Backpacking Las Galeras & Playa Rincon on a Budget [2024]

Our Dominican Republic backpacking trip kicks into beach-gear, taking us to the Samaná Peninsula, and most importantly, some of the DR’s most beautiful and lesser-trodden coastline.

Hanging out in super-chill Las Galeras for a few days was just what the doctor ordered after nearly a week of frenetic sightseeing elsewhere in the DR. It’s one of our favorite corners of the Caribbean and, with the right mindset, might very well be one of yours as well!

Here’s what to know before visiting, plus some helpful travel tips for your stay.

How to Get to the Samaná Peninsula and Las Galeras by Bus

map of samana peninsula
Map of the Samaná Peninsula, featuring Las Galeras and Playa Rincon.

The Samaná Peninsula takes just two hours to get to by Caribe Tours express bus from their office in Santo Domingo on the new highway.

Above, is a detail of the eastern edge of the Samaná Peninsula, with the provincial capital of Samaná town (or Santa Barbara de Samaná) in the south.

The bus from Santo Domingo terminates in this nice and weathered old seaside resort town (think Latin/tropical version of Coney Island or Blackpool, UK without the 1940’s pizzazz).

To get to Las Galeras, we hopped a guagua minibus (the Dominican cousin of the Mexican colectivo) for the northeastern tip of the peninsula, and the fishing village of Las Galeras!

The scenic journey was relatively  comfortable as minibus journeys go, and lasted just under an hour from Samaná to Las Galeras, dropping us right in the center of the village.

Las Galeras Beaches

Samana Las Galeras Playa Rincon Backpacking Dominican Republic
Playa Las Galeras

Playa Las Galeras

The powder white beach right in the center of town is ideal for beach bumming all day long. And we could stay at Playa Las Galeras all day long. But being the curious travelers we are, we opted to explore the area’s stunning coastline.

We followed the path from town along the water down to another stretch of beach near a large resort, beautiful Playa Aserradero.

Playa Aserradero

Playa Aserradero (in front of the Wyndham Alltra Samana), boasts calm and clear waters perfect for swimming. The entire beach is lined with coconut, making for a pretty idyllic backdrop to an afternoon made for doing a whole lot of nothing.

hermit crab
Las Galeras beach friend, shell-shocked and oh so very crabby.

Once back in Las Galeras, we stopped by our bungalow and then went on a search to find a nearby beach we had read about that was within walking distance.

Samana Las Galeras Playa Rincon Backpacking Dominican Republic
Samana Las Galeras Playa Rincon Backpacking Dominican Republic
Samaná Peninsula: Playita.

Playita

After some serious trial and error, we finally stumble upon Playita, an idyllic little beach tucked away between Las Galeras and Playa Rincon and deserted for the most part, save for a couple of boys playing in boats, fishermen cleaning their catch, and one tenacious older gringa swimming around topless.

I had been taking photos of the pristine beach and sunset and hadn’t even noticed the woman until Lori pointed her out. I was initially a bit embarrassed, but embarrassment quickly led to horror as we began to think it might be the female half of our bungalow host couple. I wondered if she had noticed me taking photos and began seeing images in my head of Juan coming after me in the night with a machete.

We quickly moved on to another part of the beach where we spent the remainder of our time at Playita, out of sight of any potential witnesses who might be able to pick us out of a line up.

When we returned to our bungalow not too long after our uncomfortable beach encounter, we ran into none other than the owner herself.

Initially, I became very nervous searching for the best way to explain myself…until I noticed hair was completely dry and done up and realized it couldn’t possibly have been her out there.

Lori and I gave her a big “hola”, passed on by, headed on to the bungalow to get cleaned up, and headed straight to the bar.

Samana Playa Rincon Backpacking Dominican Republic
Samaná Peninsula: Playa Rincon

Playa Rincón

The next morning, we headed down to the beach to arrange boat transport to Playa Rincon, a nearby beach ranked by several travel magazines as one of the best in all of the Caribbean!

We were eager to see the pearl of the Samaná Peninsula for ourselves and set out on a 10-minute ride over choppy waters taking us around a rocky headland and into a stunning cove.

We shared the speedy open-top motorboat with a couple of women who agreed on a 3pm pick-up time (it was around 9am by this point), which seemed reasonable to us.

Lori and I endeavored that morning to awake at a reasonable hour so that we could get to Rincon early and enjoy all it had to offer. In doing so, we did not think to stop for breakfast first as we assumed that there would be services at the beach.

