Once a rustic fishing village, Las Terrenas is now a cosmopolitan town and seems as much French (approaching a colony) and Italian as Dominican. Fashionable European women in designer sunglasses ride their personal ATVs with a bag of baguettes in tow, battling on roads with way too many motos. The balancing act between locals and expats has produced a lively mix of styles and a social scene more vibrant than that anywhere else on the peninsula. Walking in either direction along the beach road leads to a beachfront scattered with hotels, tall palm trees and calm, aquamarine waters.
Transportation - Get In
International flights arrive at Aeropuerto Internacional El Catey, located 8km west of Sánchez and a 35-minute taxi ride (US$70) to Las Terrenas. Air Canada, Westjet and Air Transat, among others, serve Canadian destinations; XL Airways goes to Paris. There's also a handful of charter flights.
For Santo Domingo, Las Terrenas Transportes operates direct coaches via the main highway (RD$375, 2½ hours, 5am, 7am, 9am, 2pm and 3:30pm), Puerto Plata (RD$325, three hours, 6:30am), Santiago (RD$320, three hours, 6:30am, 8:30am and 12:40pm) and Nagua (RD$150, 1¼ hours, 7am and 2pm). Buses leave from the Esso gas station on the outskirts of town, 2.5km south of the sea.
Guaguas to Samaná leave in front of Casa Linda at the corner of Calle Principal and the coastal road eight times daily (RD$100, 1¼ hours, 7:15am to 5pm). For those going to El Limón, 14km away, guaguas leave from the same stop (RD$50, 35 minutes, every 15 minutes from 7:15am to 7pm).
For Sánchez, guaguas leave from the Uchotesa depot on the outskirts of town (RD$70, every 20 minutes, 7am to 6pm).
Las Terrenas is easily accessible by road if you’re motoring on your own. A portion of the US$150-million Blvd Turístico del Atlántico connects Las Terrenas with Aeropuerto Internacional El Catey, 24km to the west, avoiding the former need to transit through Sánchez. The toll charges, relative to kilometers, are high (RD$528), and it hasn't exactly been embraced by locals, but it’s a beautiful drive all the same.
The local taxi consortium offers rides for one to six passengers to just about anywhere. Some sample one-way fares are Playa Cosón (US$25), El Limón (US$25), Samaná (US$70), Las Galeras (US$100), Santo Domingo (US$150) and Punta Cana (US$400).
Transportation - Getting Around
You can walk to most places in Las Terrenas, though getting from one end to the other can take half an hour or more. There are taxi and motoconcho stops in front of El Paseo shopping center and along the beach roads, and motoconchos are plentiful on Calle Principal and around Pueblo de los Pescadores – and are incessantly in your face practically everywhere else.
There are several local car-rental agencies in town. Rates start at US$50 per day and US$300 per week. One of the more established and reliable ones is ADA Rental Car. At Aeropuerto El Catey, Sixt is the lone option. Jessie Car is a recommended outfitter for quad bikes (US$60 per day) and scooters (US$25).
Sights & Landmarks
The beach is the main attraction in Las Terrenas. Playa Las Terrenas and Playa Casa Blanca flank the center of town, bookended by the calmer sands of Playa Las Ballenas (to the west) and Playa Punta Popy (to the east).
Things to do
Diving & Snorkeling
Las Terrenas has reasonably good diving and snorkeling and at least three shops in town to take you out. Favorite dive spots include a wreck in 28m of water and Isla Las Ballenas, visible from shore, with a large underwater cave. Most operators also offer special trips to Cabo Cabrón near Las Galeras and Dudu Cave near Río San Juan. Standard one-tank dives average US$60 with equipment. A 10-dive package generally costs US$400. Two-tank day trips to Cabo Cabrón are US$160, including gear, lunch and transportation; one-tank day trips to Dudu Caves are US$130, also including gear, lunch and transportation. Open-water courses average US$480.
A popular full-day snorkel trip is to Playa Jackson, several kilometers west of town, reached by boat.
Kitesurfing & Windsurfing
Second only to Cabarete, Las Terrenas is a good place to try out a wind sport in the DR. The beach at Punta Popy, only 1km or so east of the main intersection, is a popular place for kitesurfers and windsurfers.
Calle Duarte (aka Calle Principal) and around are virtually wallpapered with the Haitian art found everywhere in the DR. The three shopping malls have several high-end boutiques, eating options and a few shops selling basic tourist kitsch.
Drinking & Nightlife
Most restaurants have bars and stay open well after the kitchen has closed. Barhopping could scarcely be easier, as it takes about 45 seconds to walk (or stagger, depending on the time of night) from one end of Pueblo de los Pescadores to the other. There are a few notable spots outside Pueblo de los Pescadores as well and a cluster of discotecas across the street.
Food & Restaurants
The most atmospheric restaurants in Las Terrenas are in Pueblo de los Pescadores, a cluster of fishing shacks that have become waterfront restaurants. Virtually every restaurant has an entrance facing the road and an open-air dining or bar area out the back that overlooks the ocean and narrow beach. For cheap Dominican fare (from RD$250), there's a line of beach shacks behind the cemetery in the center of town.
Accommodation & Hotels
The majority of accommodations options are located along the beachfront roads to the east and west of the main intersection. Those to the east are across from the beach on the paved highway, while the cobblestoned road to the west means the area is somewhat quieter and feels more secluded. Prices drop dramatically in low season, but at any time of year discounts are negotiable for long-term stays.