Las Galeras on the
Samana Peninsula,
Dominican Republic

This is the farthest beach from the Dominican mainland.

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From Las Terrenas, I retrace my mountain route before heading farther into the peninsula. Just before the town of Sanchez I'm treated to an impressive view of the south coast and the Bahia de Samana.

The bay's shoreline is rocky except for a few pockets of sand, which accounts for why most of the new development is clustered on the Atlantic side.

But all roads on the Samana Peninsula lead to a beach, and the two-lane main artery that spans the length of the peninsula terminates at Las Galeras, yet another fishing community evolving into a beach town.

Despite its location at the extreme end of the peninsula, Las Galeras is on the development fast track. A big-time resort already has moved into Las Galeras which, somewhat ironically, is at the extreme end of the peninsula and the farthest beach from the Dominican mainland.

Last year, the 250-room all-inclusive Casa Marina Bay, one of the country's most modern hotels opened here. But big hotels are only part of the planned development.

Log onto the Internet and look up Samana and you'll find more real estate listings than anything else; such as a three-bedroom villa at Las Galeras advertised for $350,000 (1992 Jeep Wrangler included). Las Galeras could be headed in the direction to become another Casa de Campo.

At sunset one evening I take a short walk along the quiet, almost deserted beach at Las Galeras. Only about a kilometer long, the beach has a memorable setting between the rocky cliffs and mountain forests of Cape Samana and Cape Cabron.

An old coconut plantation hides the buildings at Casa Marina Bay, but 2 smaller hotels border the sand behind me. Just a few yards offshore is the Las Galeras fishing fleet of about 20 small boats, their bow anchors set and with stern ropes tied to palms lining the shore.

This obviously is still a working beach, not a walking one. But one day this web of stern boat ropes crossing the sand will be judged an impediment and have to go.

A young Dominican boy and girl chase their puppy across the sand, then the two children plunge happily into the ocean. They are a cheerful contrast to all the evidence of the coming transition to mass tourism.

In the town of Las Galeras, discos now almost outnumber the restaurants, and ?Se Vende? (For Sale) signs mark a disproportionate number of houses and land tracts on the road between Samana and here.

Witnessing a wholesale sellout by people seeking a new identity is unsettling. Las Galeras, Las Terrenas and El Portillio all contain a distinctive charm because they remain fishing villages, and their core heritage still endures despite the new construction that is transforming them into beach towns.

How much longer will that remain once charter planes start landing on the peninsula, at a time when everyone wants to be a millionaire?

Despite all the new construction, that heritage still remains at their core. If all the tourists and hotels disappeared tomorrow, their sense of community still would be intact.

How much longer will that endure once charter planes start landing on the peninsula, when everyone wants to be a millionaire?

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