Lori and I had no illusions that there would be nothing beyond the basics at Rincon, but just how few services were actually on offer on Rincon took us by surprise.

We had been told by a few people in Las Galeras that there would be a couple restaurants, but found nothing beyond small beach shacks that most certainly were not set up to serve anything before noon. the only option seemed to be waiting until much later in the day for fish that was far more expensive than our backpacker budget would allow for.

We did however manage to find a few people milling around a hot stove up at one of the bright colored shacks who insisted they served breakfast. Our conversation went something like this (in Spanish):

Lori: Good morning! Do you serve breakfast?
Dude #1: Yes, of course.
Lori: Excellent. Can we see a menu?
Dude #1: No menu.
Lori: Alright, what do you have for breakfast?
Dude #1: Let me check (leaves).

Dude #2: Yes?
Lori: What do you serve for breakfast?
Dude #2: We don’t serve breakfast.
Lori: But he said you do.
Dude #2: We only have bread and coffee until noon. That’s it.
Lori: Great! We’ll take that!
Dude #2: But we have no bread.
Lori: Ok, we’ll take coffee.
Dude #2: Do you want fries too?

After a long twenty minute wait, we received our hearty breakfast of instant coffee and fries, scarfed it all down and hit the beach.

It was still a bit cool and stormy, so we took a stroll down to the western end of the beach where a fresh-water brook meets the bay. The turquoise color of the water was unreal and the banks were lush and green.

The amount of trash that littered this part of the beach, however, was incredibly disappointing. It was a lot of trash, most certainly washed ashore at high tide, as the beach simply didn’t see enough visitors for the trash to be litter.

After returning to the U.S. I went online to see if others had experienced the same thing. I was surprised at how many staunch apologists for the trash there seemed to be, stating again and again that washed up trash is the mark of a truly wild and untamed beach as trash washes up on every beach but most have workers who regularly maintain them.

Honestly, I found this to be a load of BS, as I’ve seen much wilder, more remote beaches in Mozambique which were 100% pristine, not a speck of trash but maybe a piece of homemade fisherman’s net or tackle.

It made me wonder what current brought the flotsam here to this particular beach so regularly and from where the debris came.

Puerto Rico? Cruise ships, perhaps?

makeshift bridge over stream

I didn’t end up taking any photos specifically of the endless garbage washed up along the beach, but a bit is visible at the bottom of this photo.

When we returned to the much tidier, western part of the beach, a man selling coco loco (rum in a coconut with more rum) came around and made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.

man climbing coconut tree
Loco CocoLoco man climbing up the CocoLoco tree to harvest Lori and I some CocoLoco.

I will say that the village and main swimming area of Playa Rincon is absolutely pristine.

coco loco playa rincón
Samana Las Galeras Playa Rincon Backpacking Dominican Republic
The fish shack where we had our “breakfast” is the orange building at center-right.
Samana Las Galeras Playa Rincon Backpacking Dominican Republic
This looked like a fun place to eat, but didn’t open til much later and prices were more than we were willing to pay.

Around noon, the clouds evaporated and the sun came busting through. We relaxed for the next couple of hours, napping, snorkeling, frolicking until our ride came to fetch us around 3pm.

Samana Las Galeras Playa Rincon Backpacking Dominican Republic
Old abandoned beachside villa.
pile of empty beer bottles
“Recycling” area near the fish shack in Las Galeras.

Where to Eat & Drink in Las Galeras

For eating a drinking, a sure bet in town is Jorena Bar which serves a little of everything. If you’re looking for something a bit closer to the water, Terraza at Arena Oceanview Hotel is definitely worth considering. For a quick bite and something different, try Dey Kebab right up the main road from the beach.

Las Galeras Accommodation

woman standing in thatch bungalow

Not keen for aging seaside resort blocks, we opted instead to book a small bungalow in “Daniel’s Village Bungalow” through an off-the-wall couple named Juan and Lolo who run a bungalow rental outfit by the same name (Juan y Lolo).

The bungalow had two levels, with the living area, small kitchen and bathroom on the ground floor and sleeping quarters in the loft, all just a short walk from the beach.

I can’t remember if the shower had hot water but in Las Galeras I don’t remember caring all that much to be honest.

It was hot during our stay, perfectly hot for a beach vacation. And the town of Las Galeras was the right mix of daytime lazy and mellow beachy nightlife.

Breakfast at our bungalow in Las Galeras.

