If you’re thinking of travelling around the Dominican Republic, then the small fishing village of Las Salinas should definitely be on your to-visit-list.
Not to be confused with Las Salinas in Barahona, this one is located only an hour west of Santo Domingo and is easy to get to either for a day visit or for a weekend. Highlights include the desert-like dunes, a beautiful Caribbean beach as well as the possibility to kiteboard on the bay.
Dunas de Bani
A few kilometers before entering the village you’ll see the region’s most important naval base. Once passed the naval base the beautiful dune ranges, a unique phenomenon in the Caribbean, will rise up on the left hand side of the road.
The dunes, officially called Las Dunas de Bani, stretch along the Caribbean Sea for about 15 kilometers and can be up to 35 meters high. This protected area is inhabited by a range of iguanas, lizards and birds, including gulls and pelicans, as well as a wide variety of cacti and mangrove trees.
The area has been turned into a national park in 1996 to stop the fine sand from being extracted for construction projects. Visitors can visit the dunes by buying a ticket at the Visitor’s Reception Center (called Dunas de las Calderas). The entrance will set you back 50RD per person and the area is open every day from 8am to 5pm. On Saturday and Sunday it’s open until 6pm. If it’s closed just park along the road and climb a dune.
If you want to cross the dunes to the Caribbean Sea, be sure to take water, a hat, sunscreen and closed shoes as the sand gets very hot. The beach on that side is beautiful and worth the hassle of walking. The best time to visit the dunes to take photos is close to sunset as the colors are absolutely amazing then.
Las Salinas itself is a quaint little fishing village which looks out on the Bay of Las Calderas (Bahia de Las Calderas). At the end of the village are the salt lakes, which gave the village its name. Sea water is dammed in creating shallow pink colored lakes and once the water has evaporated the salt can be harvested, after which the process is repeated. Dotted along the pink colored lakes are old wooden structures that are still used today by the salt extracting business.
Kiteboard in the Bay of Las Calderas
Las Salinas has two beaches. One on the side of the bay and one on the side of the Caribbean Sea. The typical wind direction is from inland making the bay ideal for kiteboarding. Stop anywhere along the road past the sea salt structures and launch your kite. Note that the beach on this side is very narrow and that there are electricity poles that line the road, so make sure you know how to handle your kite well before coming.
Caribbean beach at Punta Salinas
At the end of the road you’ll get to Punta Salinas, where you’ll find the main beach facing the Caribbean Sea. Fine sand, palm trees and beautiful crystal clear water. Some reef lines the beach so it makes also for good snorkeling. If you get hungry or thirsty a couple of beach bars offer basic treats.
The village has a number of restaurants that serve fresh seafood as well as some accommodation options to fit different budgets. On weekends the place gets busy with tourists from the area and the village offers some night time entertainment with colmados (street corner shops) blasting out bachata and offering rum or beer. During the week, you will have both the beach, the dunes and the village to yourself.