Samaná Peninsula Experience

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Expats in Paradise

If you spend any amount of time on the Samaná Peninsula, you'll meet a gaggle of unaffiliated expatriate entrepreneurs who have made Samaná their homemade paradise and who have created most of its tourism infrastructure. Here are three of their stories.

In the late 1990s two young Germans, Peter and Judith, decided they wanted to start a new life in a tropical setting. They ranked all the warm-weather nations of the world, considering critical factors like political stability and crime rates. "This was before the Internet, and involved a lot of dedicated research," said Peter. "The D.R. was at the very top of our list." Then they built their hotel in Las Terrenas. Today a visit to the beachfront Coyamar Hotel—which exudes a breeziness that's decidedly romantic—is a trip into their world. You'll probably meet soft-spoken Judith at reception, and you'll see a bare-chested Peter and their son, Tao, who was born here in 2001. "It's almost impossible to make a profit, but we enjoy our life," Peter said.

French-born Yvonne Bastian arrived in 1998 from the Central African Republic, where she'd run a restaurant that had served presidents and dignitaries. Revolution brought her to the Dominican Republic, and she's been the guiding gastronomic light in the main town of Santa Bárbara de Samaná sever since. (In 2007 the restaurant Xaman opened, and suddenly there were two good restaurants in town, but it closed not long after, and it's back to just Yvonne.) Yvonne's grown-up son runs the front of the house. The duo's care is evident in the tranquil, oasis-like interior.

In 2005 a family of three were in search of a new life project and a new place to live. Cari Guy had grown up in the kitchens of his family's Colorado restaurants and later found success operating a luxury bed-and-breakfast in Provence. There he met Marie-Claude Theibault, whose Parisian family had imported antiques from the Far East for generations. Her son Thomas Stamm grew up in the United States and South Africa. The three had sought out locales in Croatia, Spain, and beyond. "We came to the Dominican Republic visiting friends and knew we'd found our place when we saw Samaná," said Thiebault. "It was beautiful, and nothing like this had ever been done." The Peninsula House—their ultrarefined six-room hilltop property overlooking huge swaths of coconut forest to the sea—was built from scratch, using a French architect. Thomas handles guest relations, Marie-Claude tends the gardens, Cari oversees the cooking. The result is one of the world's most extraordinary small hotels.

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