Hidden among the jungle’s green whisper is Saman Boutique Hotel: a pared-back, slow-travel-saluting sanctuary close to the much-fêted white sands of the Caribbean. Nature is in charge here: beds, tables, cupboards and doors are crafted from native trees felled during hurricane Irma, and the rooftop pool bows down to the surrounding canopy. Spend slow mornings in the shaded courtyard and evenings listening to island stories, one lapping into the other. And if you listen carefully, you might hear the trumpet blow of a humpback whale, breaching the bath-like Atlantic waters off Samaná bay.
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Locally hand-crafted organic soaps in your room. GoldSmith’s will find a handmade beach bag on arrival, too
12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £81.70 ($102), including tax at 18 per cent.
Rates include breakfast, cooked-to-order between 7.30–11am every morning. Fuel up on platters of native fruits and buttery croissants. We’d recommend trying Mangú – the traditional breakfast of the Dominican Republic – a kick-start-your-day concoction.
If you’re visiting between mid-January and mid-March, you’re very likely to see the 4,000-odd humpback whales that migrate to Bahía de Samaná for winter. After a busy nine months of feeding in the north Atlantic, these gentle giants appear full of energy in Samaná’s tepid waters: males showcase their best courting displays (breaching, lobtailing, flippering, diving, and the rest), and mothers teach calves basic survival skills. You’ll be able to get up-close, but don’t worry: there are regulations in place to preserve the whales’ safety, too.
At the hotel
Pool and shaded courtyard, restaurant, rooftop pool and bar with beanbags, on-site parking. In rooms: WiFi, smart TV, Nespresso machine, minibar, hairdryer, sustainably-made biodegradable toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
All rooms are kitted out with handmade, sustainable furniture: everything from the beds, cupboards and bamboo towel rails to the wicker baskets and logs-cum-bedside-tables are made by local artisans using natural materials. That said, we’re a sucker for some outdoor space. Ask for a third or fourth floor deluxe room with terrace, facing the hotel’s courtyard, pool and saman tree.
The main pool is shaded by the foliage of the hotel’s protagonist: a soaring saman tree adorned with handmade rattan lamps. Sun-seekers tired of the beach might venture to the fourth floor, where another, smaller pool is supervised by a cool, low-hanging tree.
Ditch perfumes in favour of mosquito repellent and the coconut-y, Caribbean-fresh aroma from the handmade soaps in your room. You’ll benefit from some lightweight hiking shoes for trips into the lush mountains and the trail down to Salto El Limon, which can get muddy.
Saman is one of the only hotels in the area with a lift, and rooms are particularly spacious (the smallest being a not-to-be-scoffed-at 50 sq m) with wide doorways and plenty of clearance for wheelchairs.
The suites have a lounge area with sofa bed, which can sleep an additional adult or two children. They’re great for families, with plenty of floor space, a kitchenette and small dining table, too.
Saman Boutique Hotel works hard to promote sustainable and responsible tourism, starting with the very roots of the hotel's décor and the Saman project: an initiative to recover the wood of saman trees and other native species demolished during hurricane Irma in 2017. The heavy wood doors are made from local Gri Gri trees, and the unique headboards, tables and chairs are crafted by local artisans – supporting the community in which the hotel resides. Amenities are ecological, biodegradable and packaged using recycled materials, and cleaning products are chosen for their low environmental impact.
For uber-romantic dining, take a table alfresco in the courtyard, under the lanterns and leaves.
It’s very relaxed at Albizia, so wear whatever floats your Caribbean boat: be that carnival-inspired maxis or striped shorts and peasant hats.
The hotel’s restaurant, Albizia, is something of a culinary melting pot: chef Guillem Rofes blends Caribbean, Dominican and Mediterranean cuisine using only the freshest local products. At dinner time, the yucca cheese croquettes are something of a must-order, as is the Dominican pica pollo in criolla sauce. Veggies will love the eggplant carpaccio with grated goats cheese, rucula honey and pine nuts, but seafood eaters shouldn’t miss the grouper with Martini Bianco foam, asparagus and grapefruit; or the red snapper with mint-infused caramelised pineapple, coconut and lime. Finish with the unapologetically moist golosa cake, topped with white chocolate foam, brownies and plantain, or the boozy Caipirinha sorbet. With all the good food, it would be easy to overlook the décor. But make sure you look past your plate to the tables – the legs are made of metal from the first ever railroad in the country: tracks that were built in 1887 to connect Sánchez to La Vega.
