy to either change the itinerary above or create a completely new one, depending on what exactly you are looking for. As I have traveled the entire country various times (and have been on the Samaná peninsula more than 15 times) and I am living in the Dominican Republic since 2015, I am happy to share all the knowledge I have.
How can I book this itinerary?
As I am just a travel blog and not a tour operator, you can’t book this itinerary directly through me. However, there are three options you can consider:
- If you’d like to book this Dominican Republic 3-day itinerary exactly as proposed (or similar), you can use the booking links I have included in the text above. I receive a small commission for those bookings, which helps me maintaining this website. You can also find a summary of all the accommodations recommended here*.
- If you’d like to book this itinerary and need professional assistance or if you would like to change this travel plan according to your preferences, you can contact me via my affordable travel coaching.
- If you’d like to get everything organized by a professional tour operator, I am happy to put you in contact with a company, specialized in tailor-made trips through the entire Dominican Republic.
Do you have any questions about this Dominican Republic itinerary which leads you from Punta Cana to Samaná, including Las Terrenas and Las Galeras? Are you up for such a road-trip? Let me know in the comments what you think, I am happy to reply to your thoughts.
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CHRISAuthor, Travel Coach & Punta Cana based digital nomad
Hey, I am Chris, a born and raised German, travel-addictive and Caribbean Soul. Since 2011 I have been living in the Caribbean, among them 5 years in the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana is my home-base here in the country and I’d love to tell you more about how to experience Punta Cana off-the-beaten-track and give you all the advice you want to know for your vacation in Punta Cana.