It was November in NYC, and I was suffering from the standard “winter blues.” I was sick of fighting the wind as it kept re-arranging my hair in ways that made me look unkempt and burned out. I was having brunch with my dear friend Zaira Druding, founder of Sun Sand Spirit DR; we share a passion for travel. She chaperones and coordinates trips to the Caribbean island of the Dominican Republic; It was a match made in heaven. We started talking about possibly traveling together to the Dominican Republic. A couple of mimosas later, we had already booked a four-day trip to explore the northeastern coastal bay of the Samaná Peninsula on the Caribbean island. I had been stalking her Instagram @sunsandspiritdr and was now beyond excited for our soon to come girls only escapade! All I wanted was to unplug from the hectic city life. I wanted to lay on a secluded beach and soak up the sun, feeling the sand under my feet washed away by the soft waves, having my spirit be one with nature. “I know the perfect place,” she said and took me to my new found favorite spot to be a hermit…Unique Hotel!
So, where is Samaná exactly? Samaná is the hidden gem of the Caribbean island that is the Dominican Republic. Located only 4 hours away from the world-famous Punta Cana, Samaná is anything but touristy. Having traveled and explored both places in 2 months, I can honestly say I fell in love with Samaná and was a little disappointed with Bali. Perhaps the anticipation of overly hyped Bali on IG was at fault, as when I got there and even traveled around the Island, all I kept craving was the secluded lush jungle lined with coconut trees and waterfalls that I found in Samaná. Don’t get me wrong; I still loved my trip to Bali and found all that over there, but I had to travel a far distance to see it all — it was just not what I was expecting. With that said, Samaná is not for everyone either. If you like to party, be social, have fancy cocktails, and cure your next-day hangover by temple hopping and shopping, Bali is the perfect place for you. So, who is Samaná? Samaná is for that person looking to disconnect from the world and connect with the inner self. Samaná is for that person looking for adventure. Samaná is for that person that prefers nature and eco-living over humankind luxuries.
Attention to detail, jaw-dropping views, and the best of hospitality; I found all that and more in Casa el Paraiso. This Airbnb was one of my favorite stays in all of Samaná. The Owners are travelers, and they’ve decorated and nicknamed each room after a country they have traveled to. Waking up in this place was an experience I’ll never forget! Thanks, @sun.sand.spirit.dr , for hosting and sharing this hidden gem with me!
I’ve often wondered what heaven looks like and have even fantasized about what my personalized heaven would be. In”heaven,” I can breathe under/walk over water, I can turn liquid into ice and breathe out fumes of fire that melt all my worries away. I am at peace and in harmony with nature, surrounded by beautiful things money can’t buy. I still find myself on planet earth, but let me tell you, staying in Casa el Paraiso came pretty close to my ideal heaven and is now my heaven on earth.
I love staying at Airbnb’s around the world; they provide you a taste of everyday life and culture in the country you’re visiting.
Arriving at Casa el Paraiso
Casa el Paraiso is located in Las Galeras, Samaná. It’s about a 3hr 30min drive from Santo Domingo or a 4hr 45min drive from Punta Cana. I highly recommend getting there before sunset, as the road turns to pitch dark with limited street lights and signs along the way. It’s easy to get lost if not familiar with the area. If you need help arranging your transportation/stay there, contact @sunsandspiritdr; they can host and organize everything for you!
We stayed in room number two, surrounded by a marine decor representative of the humpback whales that from mid-December to late-March congregate the area. They can be seen from almost every room, swimming freely and giving birth to a new generation. Most of the bungalows are eco-friendly and alfresco (with a wall missing); this setting makes for the most spectacular views! There are mosquito nets in every room, but we didn’t find them necessary. Due to the elevated altitude, bugs were not problematic. The lack of ac was also barely noticeable due to the cooling winds. If bad weather were to occur, there’s a protective wall that can seal and cover the room. There are seven rooms available, including one featuring closed doors/ ac and the newest addition room #7 featuring an in-room jacuzzi. You can also rent the entire villa, which can accommodate a total of 15 guests.
This Airbnb has common areas shared with the owners (Santo Domingo Veterinarians Nora and José), a handful of playful/friendly dogs, witty parrots, tranquil koi fish, and guests staying at the other bungalows. There’s an open kitchen, so you can bring your groceries/ beverages to cook. If you want to relax and lay back, they have an Italian gourmet chef (Mirko), who can cook you anything you’d like to eat! The infinity pool, jacuzzi, and human-made beach are nestled atop cliffs overlooking the Samaná Bay and surrounded by the never-ending lush jungle. There’s also a shared bathroom offering the best views in town!
