A beachtown with butlers is the way I love to define this quiet side of the Dominican Republic. In the words of the tourist board, this tropical paradise is, “Jutting out of the DR’s northeastern shore and basking in the ocean, the nature haven that is the Samaná Peninsula is as coveted today as it was in the 16th century. Pirates hid in its lush, palm-filled forests, isolated beaches, and hidden caves, while European and Haitian troops competed over its deep water, protected bay. Today, Samaná–often abbreviated to refer to the entire peninsula–is well connected by land and air, yet it remains the DR’s secluded, paradisiacal escape of wild beaches, coconut plantations, and rainforests.” When I read that, I knew we were on the same page. Different words, same sentiment. Sign me up! This trip was one delayed by the pandemic but well worth the wait and the 2.5 hour drive across the island.
If this spot was going to be half as good as it was billed, all of it was well worth any travel alterations. As security swung open the wooden gates to Sublime Samana, I felt the vibe. This was a crisp white resort accented with natural wood decor. No one told me the wood was native to the island or the area, but I am almost certain it was. You know when you enter a boho-chic setting and it may look laid back and casually put together, but upon closer inspection you see that every detail was paid attention to? That’s the vibe I immediately got. Being greeted by a refreshing icy beverage is de rigueur, not to sound jaded, but it simply is. This time, there was no alcohol in it and it contained freshly squeezed lime juice and recently plucked mint leaves. As good as that was, I was not as captivated by this delicious welcome as I was interested in looking over the shoulder of my gracious host and taking in the massive driftwood that was the base for the lobby’s centerpiece. A glass topped expanse of wood, softened by the sea was home to dried floral arrangements that stood tall and drew the eye upwards to the palapa ceiling. After prying my eyes away from these details, my gaze went to the horizon and from the lobby stretched two pools parallel to each other that ran along the course of a lawn that led to the beach. Picture two pools running the length of the sidelines of an American football field and you will get the picture. There wasn’t decking or anything that would jar you out of nature, but instead there were cabanas with billowing white curtains spread far apart along each side. Can you say dreamy?
The obvious progression for the day was to head to my suite and change into a bikini…which happened within the span of four minutes. So as to get the lay of the land, I walked beside the shallow waters of the pools down to the beach and stuck my toes in the sand, ordered a rum drink and smiled to myself, “This is paradise.” The sand leading up to the surf was soft and warm. The water was coming ashore about thirty feet away, giving me plenty of room to experience it between my toes as I made my way to the surf. A few families were bobbing deeper out and couples hugged each other soaking in the sea. It felt like a postcard with the sun far off in the distance, smiles on everyone’s faces, and the light turning everything soft. Spending every day down there for the duration of my stay would have been perfect. Service was inescapable (not that you would want to escape it) and having lunch and dinner by the seaside is always a great idea. Luckily for me, I had an agenda so languishing by the shore was not in the cards for me.
First up was a spa ritual that (wait for it) took place on the beach. I want to throw a hashtag in this sentence so badly, but I will refrain. It was as though they read my mind. The ritual was based on native tradition and meant to open my heart to nature. This was such an appropriate first evening treat. It included incense and flower petals, a gourd, and rinsing in the sea at sunset. The setting was perfect for this spiritual commune with nature. I know it worked because I felt nothing but connection to nature at Sublime Samana. That’s not to say my suite was not modern, spacious and decked out with every amenity a luxury vacation calls for…it most certainly was. I even had a hot tub on my terrace! My time in my suite was great but limited because all I wanted to do was be out on the lawn or the beach or..shopping with the chef.
That’s right, shopping with the chef. I had asked for ceviche one day and shortly thereafter I was told that I could head to the local market with the chef to select my fish and other fresh ingredients and he would show me how to prepare it when we returned. Sign me right up for that shopping trip! Being the beachtown that I first felt it was, of course the market wasn’t an indoor stodgy market. We parked just off the side of the road on a sandy patch of land where about six wooden sheds were located. Each one brightly painted, again, like a scene from a postcard or a movie. The sheds were really only there to hold the hanging scales and perhaps lay the odd fish, because these guys kept their fresh-caught seafood chilled in proper coolers, in front of the sheds. Chef walked me down in front of each fisherman, his thermometer in hand to ensure proper storage temp and freshness. I saw crab larger than my head, shrimp the size of lobster, and fish of all kinds. We settled on a healthy Dorado, some avocados, and two massive mangos, then we were off.
Back to Sublime Samana to learn how to prepare ceviche, right on the lawn beside the beach. Back to my happy place. Chef was taking no chances with me and his sharpest knives, so he cleaned the fish and cut everything up into perfect morsels. Some sous chefs were on hand to prep the cilantro, lime, avocado, tomato, and onions, so my job was to combine all the ingredients to “cook” the fish. I did add the salt (with the infamous flair) and then sat at the gorgeous table prepared for me and my host, only feet away. White table linens and all, we dined like queens, in nature. I know that Sublime Samana offers all guests exceptional service. I saw it with my own eyes, so be sure to inquire about preparing ceviche on your stay.
Something I can guarantee you will love taking part in is the spa. Get your hands on some spa time because, as with many of the other activities and amenities at the resort, the treatments incorporate your immediate surroundings and products like freshly squeezed coconut milk. I started my treatment steaming in the temazcal. The ladies were incredible and had gathered the necessary herbs and branches from around the resort. I was left on my own to pour the herbaceous water onto the stones that were pulled from the open fire before my very eyes. As the air got heavy with steam and I began to feel more pores releasing what they needed to let go of, I felt tension slip away and gratitude overcame me. This was a holistic spa experience, and only the first step of many. I was escorted out of the temazcal to a huge circular treatment room that could have held two more people. As I made my way on to the table, my therapist shared the ingredients she was going to use to give me a natural exfoliating scrub. Holding two coconut shells in her hand, I saw and smelled the ground chocolate and the fresh coconut oil. I closed my eyes and every care I thought I had to tend to left my mind. Several steps later, this nearly three hour treatment ended with me in a bathtub with floating rose petals, having fresh coconut milk poured over my body, and concluded with my entire body being brushed by a bundle of herbs.
You must visit this resort and try everything I mentioned above and more. This is where I leave you, because anything else I say after this will take you out of a state of relaxation.