Whale Watching Samana 2023

Samaná Bay is a warm, inviting, and perfect sanctuary for humpback whales mating during the winter months!

This is why the humpbacks embark on the journey from their summer grounds in faraway Iceland or Greenland every year, heading this way as winter approaches.

Between December and March every year, nearly 2,000 humpback whales migrate to the inviting waters of the Atlantic Ocean to breed, and at any given time at least 300 are in Samana Bay!

This is where you can meet them in the middle of the circle, in the stunning Caribbean waters!

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Whale Watching Samana Tour 2023

Every passenger is on the lookout for movement in the water! Whale watching samana.
Every passenger is on the lookout for movement in the water!

So if you visit the Dominican Republic during this period, you can set out on a whale-watching Samana tour from several destinations on the island in 2023, as the entire island is really not very big!

You can do the tour from the capital Santo Domingo, from Cap Cana and Punta Cana east on the island, or like me, from Puerto Plata in the north.

But be prepared; it is going to be a really long day!

The Samana Bay Humpback Whales!

The tailfin of a humpback whale in the air before the dive in the Samana Bay (stock photo)
Humpback whales in Samana Bay (stock photo)

The humpback whales in Samana bay have made the journey down here from their winter grounds in the Iceland and Greenland waters far up north!

They follow the current of the Caribbean sea from Puerto Rico to the eastern shores of the Dominican Republic before they arrive in Samana Bay, north of the island.

Here they spend time in these waters mating, and they also give birth to their cubs here!

After the stay in Samana Bay, the whales continue on to the Bahamas, up the Gulf of Mexico, and then complete the circle heading back up north on the long journey back to Iceland and Greenland waters.

Whale Watching Tour In Samana Bay

The captain looking for humpbacks for us! Whale watching Samana.
The captain looking for humpbacks for us!

You will be picked up at your hotel super early in the morning with the tour bus, which is picking up all participants along the northern cities of Puerto Plata, Sosua, and Cabarete.

Bring a book (or audiobook), or just spend the trip sleeping, the drive from Puerto Plata down to Samana will take between 3-4 hours dependent on where you are picked up.

You have a super nice breakfast stop midway that fills you up, which was ready when we arrived and well organized.

When you arrive at the exit point, the boat is waiting for you, and you head straight to sea when everyone is on board!

Heading Out To Samana Bay

The captain and the crew are on their toes looking for whales, and with a minimum of 300 whales in this area in the season at any given time, the chance of seeing whales probably is close to guaranteed!

While visiting Samana bay, the humpback whales have a few areas where they prefer to hang around, and the captains of the whale-watching boats bringing you there know exactly where they are.

But it does take a bit of looking, as the humpbacks unfortunately are not familiar with our itinerary.

Watching The Whales On The Whale Watching!

But suddenly – there they are!

First far away, but shortly we are changing boat positions with the other boats, and get to see the magnificent creatures splashing the fins and whirling and diving with the back fins high in the air!

Even though I am really not a whooohh and aaahh-ing person, it was pretty darn impossible to not automatically release whooooing exclamations as the whales are playing around just outside our boat!

All the boat captains are in constant contact over the radio, arguing loudly and passionately about the time-management when some of the humpbacks have graced the surface with their presence, fighting for the best placement for their boat (and their passengers)!

I forgot to watch the time, but we probably stayed in the area with the whales for around 40 minutes and got to see them first from afar, and then up close.

Of course, I would have loved to stay for a lot longer! If I was not a solo traveler but in a group, I would definitely consider renting a boat and doing this as a private trip to be able to influence the time priorities more.

But it was really lovely, and the whales are soo beautiful! We saw two during our stay “in the zone”, and although they were not doing any dramatic jumps for us they did play around in the surface.

Lunch Stop At Bacardi Island

The beach at Bacardi Island
The beach at Bacardi Island

After seeing the whales, the next stop on the tour is Bacardi Island, where you can go through all your photos and videos, and have a lunch buffet included.

This includes fish, chicken, salad, and a variety of garniture like rice with raisins, and macaroni stew.

The stay here is around two hours, and you can enjoy some chill time on the beach, just hang around the bar, or go shopping for local art or jewelry that is sold in the market areas.

There is a bit of sales-pushing, but not very annoying, and only in the market area.

Bacardi Island market area

Return To Shore & Bus Home

The trip back to shore is not long from Bacardi Island, but there is a bit of wind and waves, so expect it to possibly be a wet experience!

From there, all you need to do is relax on the bus (with a post-whale-toast from the guide), heading back to your hotel in Cabarete, Sosua, or Puerto Plata.

Samana Whale Watching Price

For this Whale Watching Samana Day Tour day tour that lasted around 15 hours (for me as one of the first persons picked up) from start to finish, the price was $US 132 in February 2023 with Viator.

