We woke up to a gentle breeze, tropical birds, and Caribbean sunshine. We rubbed our eyes, from sleep and a bit of disbelief. This wasn’t like any hotel room or even glamping lodge we’d ever stayed in. Our view was of a lush forest, the leaves had intense detail…we were in the boughs of a tree. This is the Dominican Tree House Village, an eco-retreat so dreamy, we had to pinch ourselves.
Nestled in the jungles of Samaná, a lush peninsula on the northeast coast of the DR with mountains, jungles, beaches and islands, The Dominican Tree House Village (DTHV) is one of a handful of lodges in this little known paradise. The 15,000 people that live here are proud of the region’s beauty and are making efforts to develop it slowly and sustainably, with environmentally conscious hoteliers like DTHV leading the charge.
When we saw the DTHV sign pointing up a winding path that vanished into the greenery, we knew the adventure had already begun. Just as we started to size up our luggage and our level of physical fitness, three staff members appeared: one with a tray of tropical drinks and two others to whisk our bags away. We strolled the stone paths, passing the waterfall-fed pool, vibrant bromeliads, birdlife, and then shortly arrived at the canopy of cabins.
The main building set the tone for the village—made from locally sourced materials, open-air, bohemian decor, and fabulous views to the jungle. Hammocks hung from the columns and seating areas offered nature books, board games, and plush cushions for relaxation. The manager Melissa came to greet us, “Please make yourselves at home!” She explained the casual and social nature of DTHV and said meals (included in the price of the stay) are served family style and often turn into an evening of lively conversation, games of Uno, and the occasional merengue session. “If you need anything at all, just ask!”
Melissa led us through maze of suspension bridges and elevated pathways to our private tree house, one of 22 on the property. We climbed the stairs, which wended their way around two tree trunks, and reached our chic quarters. A queen bed draped with a mosquito net, whimsical swing chair, locking rattan trunk, ceiling fan, and power outlets…this was hardly roughing it. “One last thing,” said Melissa, “the shared bathrooms are downstairs.” We knew there was a catch! We descended, expecting summer-camp latrines, but these single occupancy bathrooms were gorgeous! Walls made with recycled glass bottles, seashell chandeliers, a flushing toilet, spacious shower, and plenty of privacy. Phew! (Though if you still want an ensuite bathroom, you can book the VIP Tree House.)
After a breakfast of German pancakes, fresh fruit, and Dominican coffee, we geared up for ziplining—DTHV’s signature activity. Before they even built the lodge, they worked with German engineers to create the tallest and highest-rated zipline experience in the Caribbean: Samaná Zipline. With helmets and harnesses secured, we began the 12-line course, flying 450-feet above the canopy, rivers, and through the dense jungle. We had never done tandem ziplining or tried flips, twirls, and upside-down kisses, but that made it our best zipline to date. To top off an exciting morning, there was a fantastic waterfall and swimming hole near the end of the course.
Already wet from our dip in Cascada Lulu, we decided to continue to the nearby Playa el Valle. This beach was our favorite in all of the Dominican Republic, complete with lush mountains, rugged cliffs, palm trees, golden sand, and an endearing local’s scene. Fishermen were mending their nets, boys were tossing around the baseball, and Emma the palapa owner was serving cold Presidente beers and the catch of the day. We walked the shore to the dramatic cliffs and found the shade of a palm tree for the little beach reading and a cat nap.
For guests who want to explore more of the incredible Samaná region, DTHV offers tons of day trips: humpback whale watching, horseback riding to El Limón waterfall, ATV tour to Playa Rincon, river rafting on Yaque del Norte River and more!
We opted for the boat trip to Los Haitises National Park and Bacardi Island. Leaving from a private dock in Samaná Bay, we took the speed boat to the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Los Haitises’ Bird Cay. The dramatic karst landscape and soaring birds of prey was straight out of a Bond movie. The park’s interior is a system of brackish rivers, dense mangrove, and caves filled with ancient pictographs from the Taíno natives. With 618-square miles of terrain and 58 islands, there was enough here to explore for weeks…though Bacardi Island was calling! An islet with golden sand, swaying palm trees, and beach bars blending tropical drinks…sounds like a rum advertisement, right? Well, Bacardi shot a campaign in the 80s and Cayo Levantado has been dubbed Bacardi Island ever since.
We returned to the Dominican Tree House Village and did an evening stretch in the yoga dome… trying not to think about our departure the following morning. Meditating on the beauty of this place, we set an intention and promised to come back some day.
Mike and Anne Howard left on their honeymoon in 2012 and have been traveling the world ever since. HoneyTrek.com chronicles their adventures across 7 continents, 44 countries, and counting! Their writing, photography, and the story of the “World’s Longest Honeymoon” can also be found on Condé Nast Traveler, BBC Travel, The Knot, Los Angeles Times, CBS, and dozens of other international publications. Connect with @HoneyTrek on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.