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Report From The Road In Las Terrenas, Samana, Dominican Republic

“Kathleen, how about doing an update on Dominican Republic?”

–Paul O., United States

Funny you should ask…

My Associate Publisher Harry Kalashian and my Managing Editor Kat Kalashian departed Panama City early yesterday morning for a scouting expedition in, you guessed it, the Dominican Republic.

We are more interested in this Caribbean destination than ever. Here are Harry and Kat’s first-day impressions of Las Terranas, Samana, where they’re based for this trip, emailed to me overnight:

“The new two-lane toll highway from the airport to Samana is great. It and the turnoff onto the peninsula are in perfect condition. Zero potholes, lines painted, etc. Once I figure out what they know that the Panamanians don’t, I’ll let you know…though it probably has something to do with the fact that this highway is managed by a private company—in every regard. There are no cops patrolling it, only private security.

“Anyway, apparently the former president and his party are in love with the Samana peninsula. He stopped running after multiple terms, his protégé is the president now, and his wife is VP, a new position just created for her. Their collective dream is to make Samana the next St. Tropez. The new highway was built to encourage development. It makes it an easy two-hour drive from the airport now, compared with four to six hours previously.

“Before the highway, businesses were importing from the capital at a 15% markup and pilots were making multiple daily stops between the local airport and the capital. That’s died down now, but people are still content to save several hours and pay a markup on certain goods available only in the capital. Not sure what those goods are yet, but apparently the capital is a lot like Panama City, with luxury malls selling Coach, Tiffany’s, etc., and plenty of Porsche Cayennes.

“The people are friendly, and litter is not a problem. There’s really no indigenous blood left, so everyone is of African or European descent. Everyone gets around by moped or motorcycle. It’s poor but not menacingly so.

“I’d say that Las Terrenas is light years ahead of other Caribbean destinations I know, in terms of infrastructure, litter, maintenance, and just how things work. That is, things work here. It helps that the town was settled decades ago by French, who were followed by Italians, followed by locals and then other Europeans and North Americans. There are second- and third-generation French and Italian families here, important influences behind ongoing development.

“Las Terrenas is a small beach town with a one-way figure-8 road winding through it. Driving through the point of the road, you’re reminded of Belize City, except there’s foliage everywhere, everything is cleaner, and people are smiling. The beach is ever-present and a few steps away, and the way the coast is rippled with points allows for multiple bays. When on the beach it’s nice to have the peripheral views of beaches and palm trees, rather than just a straight and flat horizon of ocean.

“Food so far is great. A ton of French influence. The de facto town center is a small two-story thatch-roofed outdoor mall with about 30 stores. All signs are in French, Spanish, and English. There’s a tabac, a large wine store, a number of cafes, and a boulangerie. People we passed were having convos in French, and the street signs for the walkways within the outdoor mall are replicas of those in Paris.

“More tomorrow…”

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