Samana whale watching tour. These incredible humpback whales come to Samana DR from December to March every year.

Best Samana Whale Watching Tour DR: Humpback Whales! (From An Expert Traveler)

The Dominican Republic is a warm, inviting island, and the bay of Samana is a perfect sanctuary for humpback whales mating and giving birth during the winter months, which is why Samana whale watching is a brilliant opportunity.

Humpback whales embark on the journey from the cold waters in 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, and at any given time during these months, at least 300 are in Samana Bay.

I did this tour from Samana when I was traveling around the Dominican Republic for over a month, and it was one of the highlights of my DR journey!

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Whale Watching Samana YouTube

It is HARD filming humpback whales from a moving boat in rough seas! This is what I got 🙂

Quick Facts Whale Watching Tours Dominican Republic

📍 Nice-to-know about whale watching in the DR:

  • Samana is a peninsula on the northern shores of the Dominican Republic.
  • The distance from the capital, Santo Domingo, is 110 miles.
  • You can book a whale-watching tour from several destinations in the Dominican Republic, including Las Terrenas, Punta Cana, and Santo Domingo.
  • The whale watching season in the DR is from December to March annually.
  • For a unique experience, choose a private tour.
  • Most tours also stop by the beautiful Bacardi Island.

Whale Watching Samana Tour 2023

The boat taking us to the whale sighting areas, everyone wearing red vests, and sitting like in a bus! There is a roof over the boat what drives fast out to sea.
Heading out to where the whales are

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 (where you also find an array of stunning beaches!).

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

The Samana Bay Humpback Whales!

The large tail fin of a humpback whale as it has surfaces, and is about to dive below the dark blue surface again
This is what we are hoping for (stock photo)

The humpback whales in Samana Bay have made the journey down to this summer sanctuary of the humpback whales from their winter grounds in the Iceland and Greenland waters far up north, which is their natural habitat during winter!

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.

They spend time in these turquoise waters for the mating season, and they also give birth to their cubs here, so you might get lucky and spot newborn calves!

After the stay in Samana Bay on the North coast of the DR in the Caribbean Sea, 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 the seas of Iceland and Greenland waters.

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Whale Watching Tour In Samana Bay

Our captain of the boat with a caps, sun glasses and a bright yellow rain coat steering the boat and looking for whales
Our captain on the lookout for whales

Because seeing humpback whales in the wild is a very popular adventure, many tour operators offer this excursion with variable reviews. The one I talk about here gets high scores across the board.

For this tour, you will be picked up at your hotel super early in the morning with the tour bus, which picks up all participants along the northern cities of Puerto Plata, Sosua, Las Terrenas, and Cabarete.

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

You will have a super nice breakfast stop (with coffee!) midway that fills you up, which was ready and well-organized when we arrived.

When you arrive at the departure point, the boat is waiting for you; you will get your life jackets on and head straight to sea when everyone is on board!

Heading Out To Samana Bay Whale Watching

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

While visiting Samana Bay, the majestic 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 the best places are.

But it does take a bit of searching and gazing, as the humpbacks, unfortunately, are not familiar with our itinerary!

Spotting The Whales!

Heading out to sea, the view is of the whitewater behind the speeding boat in the dark sea
We are driving fast to the whale sites

After a short boat ride, we start scouting for activity in the water, trying to locate the whales’ hangout on this day. And suddenly – there they are!

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

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 were playing around just outside our boat!

The humpback fin sticking out from the water
The humpback fin sticking out from the water
Almost what we hoped for
The tailfin of a diving humpback whale in the sea

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 were 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 on the surface.

Next Stop: Bacardi Island Lunch & Punch

The golden sands and soft waves on Bacardi Island, with people enjoying the beach and the water under the blue sky
The soft sands 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, have some free time, and have a lunch buffet included (and a Bacardi Island punch if you feel so inclined).

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

Lunch after the whale watching experience at Bacardi Island, with tables with cute blue and white table cloths under a tall ceiling in an open dining hall. Lots of people enjoying the food and the day.
Lunch buffet at Bacardi Island

The stay here is around two hours, and you can enjoy some chill time on the beautiful beaches, 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.

Return To Shore & Bus Home

The tour guide makes sure everyone are hydrated and happy on the bus ride back to our hotel with fun stories and chatty passengers
Happy times on the bus back home

The trip back to shore is not long from Bacardi Island, but there can be 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.

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 do 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 a rather 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, changing places and boat directions so everyone could see.

The whale watching boat is basically a bus on the water that goes very fast, where you are seated at all times while in the boat. This is everyone entering the boat by the jetty.
Our whale-watching boat

On the return, the lunch buffet at Bacardi Island was really nice, with salad, fish, chicken, and garniture. Drinks and beverages were not included. There was also a bit of recreational time before the return to shore.

If you are happy with what I describe here and enjoy the company and the ride, you will probably enjoy this tour as well.

Be prepared for a bit of rough seas heading out and while in the whale-watching zone. If you tend to get seasick, make sure you take nausea pills before the tour.

Also, there will be around 40 people on the boat, and you will not be able to be on the first row to see the whales all the time.

Private Whale-Watching Tour!

If you are a group of up to 7 people, you can opt for one of the top-rated private whale-watching excursions instead of going with the larger group day tours!

You can book private whale-watching trips from 4 different locations in the Dominican Republic that will take you to Samana and have this amazing experience with your friends and family for the day!

No lines, no stress, and no competition for the view of these magnificent creatures on the whale playing and breeding grounds.

And you can stay as long time as you like (well, almost)!


5 star rating
5 star rating
5 star rating
5 star rating
5 star rating
The guide was especially knowledgeable and gave us some memorable views of Humpback whales breaching, couldn’t have asked for more!
Nicholas Pane
February 2023

Samana Whale-Watching Tours From Other Destinations

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

The paradisiacal white sands of Punta Cana Beach, with the crystal clear water coming in with a bit of white water as it hits the sands, under a clear blue sky.
PUnta Cana Beach

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, it has the same experiences.

Samana Whale Watching From Santo Domingo

A charming cafe in the Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo, with outdoor seating in the shade from the sun, colorful buildings and old stone buildings creating an inviting atmosphere
Charming cafe 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 Bay DR

A LOT of people in the world are fascinated by whales and want to experience being close to them in the wild on a typical whale-watching tour.

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).

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 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 tour 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!

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 warm waters of the Dominican Republic around Samana Bay.

The season formally lasts until late March, on the 31st.

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 Months Are Best For Whale Watching?

In Samana, the best months for whale watching are between December and March every year.

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!

Have The Whales Arrived In Samana Dominican Republic?

The whales arrive in Samana on the coast of the Dominican Republic around December every year and stay until around March.

Wrap-Up Whale Watching Samana

I really think that watching the large and elegant humpback whales in Samana Bay in the Dominican Republic was an unforgettable experience!

So close to nature, it makes me feel humble, and even ooo’ing and aaa’ing quite a bit over the incredible displays.

Unless you are seriously disturbed by being in a large group of travelers, I do recommend this whale-watching tour when you visit Samana Bay. In my opinion, you do get a lot for your money; it is really well organized and a wonderful close-up 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!

Related articles about the Dominican Republic:

Easy Guide: Where Is There Uber in Dominican Republic

9 Best Beaches Near Santo Domingo (And A Few Further Away)

8 Best Beaches In Punta Cana Dominican Republic

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