Whales in the Dominican Republic, there will be all the necessary information for travelers and detailed instructions on how to see these mammals. In fact, this is not difficult to do, but there are no detailed instructions on the Internet, but only a general description. In this article, you will receive a step-by-step guide and learn exactly how to see real whales.

Table of contents:

Whales in the Dominican Republic: general facts

Let’s start in order. All information is important, it is important not to miss anything 🙂

  • You can see real humpback whales in the Dominican Republic
  • This is one of the few places in the world where they sail right to the shore.
  • You can meet them every year only at a certain time.
  • They come to the shores of the Dominican Republic to breed:
    • those who found a couple here this year, in a year they will come here to give birth
  • It is off the coast of the Dominican Republic that the mating games of humpback whales take place, then the highest luck if you saw a whale male jumping out of the water.

Fact:

We saw it once. It lasted literally 1-2 seconds and, unfortunately, was not filmed on camera.
Whales in the Dominican Republic jump
This is what it looks like one by one. The photo is not ours, I just found it on the Internet. But if you are more efficient than us, you can take such a photo.
  • Who does not know, and if you know, then we repeat: humpback whales are not fish, but mammals
  • Also, they are the largest mammals in the world.
  • The length of these whales is 14-15 meters, and the weight is about 30 tons.

Where to look for whales in the Dominican Republic and when?

Let’s start in order.

The link is a huge article about the coolest sights of the Dominican Republic, description, prices, opening hours, map and rating of the author.

When is whale season in the Dominican Republic?

Every year, between 200 and 400 humpback whales come to the coast of the country from January to March.

Good to know:

The ideal time to see whales is February. The probability reaches 95-99%.

There is a year when the first whales in Dominican enter the bay already at the beginning of January. But this is rare. Usually the first whales appear here after January 15-20.

And already from the beginning of March, the whales begin to leave the waters of the Dominican Republic. Sometimes they stay until the end of the month. But you understand, when the first individuals swim away already at the beginning of March, and the further than less they remain.

It’s one thing when you bought a tour and there are almost half a thousand whales here, and the second is when most of them have swam away. Therefore, the closer to April, the less chance of finding them. Exactly the same in January. The sooner, the less chance. The ideal month for whale watching is the whole of February.

encounter with whales
Me, my wife, some bald man, and a whale. This is what it looks like from the boat.

Whales in the Dominican Republic: where to look?

On the northern coast of the Dominican Republic there is the Samana peninsula. This is one of the best places for tourists in the Dominican Republic. There are cool beaches, a cool ocean, and a huge amount of palm trees, unlike the south.

And in detail about all the sights of the Samana Peninsula, read the article at the link.

Interesting to know:

For tourists, the best resorts on the Samana Peninsula are Las Terrenas and Las Galeras.

The capital of the peninsula, the city of the same name Samana. And the whales come to mate and breed in the bay, which is also called Samana.

Whales can also be found on the outer side of the peninsula, near Las Galeras, but the probability is extremely low and these will be whales swimming into the bay.

whales on the samana map
Map for a general understanding of where to look for whales in the Dominican Republic

It does not matter where you bought the whale watching tour: from your tour operator or at a hotel or on the beach. All excursions start from one of these locations in the north, which are marked on the dynamic map below.

What you need to know:

  • 95% of all excursions start from the city of Samana (Start point #1).
  • Additionally, boats sometimes depart from the town of Sabana De la Mar (marked as Pier #4 on the map). The pier has been renovated, and occasionally, tourists from Bavaro and Punta Cana are brought here. However, the majority of tours still depart from the city of Samana.
  • Yes, the road is 4-5 hours one way, be prepared. And the whole whale watching excursion from Punta Cana will take the whole day.
  • You can easily arrive by yourself by 9 am, better a little earlier, to the main pier of Samana (on the map, start point # 1). And on the spot to buy this tour yourself and cheaper.
  • But if you do not have a car, the best option for you is a ready-made tour. On it in one day you will see both whales in Dominican and the mega waterfall El Limon.
    • You can find a large selection of whale watching tours with a transfer to the starting point on the official website. There are also programs where in one day you can also visit the El Limon waterfall.
      • The choice is large: there are meals with and without, with a visit to Bacardi Island, with alcohol.

What is included and how much does whale watching tour cost?

If you bought a tour at the hotel, with transfers, etc., then relax and enjoy. But read the same part of the article, there will be information for you.

And those who want to meet whales, having independently organized it for themselves, read carefully.

