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Scenic Beaches, Dirt Roads, Fresh Fish and Coconuts: A Local's Guide to Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic (Part One)

Categories: Travel Hog
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All photos by Emily Codik
Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic
A lone motorcycle raced through the coral dirt road, unraveling misty gusts of powdered sand. We were lost, and had already given up on reaching Playa Cosón, a beach off of Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic.

We waved the driver down. "Hey! Excuse me!" my father shouted in his loud, Dominican-style Spanish, peeking his head out the car's window. "Which way to the restaurant, The Beach?"

The charming driver smiled, slowly took off his Aviator sunglasses, and answered, "You mean my restaurant?" A closer look at our guide revealed he was wearing an impeccable chef's coat -- a paradox amid the palm trees and unpaved roads surrounding this cool beachfront path.

Giancarlo Fiori, the Chilean executive chef of The Beach, arrived in this lax beach town after extensive stints in kitchens all over Europe. His restaurant is difficult to find, with only a teeny wooden sign announcing the entrance to the plantation style, open air property. The Beach serves as the club for the hilltop luxury hotel, The Peninsula House. Both locations were probably selected because of their natural, native exclusivity. Both places are impossible to find.

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The Beach at Playa Cosón
But that's a true characteristic of the restaurants and hotels in Las Terrenas, a former fishing village in the Samaná peninsula of the northeastern part of the Dominican Republic. Most places can only be found the old-fashioned way, by waving down whoever you spot along the tropical roads. It's as if the beauty and charm of Las Terrenas is a guarded secret, one protected by all of its residents.

The lure of this beach side town is evident by its large expat community, formed by those who once visited for vacation and never made it back home. Fiori is just one among the foreign crowd, injecting the town's restaurants and hotels with European and Latin American fare.

That's why the food at this beach town is much less Dominican than it is international. When you're at Las Terrenas, it's just as easy to find a solid margherita pizza as it is to find an emerald bottle of chilled Presidente beer. Soon after arriving, I realized that residents like Fiori have lost most of their native accents, quickly picking up the loud, short, upbeat speech that characterizes Dominican Spanish.

Fiori's The Beach offers local seafood in a Mediterranean and Asian-inspired context, like in the case of the delectable prawn ravioli, ribboned with squid ink, and tossed in a delicate hint of butter with slow roasted tomatoes. Thai fried rice with pineapple is served as it is traditionally, inside a hollowed pineapple, packed with hefty kicks of chili sauce and local shrimp. Though the menu might seem in-cohesive with such a vast fusion of diverse inspiration, it's this fusion that Las Terrenas is really all about. And it all also happens to be surprisingly delicious.

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Ravioli de langostinos at The Beach
Main courses at The Beach range anywhere from $12 to $16 dollars, and, as is the case in most of Las Terrenas, the restaurant is strictly cash only. But those visitors who arrive for lunch usually end up staying the entire afternoon, leisurely enjoying the scenic beach of Playa Cosón.

We stayed at the modern Hotel Alisei, a 54-room hotel that's located right in front of the Las Terrenas beach, about two minutes away from the pueblo. The hotel functions almost like apartments, with one bedroom's costing about $120 per night and two bedrooms going for about $350. That's about $120 per couple per night, and the price includes a generous breakfast buffet with Dominican staples like yucca with onions, fried cheese and café con leche.

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Yuca encebollada con queso frito: breakfast at Hotel Alisei

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2 comments
Tony van der Heijden
Tony van der Heijden

I am living in Samana, Las Terrenas. Since 8 years. 305pride is writing "the whole island is now run over with tourists" is ABSOLUTELY not true...!!! Samana is not Punta Cana !!! Over there you are run over by tourists. Samana is a perfect combination and you always find nice and quiet places to enjoy

Noeduran81
Noeduran81

Nice! One of my favorite place of our beautiful country! Can't wait to go back! I'll try to find The Beach...it sounds delicious..

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