26km (16 miles) NE of Samaná

Lying northeast from the town of Samaná, Las Galeras practically didn't exist until the early '90s. At the end of a scenic road, you approach this quaint, little remote settlement known for its half-mile of white sandy beach, which is what put it on the map in the first place.

Being transported to Las Galeras from La Samaná on a guagua in 1 hour is half the fun. Small beaches opening onto a crashing surf from the Bahía de Samaná; coconut plantations, secluded beaches, limestone outcrops, and exotic trees, such as the tamarind, are just some of the sites you'll see as you bump up and down along a bad (but paved) road that rises and falls across the hilly, undulating terrain.

Before foreign visitors discovered it, Las Galeras was a mere fishing village with seemingly hundreds of coconut palms with fronds blowing in the trade winds. Cultural footnote: Thanks to commerce with English-speaking islands of the western Caribbean, including Antigua and Nevis, there's a high percentage of families with English-derived family names like Bell and Smith.

Learning the lay of the land in Las Galeras doesn't require a degree in geography. There's only one main artery, Calle A, running through the little resort. It runs parallel to the beach.

In lieu of a tourist office, many of the English-speaking residents seem friendly and only too willing to help a bewildered visitor. What's the downside to paradise? Las Galeras, in spite of its setting in an area of great natural beauty, is one hell of a hot and humid place, and U.S. and Canadian visitors used to summer air-conditioning might find it tough coming here. The cheaper rentals, and even some of the better hotels and inns, aren't air-conditioned. Locals are used to the heat, but you may not be.

Coconut Cannons -- You've heard of the dessert "death by chocolate." In the Dominican Republic, there's a twist on this: "death by coconut." The whole area is filled with coconut palms, which are remarkable for their beauty but can be lethal. Falling coconuts not only dent the hoods of cars but also shatter their windshields. These plummeting fruits can also be deadly missiles. People are killed every year on the island by coconuts falling from the sky. In a tropical storm, run for cover, as high winds can send a coconut shooting through the air like ammunition blasted from a cannon.