Excursion when buying on the spot (start point №1) costs $ 60-70 per person. Below $50 you definitely won’t bargain, but you can try. More expensive than $ 70 it makes no sense to buy.

Follow the link for a detailed article about prices in the Dominican Republic for everything related to travelers, from groceries to car rental.

timetable for whale watching tours
This is what the boat looks like on which you will sail. In the background is a small ship, seats 25-30.

Procedure for independent tourists:

  • By 8:45 am in the morning, if you want to be on the first boats, you arrive at the main pier of Samana (Start point #1). There is free parking here if anything. About the time in the country, time zones and much more in the article at the link.
  • You will immediately be surrounded by enterprising sellers of this excursion.
  • The price will be the same for everyone, they can start from 70-80 dollars, but in 10 seconds you will drop the price to 60-65$.
  • Boats go out into the bay for whales as they fill up from 9 am to 3 pm.
    • They say that in the first half of the day, the chance to meet whales is much higher. This is what they say, I can not dispute or confirm. We met whales and many times.
  • What you need to ask before paying:
    • Let him show you the boat on which you will sail. She will be 20 meters from you on the pier. If the boat is not yet at the pier, then you can wait an hour or two before departure.
    • Therefore, if the boat is already moored to the pier, this is a good sign. And if tourists are already sitting there, then the departure is very soon.
    • Ask immediately when you sail. If he says 5 minutes, that’s Dominican 5 minutes. European is 20-30 minutes.
    • Also ask what else is included in the tour.

It is important to know:

For the vast majority of boats, the $60 tour includes, in addition to whales, a visit to Cayo Levantado, better known as Bacardi Island, and lunch, usually rice with chicken and salad. About 30-40 years ago, it was on the beach of this island that an advertisement for the famous Bacardi rum was filmed.
Bacardi beach from a distance
Bacardi Island and its famous beach early in the morning when there are no people yet.

Details about Bacardi Island in a separate article.

If everything suits you, give them money, bracelets are glued to your hand – they are also entrance tickets, they put you in a boat and wait until the boat is full and swim out.

The itinerary of whale watching tour

Each boat can accommodate 20 to 50 people. Everyone is given a life jacket. Usually the boat is not filled to the limit, because then, when you see the whales, the boat is a mess. And everyone runs from side to side in an attempt to photograph them. They try to put up to 30 people in the big boat.

  • It takes 30-40 minutes to swim to the middle of Samana Bay from start point
  • There are two observers with walkie-talkies on each boat. They sit on the “tower” and look out for whales.
  • Even if you quickly found and met them, it doesn’t end there. Usually the process of swimming with whales lasts about an hour.
    • Whales swim in pairs and we met 5-6 pairs during this hour.
    • The captain always tries to turn the ship around in such a way, then one side or the other, so that everyone can see it clearly.
    • But even without him, people rushed along the deck from side to side.
humpback whale in samana bay dominican republic
When you see this at 15 meters, without thinking, you run to the board to get a better look. And there are 30 more people like you.
  • After that, the boat takes everyone to Bacardi Island. This is a tiny island, less than 1 sq. km. But there is an amazing beach, as in the picture.
  • The time from the exit from the port of Samana to the port of Bacardi Island will be about 2-2.5 hours.
  • Bacardi Island will tell you when lunch is and where it will be waiting for you.
  • They will also tell you what time your boat leaves the island back to the port of Samana.
    • Usually Bacardi Island is given 3 hours of free time.
    • What to do here: swim, sunbathe, there are souvenir shops, cafes with drinks for an additional fee.

Total itinerary of whale watching in the Dominican Republic

Timing of the tour: in our case, it was from 9 am to 3 pm.

Not far at all, literally 20 km, from Samana, in the jungle, there is a gorgeous El Limon waterfall. If you came to the peninsula from afar, then you must have time to visit it on the same day.

And if you stop for a couple of days in any town of the Samana Peninsula, then the next morning you will definitely go to the waterfall. Detailed instructions for visiting El Limon at the link.

What to take with you on an excursion: whales in the Dominican Republic

  • Swimwear
  • Towel
  • Pills for motion sickness
  • Water
  • Small snack
  • A bag if you feel sick (but if anything, it will be given out on board your boat)
  • If there are strong waves and wind, I also recommend a waterproof case for both the phone and documents, if you have them with you.
  • Money for extra payments – more on that below.
  • Mask, snorkel on Bacardi Island
  • good luck!
whales in the dominican republic tour
You will have many such photos.

