THE FIRST TIME I stayed in the quaint, isolated fishing village of Las Terrenas, on the northern shore of the Samana Peninsula in the Dominican Republic, I camped out in a tent--there was no hotel. Since then, I have gone back every year, watching the town develop into a bustling beach resort, while retaining the charm of its rustic origins.

The Samana Peninsula has it all--miles of beautiful, unspoiled, white sandy beaches, palms arching out over the water, against a dramatic backdrop of mountains with rain forests, waterfalls, coffee groves, cacao trees, banana fields, citrus trees . . . Some of the greatest snorkeling, deep-sea diving, sailing and windsurfing are to be found there. You can go horseback riding on the beach or take excursions to waterfalls or archeological sites, or go whale-watching in winter. People skinny-dip a little out of town.

It is so inaccessible--one of its many attractions--that over the years, I have met more people there from Vancouver, B.C., than the United States. Until a paved landing strip for small commuter planes went in three years ago, the only way in was a nine-mile drive across the peninsula, over a 2,000-foot mountain range.

The rum is the cheapest anywhere, and the local Presidente beer is better than Heineken's (also available). There are a couple of pizzerias, but no McDonald's.



Dominican Republic Tourist Board, 212-588-1012,