Why go to Samana and Cayo Levantado?
Excellent food, gorgeous waterfalls and friendly locals make for a fun time
Samana is often misunderstood by visitors who don't comprehend the way of life
Venture outside of town for a more authentic and memorable experience
Samana and Cayo Levantado Cruise Port Facilities?
At Embat Dock: You'll find tourism information and booths for booking private shore tours. You'll also find taxis, toilets and a giant map. The main cluster of shops, restaurants and banks is about a 10-minute walk. (Note: When you look at the map, it's reversed - what's to your left on the map is actually to your right. Check to be sure you're setting off in the correct direction.)
At Dock Moto Marina Club: Here you'll find tour operators, taxis and motochonchos, locals who will offer you rides on the backs of their motorcycles for a small fee. Stalls and tents are set up to sell food, art, jewelry and other souvenirs. It's about a five-minute walk to the town's main area.
At Cayo Levantado: Although Cayo isn't a cruise line private island, it feels like one. When you reach the dock, you'll find signs pointing you to beaches, activities, bathrooms and places to eat and drink. Everything you'll need for the entire day is within walking distance.
Good to Know?
The Dominican Republic has a reputation for crime. Although you'll find less of it in Samana than in other locations throughout the D.R., always be aware of your surroundings, stay in groups, and don't venture to places you don't know when not on an organized tour or with a reputable guide. As a general rule of thumb, leave all jewelry and valuables onboard in your cabin safe, and carry only as much cash as you think you'll need. We recommend a money belt to keep valuables safe while you're ashore.
Also be sure to pack bug spray; you won't have much of a problem outdoors, but you might use some restroom facilities (particularly if you're headed to the beach) that are not air-conditioned, making them perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes -- and the blood-suckers are vicious.
On Foot: It's easy to walk to the main area in Samana, where you'll find small shops, places to eat and a nice view of the harbor area. If you arrive at Embat Dock, it's about a 10-minute walk; from Dock Moto Marina Club, it will take you about five minutes.
By Taxi: Taxis are readily available in Samana; they'll park along the street in front of both Embat Dock and Dock Moto Marina Club. Few drivers speak English, so be sure to carry the Spanish names of places you might want to go, and carry a pocket dictionary if you don't know the language.
By Motochoncho: Say what? Enterprising locals with motorbikes will offer rides to anyone in need of transportation for very reasonable prices. However, this can be exceedingly dangerous due to the aggressive habits of all Dominican drivers and the motochoncho's tendency to weave between larger vehicles. It's also not the best method in inclement weather, and you likely won't be provided with a helmet.
Renting a Car: The town has one small, local car rental facility: Xamana Rent-A-Motor. It's pricey, there's not much of a selection, and driving in the Dominican Republic can be confusing and, frankly, scary. If you've got just a few hours in port, it's worth foregoing this option and spending the money on a tour instead.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The official currency is the Dominican Republic Peso (check www.xe.com for current exchange rates), but it's rarely a problem to use American dollars. There are ATM's available at Banco Popular (Avenida La Marina/Malecon) and BHD Bank (green building at the corner of Avenida La Marina and Circunvalacion). ATM's will dispense money in pesos. (Note: Each bank's ATM will charge a $5 transaction fee in addition to any fees charged by your bank. BHD's ATM will allow you to withdraw up to the peso equivalent of $500 at one time, while the limit at Banco Popular is less.)
Dominicans speak Spanish as their primary language. Some, particularly those who work in tourist areas, speak English. That said, communication can be a problem, so either carry a pocket dictionary, or bone up on basic phrases like hola (hello), buenos dias (good day), por favor (please), gracias (thank you), cuanto cuesta? (how much does it cost?) and donde esta el bano? (where is the bathroom?).
Where You're Docked?
In Samana, your ship will anchor near one of two piers and tender you to the appropriate docks, both of which are located along Avenida La Marina/Malecon. (Note: If you're a dog-lover, be sure to pack some treats; there are lots of friendly strays near the docks.)
The main dock is known as Embat Dock, but if more than one ship is in port on a given day, a secondary dock, Dock Moto Marina Club, is used for tendering.
If you're taking an excursion to Cayo Levantado from Samana, or if your ship is calling directly on Cayo Levantado, you'll tender to the island's public dock.