No matter where you’re staying, a beach of the palm-trees-dripping-over-clear-shallow waters variety is nearby. Playa Las Terrenas is the beach in town, but if you’re willing to travel, you’ll find a less crowded, less developed, more Eden-esque strip of sand.
From Playa Las Terrenas, walk west along the shore. In less than ten minutes, you’ll find the wider white sands of Playa Las Ballenas. Give it twenty minutes and a walk along a junglelike inland path and you’ll reach the long, quiet Playa Bonita. The more impatient should rent a quad, or ATV, from Auceen Raid Aventure and Fun Rental (a.k.a. Safari-Quads; $50 for the day), and ride it all the way west and south to the next, more isolated and gorgeous beach, Playa Cosón.
Between mid-January and mid-March, abandon the sands for whale watching, as the Atlantic’s humpback population comes to the warm waters off the Samaná Peninsula for mating and calving. Book a half-day trip with Whale Samaná/Victoria Marine through Bahia Tours ($55; 809-240-6088), who’ll arrange the hour-long drive through the peninsula’s pretty, hilly interior to Samaná town.