Beyond Casa

The Humpback whales have arrived! Everything you need to know about the whale watching season in Samaná!

hump back whale

This post is also available in: Spanish

hump back whaleThe Dominican Republic’s whale watching season in the country’s northeast peninsula, Samaná has already started! Year after year, thousands of international tourists and residents from the Dominican Republic travel to Samaná to enjoy this fabulous spectacle, this year is taking place between January 15th and the 31st of March.

Every year, about 40,000 tourists from all over the world descend upon the port of Samaná in the Dominican Republic, one of the best places in the world to observe Humpback whales. Known to be the most active whale species, Humpback whales have an amazing repertoire of behaviors – making whale watching in Samaná a truly spectacular and memorable experience.

Humpback whales in the Dominican Republic

Every winter, the majority of the North Atlantic Humpback whale population (approximately 12,000 whales), migrate between 2,000 and 4,000 miles from their northern feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine, the east coast of Canada, Greenland and Iceland, to the warm Caribbean waters of the Dominican Republic to reproduce. These magnificent whales then spend the months of January, February and March “cruising” the North Dominican coast line, courting and competing for the opportunity to mate (rather like singles in bars….). This is also the time when pregnant females will give birth to their young (after a 11.5 month gestation!)

Throughout the mating season, Samaná bay itself is visited by more than 1,500 Humpback whales, meaning that at any one time there may be as many as 300 whales in the area.

Humpback whales have been migrating to the Dominican Republic for mating season for centuries; in the “Los Haitises” national park, indigenous drawings can be seen depicted the whales and Christopher Columbus recorded seeing them in 1943 in his ship’s log.

Whale Watching in Samaná, Dominican Republic

Humpback whale, photo by Elliotsphotos’
humpback whale

Over the years, as Samaná has grown into a tourist hotspot, the small seaside town has grown too, now offering many more facilities for visitors. The following are a summary of options for great whale watching in the Samaná area:

• A boat excursion
Whale watching excursions typically depart from 9am from the Samaná port, last approximately 1 -2 hours and the price of the tour normally includes entrance to the whale sanctuary, as well as lunch. There are many options for tours – but beware, although it may seem economic and exciting to hop into a tiny fisherman’s boat (called a Yola), the water out at sea is rather rough and smaller boats provide no protection from the weather or wind. And with whale watching regulations prevent boats getting “up-close” – larger boats, with their high vantage point, offer far superior visibility.
Warning: If you are prone to seasickness – be prepared and take appropriate precautions…..

There are many tour operators, that can be booked in Samaná town or from your hotel, however, excellent excursions are run by Whalewatching expert, Kim Beddall, the details are as follows:

“Whale Samana”
Departures: Daily at 10am from Samaná Bay
Cost: USD$50 (adults), USD$25 (children)
Reservations and info: www.whalesamana.com

• Whale Lookout Post “Punta Balandra”
For those who prefer to stay dry and on land, the Whale Lookout Post at Punta Balandra is a great option.

The reason why it was constructed last year (2001) was because many whales had actually been seen by residents for various years. As a way of protecting thei sanctuary, the Whale Observation Centre On Land was designed.
Where: town of Punta Balandra, Samaná
How to get there: If you decide to watch the whales on land, take the main road to Samaná, after 14km you should see a “Punta Balandra” sign which will lead you to a “rocky” road into the town and directly to the spot!
Tours are available in Trip Advisor” – click here for the “Visiting Samaná” page.

About Samaná: hotels and tours

Located just two hours northeast of the capital city of Santo Domingo, the province of Samaná is a mountainous peninsula famous for its rich tropical vegetation and thousands of coconut trees that are found both on the nearby hills and beaches.

Where to stay: The region of Samaná now has more than 50 hotels, as well as numerous B&B’s and even vacation rental villas. Most websites about “hotels in Samaná” are owned and run by the hotels and/or tour operators, making them more than a little bias – so if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Samaná we recommend using “Trip Advisor” – click here for the “Visiting Samaná” page.

What to do: Once you’ve seen the whales and relaxed on the beach or by your hotel pool, there are many other beauty spots, activities and excursions to be enjoyed in the Samaná area, such as the “Los Haitises” national park. Excursions can be booked from you hotel or from the tour operators in the Samaná town.

Getting to Samaná

Driving: From wherever you are in the Dominican Republic, you can drive to Samaná, either in your own car or a rental.

Driving from Casa de Campo, La Romana: 
If you’re travelling from Casa de Campo the trip is approximately 4 hours.

Recommended route from Casa de Campo to Samaná
google map dominican republic

Click here for to view the live google map of the Dominican Republic

Approximate directions are:
From Casa de Campo take the main road through and out of La Romana towards Santo Domingo. Once you pass Boca Chica and the “Las Americas” main Santo Domingo airport, look out for signposts to “Las Terranas” and “Samaná” – they should pop up on your right hand side. When you see the signs, follow that road and you should find yourself on the toll road to Las Terranas and Samaná. At the very end of the road it forks – take the right fork (should be signposted “Las Terranas” and Samaná”) the Northern fork heads towards Caberete and Puerto Plata. Follow the road and the signs to Samaná.
Note: The main road is a toll road – along the way you will be charged at numerous toll boothes, so be prepared with plenty of cash (we think the total tolls add up to approximately RD$600 – but we recommend you take a little extra just in case.)

Flying: There are a number of daily flights to Samaná from Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata and Punta Cana.
Visit www.fly-aerodomca.com for schedules reservations and information

Helicopter: Heli-tours, a new helicopter excursion business based in Casa de Campo is offering 1-day whale watching tours. We will be publishing more about this great option very soon, but for now you can contact Herbert ([email protected]) for more info.

This was a rather complex article! I used a few sources to help me:
• wikipedia.org
• samana.org.do
• dr1.com

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