Here are my favorite rooms: ROOM 1
Nicknamed “La Marina” and often called the most romantic room in this entire villa due to a massive-natural- raw- coral rock filled with cascading candles that can be lit during night time. This room features a queen-size bed and sleeper sofa, accommodating a max of 3 guests. I can’t decide my favorite part of this room; The raw coral rock wall, the completely open bathroom with a rooted shower and toilet facing the jungle, or the hammocks overlooking the jungle and sea below.
Nicknamed “Africa”, this room is exotic and wild. I truly felt I was on safari in Africa as I walked through and marveled at all the well-crafted furniture pieces. My favorite room in this entire villa; Featuring its own Koi fish pond and completely open double-walls, enclosing jungle, mountain, and sea in a one-of-a-kind stay. This room can accommodate two guests.
At the time of our visit, Room #7 Nicknamed “Morocco”, was not yet finished. I’ll have to come back and give it a proper review, but I’m pretty confident it ranks in the top 3!
This hand-crafted Airbnb uses recycled objects that are repurposed and used as furniture and decoration pieces. Here are some of my favorites!
Wanna know what I thought of my trip to Bali Vs. Samaná? Give This a read!
Thanks for Reading!
The traveling world is changing tremendously due to COVID-19. The uncertainty of safety while traveling creates a delay and mental block in decision making; at least for me! I was always itching to book flights for my next travel destination, and I would religiously search the web for the week’s deals. My research has shifted now to find places with low COVID-19 cases and less populated locations. As the traveling industry slowly starts re-opening, I recommend choosing a destination that’s not too far from home. Luckily for those in North America, we have the Caribbean Islands, just a short flight away.
As winter starts approaching NYC, I am already daydreaming of re-visiting one of my favorite places in the Dominican Republic, Samaná. Having stayed here previously and meeting the owner, I am confident in the safety and protocol measures El Valle Eco- Lodge is taking to ensure every guest’s well-being. All the Hotels/Resorts in the D.R. are strictly following all the health guidelines to ensure you enjoy a safe and pleasant stay while vacationing on the Island. If you’re undecided about where to go for your next family vacation, then look no further and read on; this place is perfect!
Set inside the Jungle with bungalow-style lodges that will give you an eco-friendly, all natural, fresh–detox air stay (no germs allowed). Escape reality and disconnect! This eco-lodge is only a 5 min walk to one of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic; Playa El Valle, and a 15 min boat ride to Playa El Ermitaño-– a hidden deserted island beach.
In the jungle, the mighty jungle…
Staying at El Valle Eco-Lodge
El Valle is located outside the main town of Samaná. There are no bars, discos, shopping stores, or restaurants — only one colmado to pick-up a cold beer, and some snacks. You can also find fresh seafood huts by the beach. Most are only open from 11am- 3 pm since the beach is so secluded. It’s the perfect place to isolate and enjoy nature!
Upon arrival at El Valle Eco-Lodge, you feel the warm welcome the owner, Caro gives. This Eco-lodge is designed in individual houses that can accommodate from 1 to 16 guests in total. It’s the perfect place for family reunions, wellness retreats, and small corporate team building events. The space provides an open area where everyone can be at the same place, yet have their own individual private secluded lodge with common areas to host meetings and gatherings.
One of my favorite things to do while staying here is to walk around the premises and marvel at nature! Caro has an organic garden where she grows vegetables and uses them to cook at her in-house kitchen/restaurant “Gitana.” Wake-up to the smell of fresh-baked bread and end your adventurous day by unwinding and indulging in the latest catch of the day; the seafood is so fresh!
Have ME time! Turning off your electronics is highly encouraged! Forgot your book? No, worries! Each room has a few titles to choose from. Take a day and master the art of doing nothing; clear your mind and meditate. Make unplugging your daily mantra!
And now let’s have a room tour…
I love finding hidden places every-time I travel, and El Valle in Samaná was definitely one of them!
If You go
Contact Sun Sand Spirit DR. They can host your group and coordinate all activities during your stay. Traveling solo to Samaná can be a bit more challenging than Santo Domingo (the capital) or Punta Cana. Remember that this is a legit jungle. There are barely any lights or signs in the streets, English is not commonly spoken in town, and the GPS/WIFI will not always work. We rented a GPS with our car at the airport, and it barely worked! Getting lost in a country that you’re not very familiar with can be overwhelming. Sun Sand Spirit DR can help you plan your stay so you can relax stress-free! Zaira being Dominican herself and a true islander can offer a locals insight with tips to maximize your time there!
Thanks for reading!
- Airbnb Unique Experiences Around the World; Casa el Paraiso- Las Galeras, Dominican Republic
- El Valle Eco-Lodge; Mi Casita en la Jungla…
- Caribbean Island Escapade- Staying at Unique Hotel in Samaná Bay, Dom. Rep
- Samaná over Bali? 11 Reasons why
- The Dominican Republic: So much more than an “All Inclusive Resort” Country