We caught the rain a bit during our week in the DR and tried to move our trip around so that the sunniest days would be spent on the beach. Even so, we did catch a few passing showers in Las Galeras, but in the warm Caribbean waters with the hot Dominican afternoon sun shining down, it really wasn’t a problem.

After checking in with Juan and Lolo (two very interesting characters, might I add!), we hit the beach.

There are other low-cost options in town, but this seems like one of the better ones.

Don’t Forget to Bring Cash!

Samana Las Galeras Playa Rincon Backpacking Dominican Republic

Our last morning in Las Galeras was spent relaxing on the beach, looking for souvenirs, and…figuring out how we were going to pay for our lodging for the last couple of nights.

That’s right…we were plum out of cash.

So how did it get to this point you might ask? A number of unfortunate incidents aligned to create the perfect storm of cashlessness.

For one, we had paid the deposit for the bungalow online using a credit card and thought for sure, being the obviously tech-savvy entrepreneurs Juan and Lolo appeared to be, that surely they would accept credit cards for the balance.

We learned on the first night that this was not the case…

Second, we thought of this scenario ahead of time in Samaná and attempted to withdraw as much cash as we could from the town’s one working ATM. Unfortunately for us, the machine was a tremendously picky eater and only liked the one debit Master Card Lori and I had between the two of us, thus we withdrew the daily limit which ended up falling short of the bungalow bill.

And finally, the single ATM here in Las Galeras listed in our Lonely Planet guide book belonged to a bank that had closed up shop since the printing of our guide.

Determined to withdraw cash, we asked around, and were eventually led to an old, but stately resort near the location of our first evening stroll.

And sure enough, we found a bright, shiny ATM hanging off the side of the building. However, this ATM refused to take any of our cards.

A passerby suggested we try the bank inside, and that’s exactly what we did.

We walked into the lobby and passed a couple of guys sitting behind a desk who promptly started to scream at us in really bad English (or French perhaps…), demanding to see our room key. When we told them we weren’t actually patrons of their overpriced motel they told us that we could not use their bank and that we must leave immediately.

Samana Las Galeras Playa Rincon Backpacking Dominican Republic
Where the highway ends – at the beach in Las Galeras.

Back in town, while trying to figure out ways we might be able to pay Juan and Lolo — perhaps find a computer and pay off the balance like we payed the deposit? — we came across a convenience store that just happened to have one of those freestanding ATMs. We tried the first debit card we could rustle out of our pockets and sure enough…Money!

Just after noon we caught the gua-gua back to Samaná town.

In short, don’t do what we did. Stock up on Dominican pesos before heading to Samana Peninsula and squirrel it away somewhere safe.

Samana Las Galeras Playa Rincon Backpacking Dominican Republic

Samaná Town

Samana Las Galeras Playa Rincon Backpacking Dominican Republic

When we arrived back in Samaná town, the driver dropped us off at a circle fairly far from where our hostel was supposed to be located.

Lori had called ahead from Las Galeras and reserved a place at Hotel Docia, a no frills concrete guesthouse on a hill (these days, there’s bound to be better places in town, even for those on a budget).

We consulted our guidebook and began walking in the general direction, but still found ourselves quite a ways from the place lugging around heavy packs in the midday heat.

And to make matters worse, we were being followed by a very annoying motorcyclist who was incessantly trying to convince us to stay at his hotel.

After several No, gracias’s we ignored him for several blocks, winding our way throughout the city, not losing the guy, but hopefully closing in on our hostel.

Then, still about a half-dozen blocks from our place we realize that the guy is saying “Hotel Docia.” He was sent from the hostel we were looking for to help us locate it, apparently!

We had a good laugh over that one and the man kindly continued to lead us to the place, riding ahead, then waiting at the end of the block so we wouldn’t lose him, even after we had ignored him for the last 20 minutes.

When we got to the hotel he simply smiled and waved, then rode off into the sunset to, I assume, look for more wayward gringos in search of digs for the night. We wished him good hunting and proceeded to check in.

Hotel Docia on the hill in Samaná town.

We spent the rest of that evening ambling along the warm promenade in Samana, sipping Cuba Libres at a small cafe (it was a bit breezy and we were the only people out on the front deck), exploring eateries and shacks, and watching the fishing boats come into the harbor from the old watchtowers dotting the waterfront walkway.

More Caribbean Inspiration

1 thought on “Backpacking Las Galeras & Playa Rincon on a Budget [2024]”

  1. I will be visiting Las Galeras next month and happy that I stumbled upon your blog post. Very entertaining! I enjoyed your cheeky writing and helpful tips.

    Reply

Leave a Comment