What is included:

  • Pick-up at your hotel with a bus and guide from Puerto Plata, Sosua, or Cabarete
  • Breakfast with hot and cold drinks
  • The boat trip and the whale watching
  • Lunch stop and recreational time at Bacardi Island (drinks excluded, bring cash)
  • Return to the shore and bus trip home, drop-off at your hotel

The guide also provided a “nightcap” of coca cola and a dash of the local rum for the return trip, which many travelers seemed to enjoy!

Other Reviews for Samana Whale Watching Tour

The average star rating for this tour from Puerto Plata is 3, and with only five registered reviews it ranges from 5 stars to 2.

Personally, I was very impressed and satisfied with how the tour was organized and the sighting of the whales in Samana Bay.

I believe it is important to manage your expectations before you do this tour, as this is not a private tour experience.

It is an organized group tour where the group will consist of around 40 people, with rather a long transport stretch.

The pick-up was on point, and the breakfast stop was brilliant. Everything was ready when we arrived, including bread, eggs, ham, cheese, mangó, coffee, and cold drinks – and you could buy snacks.

The boat was ready to welcome us the minute we arrived at the exit point, and the crew and captain were helpful and super-engaged in finding the right spot for the whales.

The boat captains were negotiating on the radio spaces closest to the whales and changing places as well as boat directions for all to be able to see.

On the return, the lunch buffet was really nice, with salad, fish, chicken, and garniture. Drinks and beverages were not included. Nice recreational time before the return to shore.

If you are happy with that and enjoy the company and the ride, you will probably enjoy this tour as well!

Samana Whale-Watching Tours From Other Places

The Dominican Republic is not a very big island, and it is possible to reach Samana on a (really long) day trip from most other destinations on the island.

Here are how to do it from Punta Cana and Santo Domingo!

Samana Whale Watching From Punta Cana

Punta Cana beach on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic. You can go whale watching in Samana from here!
Punta Cana beach on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic

This whale-watching tour is the same type of tour departing from Punta Cana, east of the Dominican Republic!

This tour only includes lunch, not breakfast, but apart from that has the same experiences.

Samana Whale Watching From Santo Domingo

Charming houses and flowers in Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo
Charming houses and flowers in Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo

The day tour from the capital Santo Domingo starts early in the morning as well, you have to be ready from 5:30 am!

After you marvel at the breathtaking whales, you will also bask in the serene beauty of Cayo Levantado aka Bacardi Island – a tranquil island tucked away in Samana Bay.

For this tour from Santo Domingo, alcoholic beverages are also included in the price.

Pre-Whale Watching Advice

  1. Time: It will be a long day, so just prepare yourself for that from the get-go.
  2. Packing list: Bring swimwear, sunscreen, snacks, cash, a wonderful attitude, and patience! You are about to see humpback whales – how privileged are you!!
  3. Clothes: Also bring a change of clothes, as it is not unlikely that you will be soaking wet after the transport legs with the boat! The sea can get frisky out here.
  4. Seasick pills?: Remember that you will be on a boat with a lot of other whale-passionate people, so if you are sensitive to the sea and sea sickness, take a sea sickness pill beforehand. And be prepared to endure if you get sick, as the boat will not leave the whale grounds because you feel nauseous.
  5. Private tour? If you have booked a private tour (which I would definitely have done if I were a decent group and not a solo traveler), then you can decide everything yourself. Stay for hours, or just short!

FAQ Whale Watching Samana

A LOT of people in the world are fascinated by whales and want to experience being close to them, in the sea.

So a lot of people have a myriad of questions about watching whales as well, and here are the most common ones answered (for Samana, that is).

When Is Samana Whale Watching Season?

The Samana whale watching season starts around mid-December when the first packs of whales start to arrive in the waters around Samana bay. The season formally lasts until the 31st of March.

When Can You See Whales In Samana?

You can see whales in the Samana Bay waters throughout the whale watching season, from when the whales are starting to arrive in December until they start moving on at the end of March.

What Is The Best Time To See Whales

You are almost guaranteed to see whales during the whole season, as there are more than 2000 whales passing by Samana, and normally more than 300 whales are present at any given time!

Wrap-Up Whale Watching Samana

I now want to testify, that watching the large but elegant whales in Samana Bay was almost a spiritual experience! So close to nature, makes me feel humble, and even ooo’ing and aaa’ing quite a bit

Unless you will be seriously disturbed by being in a large group of travelers, I really do recommend this whale-watching tour.

In my opinion, you do get a lot for your money, it is really well organized, and a wonderful nature experience.

If you want a more exclusive experience, you can always dig up the big bucks, and rent a whole boat just for you and your family or group for the day!

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