Our personal experience on the tour: whales in the Dominican Republic.

I’ll try to be brief, but I rarely succeed. Therefore, listen.

As soon as we sailed from Samana, such waves began, and it became clear why the ocean is the ocean and how it differs from the sea. The boat, although large, was thrown like a matchbox.

All two hours while we were sailing for whales, every 8-10 seconds, a big wave throws the boat a couple of meters and drops it down. Of the 30 people on board, in the first half hour, 7 people began to feel sick.

As a result, half of the tourists were seasick.

Helpful advice:

We are not the first time in such an environment and are already experienced sailors in this regard. Here are two things to do besides motion sickness pills to help keep you from “vomiting”. I’m sorry, but as it is.
  1. Take a seat at the back of the boat (stern) as it rocks less there.
  2. Avoid sitting facing backward.
  3. Try not to turn your head too much; pick a point on the horizon and focus on it.
  4. Avoid looking at your phone, reading, as it may cause motion sickness in about 30 seconds.

Literally, 30-40 minutes after the start, we met the first pair of whales. It usually goes like this:

  • The watcher on the bridge shouts “WHALES” and points somewhere with his finger.
  • All 30 people in a single impulse – run on this board.
  • Then, someone shouts “whales”, and points in the other direction, and again everyone run there.
  • This is all together with the waves, pitching and sickening neighbors.
  • It is important to hold on tight and hold your phones firmly. Here, dropping something overboard is easy.
humpback whales in the dominican republic
In our case, this is what the whale watcher looked like

Interesting to know:

As a result, we met a lot of whales, they swam literally 5 meters from the boat. And once even the male jumped out of the water. These are such mating games with them. But I didn’t filmed it.

Keep in mind that this activity doesn’t allow children, especially those under 12, due to the strong rocking. Adults can experience significant motion discomfort on the deck, and it’s likely that children might be tossed overboard with the second wave.

Bacardi Island in Samana Bay

Two hours later, our half-dead team landed on the shore of Bacardi Island.

To understand, lunch there will be free, about two hours after you land. Everything else is paid.

  • The sun lounger on the beach is paid, but you can lie on your own towel for free
  • Drinks and non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks for a fee
  • And, well, there is still a normal toilet, it’s free.
  • And by the way – this is a paradise beach only in Bacardi advertising when there are no people there. When you are there, there will be another 500 people from all the boats with you.
all about whales in the Dominican Republic
Bacardi beach during the day. It seems that there are few tourists, but it seems so, everyone is sitting in the shade, there are a lot of people.

The boat sailed to take us back half an hour later than the promised time. But it’s okay here. Tranquilo, amigo. (Relax and enjoy).

Another useful fact:

Initially, we only wanted to see the whales, without visiting Bacardi. We were not interested in Bacardi, since we had already been here. And the one who sold the tour promised us that after the whales the boat would personally take us to Samana. Of course, everyone to Bacardi, and us to Samana. We are naive. As you understand, they were with everyone to the end. This is normal for the Dominican Republic. They will promise anything to sell the tour. Better buy them from official agencies, the link was above.

Read about other excursions in the Dominican Republic in a large review article.

In conclusion: there are definitely whales in the Dominican Republic in February in the city of Samana, on the Samana Peninsula, on the coast of Samana Bay. If you buy it yourself at the starting point #1, then the price is about $60. If somewhere in an agency with a transfer, etc., then there are prices for $ 100-130, but organizing a transfer yourself, if there is no rental car, will be even more expensive. The tour with transfer and meals costs about $130. It’s cheaper than thinking how to get to the start yourself, especially if you live very far from Samana.

In any case, where else can you see real humpback whales in Dominican in their natural habitat for $100.

I wish you bright emotions and beautiful whale jumps!


Resources to help you plan your dream trip to Dominican Republic

  • Flights at the best prices with discounts
  • Car rental: DiscoverCars – a largest international resource
  • Hotels and apartments: Hotellook – compares hotel prices among dozens of booking platforms and offer you the best price.
  • Vacation packages:
    • Expedia – best deals from Europe.
    • CheapOair – cheap packages from all US cities.
  • Tours, excursions and extreme activities:
    • GetYourGuide – more than 800+ tours and water activities.
    • Viator – 3500+ tours and excursions in Dominican.
  • Comprehensive travel insurance: EKTA
  • eSIM virtual sim card with internet package.
  • Taxi and airport transfers: Intui.Travel