The Calliandra rooftop bar has an impressive list of tipples including aperols, martinis and plenty of spirits. We loved the house cocktail: a combination of juices, rum and blue curaçao. You can also order coffees, cacao drinks, papaya juice and smoothies (the kiwi, orange and banana option is particularly tangy).
Breakfast is served 7.30–11am; lunch 1–3pm; and dinner 7–11pm. The rooftop bar is open 3–11pm.
Saman Boutique Hotel is on the Samaná peninsula, a 35-mile-long stretch of land in the northwest of the Dominican Republic.
The closest airport is El Catey International (AZS), a 30-minute drive from the hotel. Las Américas International airport (SDQ), near to the capital Santo Domingo, is a two-hour drive away.
There’s a secure car park at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Size-wise, the Dominican Republic is relatively small, but it certainly packs a lot into the available space. At Saman Boutique Hotel, you’re close to some of the most beautiful beaches on the island, and you’d be forgiven for spending all of your trip on ocean time. Untamed Playa Bonita (we agree with its translation: ‘pretty beach’) is a half-moon shaped stretch reachable via a paved road off Calle Fabio Abreu. Take a boat ride north to the isolated Playa Rincon, easily one of the country’s best beaches. Its pristine sands are hidden from the rest of the peninsula by enormous capes, and the water between them exactly what you dream of a Caribbean escape: multi-hued turquoise. Plus, with over four kilometres of sand, there’s enough room for everyone’s beach towel, and some. This being the Dominican, there’s a backdrop of sprawling coconut trees, and chiringuitos serving fresh seafood. Yes, the waters here are turquoise and the sand is whiter-than-white, but you’ll find beauty inland, too. Explore lush mountains, protected coves and untouched natural waterfalls. One of our favourites is 52-metre-high waterfall Salto El Limon. Journey there on horseback, trotting through landscapes of peaks and greenery. After, head back to Las Terrenas, the burgeoning ocean-side village just minutes from the hotel. It’s a beach town that is both gorgeously scenic and irrepressibly friendly – come for the food, stay for the rum.
Visit El Lugar in Las Terrenas for simply prepared but incredibly fresh seafood such as dorado, lobster and grilled prawns (give the cocktails a go, too). For Italian, head to La Dolce Vita and try the spicy clams and seafood risotto. Gérard Prystasz, a former chef at the French Presidential Palace, has since embraced paradise at the Hotel Atlantis on Playa Bonita, a 15-minute drive from the hotel. He prepares a range of dishes – fresh grilled sea bream with coconut sauce, grilled gambas, island bouillabaisse – all with a French accent.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this boutique hotel in the Samaná peninsula and unpacked their yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum, a full account of their cultured Caribbean break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Saman Boutique Hotel in the Dominican Republic…
Let’s start with the sapphire skies and cerulean sea of the Samaná Peninsula: a laid back sliver of land when compared to the glitzier spots to the southeast of the island. There are two beach-side towns here: sophisticated Las Terrenas and sleepy Las Galeras, and some of the country’s most secluded beaches nearby. The coast is all swaying coconut trees and powdery white sand, but look inland to Cordillera Samaná and you’ll find an imposing mountain range thick with over sixty types of palm, punctuated by cascading waterfalls. But on to the hotel: a sustainably-made, saman-tree-helmed handful of rooms bordering a sun-dappled courtyard and glistening pool. The interiors have been decorated with the utmost care – walls are adorned with paintings and calligraphed poetry that demonstrate the history of the hotel and its surroundings. One poem in particular, written by Spanish Author Mr Fe, is hand-painted in full onto the walls of the rooftop bar, and you might even find a couplet above your bed, or a stanza in the kitchen of your suite. Such is the aptitude of Saman: a hotel that champions ‘slow travel’ and connections to people and culture, and their food, music and art.