Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic – City Guide
Las Terrenas is an magical place if you love stunning beaches and wild adventures. There’s a different sense of freedom riding a four-wheeler down a deserted beach at 50 Kilometers per hour with your shirt off as you dodge crystal blue waves rolling in and stare into the distance at palm trees. You feel like a rogue off on an adventure – searching for the perfect place to park and take a swim.
I was a fan. But there is more to this little beach village than four-wheelers and beaches. Although, I found the beaches here to be better than anywhere else in the Dominican Republic, including Punta Cana. Come for the beaches. Stay for the…
- Population: 40,000 (likely larger due to tourism)
- Weather: Tropical. It’s hot and sunny here. Bring your sunscreen.
- Safety: There’s a little crime in Las Terrenas, but walking around at night never seemed too dangerous. Most crimes in the area are of passion (if you catch my drift).
- Language: Spanish. You’ll want to speak some Spanish here. English isn’t popular, as most of the tourists are from France or Italy.
Las Terrenas isn’t too expensive, especially when you factor in how amazing the beaches are in the area. You can have access to these world-class beaches for a relatively reasonable price. However, don’t expect to find dirt-cheap housing. Western amenities aren’t typical in laidback beach villages, so you’ll have to pony up a little extra cash to find something with A/C, hot water, and remotely decent Internet.
- Average Two Bedroom Apartment (Western Amenities): $700-1,200 per month / $400-700 per week
- Gym Membership: Surprisingly, we found a lot of gyms in the city. Daily: $1-4 / Monthly: $10-30
- Average Meal: $4-9
- Beer in Club: $2-3
- Bottle of Run in Club: $15-40
P.S: The best Italian food I’ve ever had in my life was in Las Terrenas. If you like pasta and seafood, then make sure to check out Ristorante Tio Bello. Seriously, it’s amazing and off the beach – so the prices are great, too.
Where to Stay
Finding the perfect area to stay in Las Terrenas isn’t too difficult. You want to stay as close to the beach as you can afford. The place I stayed at was across the street from the beach, and it was perfect. Look for “Pueblo de Pescadores” on Google Maps and then zoom in on the places close to the beach. Staying anywhere near the beaches listed below is ideal:
- Playa Popy
- Playa Las Terrenas
- Las Ballenas
- Playa Bonita
- Playa Colibri
Internet connections seemed to be sparse in Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic. If you work online and plan to spend some time here, this is something to think about. If I went again, I’d bring my own Internet with a mobile plan from Orange.
How to Get Around
Las Terrenas isn’t a big place. If you book your hotel or Airbnb rental in the right location, you’ll be able to walk around almost everywhere. However, there will come a time when you need to go somewhere that may not be walkable. So what do you do? Well…
There’s no Uber in Las Terrenas, and taxis are pretty scarce. They’re just aren’t many cars. So you’ll be stuck taking a moto-taxi. Moto-taxis aren’t my favorite mode of transportation, either. There’s just something odd about sitting on the back of another man’s bike, but in Las Terrenas – you don’t have a choice.
As previously discussed, you’ll want to have a grasp of Spanish in this city. I didn’t meet many who could speak English whatsoever. There just aren’t many English-speaking tourists that visit the place. Almost all the expats here speak French or Italian. As both of these are romance languages and somewhat similar to Spanish, the expats who live here quickly pick up Spanish without studying.
Things to Do in Las Terrenas
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Las Terrenas is a tourist town. It’s a sleepy fishing village and has a number of tourist activities to choose from. If you need a lot to keep you entertained, then this may be the place for you. The beach is available, but there’s a ton of other things to do outside the water. Here are a few of my favorite things to do in Las Terrenas:
- Beaches Galore: If you’re coming to Las Terrenas, you don’t want to miss the beach. Scratch that! You can’t miss the beach, as the whole town is built around it. In town, you can walk to nearly every beach I listed in the “Accommodation” section above. However, my personal favorite was a huge stretch of nearly deserted sand right past Playa Punta Popy. I found the absolute best waves for body surfing were at this undeveloped beach.
- More Beach Trips: Las Terrenas is located in the Samana Penisula in the Dominican Republic. The area holds some of the best beaches in the world. You can take excursions to them from Las Terrenas. A few of the popular world-class beach trips include Las Galeras, Playa Fronton, and Playa Rincon.
- El Limon Waterfall: About an hour away from Las Terrenas you’ll find El Limon Waterfall (or Cascada Salto del Limon). This stunning waterfall stands 52-meters high and is a MUST when visiting the Samana region. You’ll find tours going here all over town, but I went with some local friends, and it was fantastic. Try to go as early as possible and beat the crowds.
- Renting Four-Wheelers: One of the more popular tourist attractions is renting four-wheel vehicles or ATVs. My buddy and I got a solid deal on a couple of these bad boys and cruised around the beaches and town for a whole day. Highly recommended. Riding ATVs on the beach was one of my favorite activities I’ve ever done in my life.
- Parque Nacional Los Haitises: I didn’t check this out excursion out, but I met a few people who did and they raved about it. If you have a little extra time and money during your trip to Las Terrenas, then checking out Parque Nacional Los Haitises is recommended. The area is filled with caves, island, and beautiful mangroves.
- Whale Watching: This activity is seasonal. The whales only chill out in the Bahia de Samana from January through March. If you’re lucky enough to be in Samana during this time, you must see these magical creatures mate and give birth. Due to the popularity of whale watching, the prices in Las Terrenas can jump during this time.
Nightlife in Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic
The downfall of Las Terrenas was the nightlife. The two nights I went out in this sleepy town I was thoroughly disappointed. Due to the influx of sex tourism from the French and Italians (both male and female), the nightlife here caters to the world’s oldest profession. Even the local spots still had a seedy vibe about them.
As I don’t partake in those endeavors, I didn’t enjoy going out in Las Terrenas. So I didn’t do much exploring. I do have a few recommendations, though:
- Don’t go to La Bodega unless you want to see 70-year old European men dancing with teenage Dominican girls.
- If you must go out, then head immediately to the group of clubs and bars in Pueblo de Los Pescadores. These places were “closer” to normal spots than anywhere else I’ve found.
- Going out with local friends can be a lot of fun. Just know you’ll probably end up buying most of the Presidentes.
Getting in and out of Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic can be a pain. Caribe Tours doesn’t go here. Metro Bus doesn’t, either. If you’re coming from the capital, there’s a well-run bus that goes to and from Las Terrenas a number of times daily. Highly recommended. You can learn more about it here. If you’re going anywhere else in the country, you’ll be taking a Guagua. Not highly recommended.
Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic – Overall
Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic is a unique place. On the one hand, the beaches in the town are world-class. If you’re someone who likes to roll out of bed and spend all day on the beach, then Las Terrenas could be paradise. On the other hand, the city has a shady underbelly that can be a real turn off after awhile. I met some cool local Dominicans here, but I also met some shady characters, too. The issue is it’s so small that you’re bound to run into the bad apples all throughout your stay.
Overall, I’d recommend coming to Terrenas for the beaches. It’s a perfect place to relax for a week or so. Get some sun, do some tourism, and then head out to another part of the island that offers better infrastructure for living and working.