Duhamel Juarbe, 65, assistant director of transportation for an adult home; Aurea Juarbe, 61, homemaker; Kristin Thomas, 31, hospital clerk; Seon Thomas, 35, music producer and real-estate broker; Jayden Thomas, 6, and Michael Thomas, 1
Time to burn: 1 week
On our last trip, my daughter and son-in-law Seon jet-skied, my wife and I spent time with the grandsons at the pool and beach, and my wife did a little sightseeing. It’s always more fun to go as a group.
Go here: Samaná, Dominican Republic
Why now: For years, Dominicans have been trekking to this remote northern peninsula for its pristine beaches and hidden coves, many reachable only by foot or boat. It’s been quite the haul for Americans, too, who have to fly into Santo Domingo, then drive two hours. But things will change starting November 14, when JetBlue begins direct flights to Samaná’s El Catey airport from JFK.
What to do: Soar over coconut palms and take in panoramic views of Samaná Bay with Runners Adventures’ zip-line tours, which started this spring ($35 to $75; 809-538-2499). The bay is also a popular breeding ground for humpback whales, making January through March prime season to catch them breaching and singing. Bring binoculars, because thanks to the new, free whale lookout platform in Punta Balandra, you don’t even need to leave shore to see them.
Where to stay: Opened last year in hip expat town Las Terrenas, luxury resort Balcones del Atlantico is nestled along a lush mile of beach. Its 86 double and family-size suites feature hand-carved furniture, local artwork, and stone terraces (from $375; rockresorts.com). Or rent one of Eva Luna’s five colorful villas, where a pool recently joined the papaya trees and hummingbirds in the tropical garden (from $100; villa-evaluna.com).
What to eat: Fish practically jump onto grills along the coast here, so head to outdoor seafood shacks like El Kiosko (Calle Principal, Las Galeras; no phone), which serves local favorite pescado con coco, usually red snapper with tomato, garlic, and coconut milk. For something more elegant, like grilled lobster with mango butter, make a lunch reservation at the Peninsula House’s Beach restaurant (Calle Coson, Las Terrenas; 809-962-7447).
Buy this: Larimar is an icy-blue stone found only in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. Bring home a piece made by a local jeweler at Terrenas en Plata (El Paseo de la Costanera, Las Terrenas; 809-240-5359).
Also consider: Peru’s similarly low-key northern beaches, including Órganos and Máncora. Of special note: The renovated Vichayito Bungalows & Tents in Vichayito Beach just partnered with the Blue Whale Foundation to take guests on humpback tours (from $175; vichayito.com).