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It’s not the only great food I eat on the Samaná peninsula. The town of Las Terrenas may look rustic and rusty, but it’s rich in cafés, bars and little chiringuitos serving freshly grilled fish. “The seafood selection here is outrageous,” Bruno Toso tells me as we set out on a local food tour. The talented executive chef at the hotel Balcones del Atlántico, Toso is a regular at the town’s daily fishermen’s market, made up of a cluster of tables on the beach. I marvel at colossal groupers, terrier-size crabs, metre-long rock lobsters and other varieties of marine life I’ve never seen before. (Later on, we’ll eat a tasty selection for dinner.) As if to underscore that Samaná is more than a wild botanical garden, Toso takes me to an Italian market hawking mozzarella di bufala and fresh pasta, then a German sausage maker and finally a boulangerie serving café au lait and 
brie omelettes.

The ceviche by chef Bruno Toso The ceviche by chef Bruno Toso spotlights local seafood.

Outside of Las Terrenas, much of the peninsula is campo – countryside dotted with little shacks. Driving along the winding roads, I pass plaster huts and tin-roof casitas. The forest seems to have sprouted painted cubes like tropical fruit.

On weekends, life goes from campo to loco as thousands of Santo Domingoans roll in to have a good time. On Friday night, Las Terrenas morphs into thumping nightclub mode. And in nearby El Limón (not far from the waterfall), El Arroyo del Limón – an innocuous-looking hot-spring pool – transforms into a wet and wild party. Pretty girls invade the mineral springs, sipping cocktails and dancing to any one of the three competing sound systems, each one blasting reggaetón at eardrum-piercing volume. Guys in tank tops try to impress the glitter-bedazzled chulas with their dance moves.

A young woman takes a rest at El Arroyo del Limón.A young woman takes a rest at El Arroyo del Limón.

But this is Samaná, not Miami, and what really shines (once your hangover dissipates) is its unspoiled nature. Samaná Bay, for instance, turns out to be filled with Atlantic humpback whales. Better known for their summertime appearances in the northern hemisphere, the humpbacks migrate in winter to mating and calving grounds in subtropical and tropical waters, including in the Dominican. From January to March, whales circulate among several local breeding areas like humans checking out singles bars. This is where one-tonne baby humpbacks enter the world.



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