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Cayo Levantado

A private paradise

All your tropical fantasies come true at Cayo Levantado. This tiny, private island in Samana Bay lines up pale sands washed by turquoise water, rolling hills covered in emerald palm groves, and just one hotel – the 5-star Gran Bahia Principe. It’s been the location for some fairly major TV commercials, which is how it got its nickname, Bacardi Island.

The beaches

The island has 3 beaches to its name. On the south side is a pair of quiet, virgin white swathes of sand for the exclusive use of the hotel’s guests. They’re dotted with sunloungers and white cabanas, and lapped by gently rolling waves, so children can paddle safely in the water. On the north coast is Playa Grande, the public beach. Here, you’ll find beach huts grilling fresh fish and Caribbean-style clapboard shacks piled high with Dominican souvenirs.

The island

Visitors to Cayo Levantado are allowed to explore the island like it’s their own private estate. Paths cut their way past manicured gardens and over hills where bright green parrots squawk from the treetops. And for those who don’t feel like walking, golf carts shuttle back and forth over the island all day long. Cayo Levantado’s underwater scenery is just as impressive. If you sign up for dives at the scuba shop, you’ve got neon corals and shipwrecks in your sights.

Samana Bay

Between January and March, there’s an influx of 10,000 humpback whales into Samana Bay who frequent these warm waters for mating season – it’s an awesome spectacle of nature, and one that’s been immortalised by David Attenborough. The rest of the year, when the waters are quieter, it’s worth heading across the bay to see Taino Indian drawings that have been etched into the limestone caves at Los Haitises National Park.


Beach-friendly weather comes as standard in the Dominican Republic. On average, you can expect average temperatures in the high 20s or low 30s, plus about 300 days of sunshine a year. From June to October the mercury rises even more, but you’ll usually see the odd tropical shower, too. Humidity can be high in this part of the world – travel between November and April to avoid the worst of it. Hurricane season falls between June and September, but severe storms are pretty rare, and hotels are well equipped in any case.