The horseback ride to El Limon waterfall in the Dominican Republic’s Samana Peninsula is not an easy one. Luckily, our guide, Brian, from Parada la Manzana, was basically a horse whisperer, clicking his tongue and leading our horses up and down the rocky trails that led to the famed oasis.
Once there, it was easy to see why the trek was worth it. The 170-foot waterfall’s turquoise-blue waters fall into a pool where locals and tourists mingle while jumping from the surrounding cliffs. Brian, for instance, dove from a ledge about halfway up the waterfall.
Samana was one of several locations touted at the Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE) held at Paradisus Palma Real Resort in Punta Cana in April. And experiences like this are one of many in Samana that has long attracted locals and is now attracting international groups. Whale watching with Whale Samana is another, as humpback whales journey to these warm tropical waters during the winter. The sheltered Samana Bay creates a nursery where attendees can spot mothers and their calves swimming together in the whales’ natural mating grounds.
The influx of travelers has prompted noteworthy developments for Dominican Republic MICE groups such as the opening of the 144-room Viva Wyndham V Samana and 149-room Luxury Bahia Principe Samana in 2015. Amanera, Gansevoort and Four Seasons are scheduled to bring additional hotel rooms to the peninsula in the next couple years.
“Samana is a destination in high demand by groups in search of local experiences, surrounded by nature, beaches and personalized service offered by small hotels,” says Fabeth Martinez, executive director of the Tourism Cluster of Samana and Samana’s Hotel Association.
Elsewhere in the Dominican Republic
Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata are also developing regions, especially since the opening of the Amber Cove cruise port in Puerto Plata last October. Of course, Punta Cana is still the major player when it comes to meetings. Not only does it feature the island’s three largest properties—Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana, Barcelo Bavaro Beach Resort and Paradisus Palma Real Resort—it offers a slew of team building activities.
Ocean Adventures Punta Cana offers a three-hour spa experience for up to 80 attendees that combines bio-pilate classes and a massage on a floating mattress in the middle of the ocean. The company also invites 170 attendees aboard the Hispañola pirate ship where they can snorkel with sharks and stingrays at Shark Island. Groups of up to 500 have access to the largest zip line on the island as well as interactions with friendly, squirrel monkeys with Runners Adventures.
Punta Cana’s latest Pearl Beach Club is ideal for private evening events or for groups that want an all-inclusive resort experience for a day. Attendees can spend an afternoon lounging and noshing by the pool or in a beach cabana. At night, the space makes an ideal event venue, complete with a stage and expansive patio space well lit beneath the starry skies.