The sunset cruise gets a bad rap and as frequent beach vacationers we had been burned before—disorganized pickup, long rides to rickety piers, up sells, pressure to buy touristy trinkets, not-so-seaworthy boats, and salty crews. But I wanted to celebrate the end of our Samara vacation at sea and would not be deterred. We booked through Book with Maria, the proprietor, assured us that this sunset cruise would be different. She was right; the experience was seamless from pick up to drop off. Instead of being picked up and shoved into an ice-cold, gas-guzzling minibus our friendly and knowledgeable guides rolled up in an open air van. We had arranged to be picked up at our AirBnB, but at the last minute we found ourselves unable to make it back there in time to be met. No problem. I called Maria, explained the situation, and she fixed it. That’s what Maria does, she fixes things for wayward travelers.
After introducing ourselves to the rest of the tour group—two best friends, a group of European college students, and a gaggle of Canadian travelers—we were told to strap in for a short ride. We headed out of town on the main road and minutes later turned onto a sandy lane that snaked through a shaded residential area dotted with family homes, vacation rentals, and boutique lodging. The breeze kept us cool in the sun and it was the perfect day to have the top down. Our vehicle rode right up to the water’s edge and we jumped down on the sand and waded about knee high out to the boat. I don’t know much about boats but this one was was like something out of a music video, the kind where bottles are popping and drinks are flowing. I imagined myself chilling out on the bow catching major rays and being lightly sprayed by the surf—that actually happened. The craft was pristine with plenty of seating for all the cruisers. The captain introduced himself along with his crew members and opened the bar. I had the rum punch and it did not disappoint; shout out to Flor de Caña.
At first we were all a little reserved, finding our sea legs, checking out the boat, and slathering on the sunblock. With about a dozen women on board I went right for the bathroom to peep it out and it was, hands down, the cleanest bathroom in Samara. Our first stop was Isla Chora, a small island (or a large rock) visible from Samara Beach and protected by reefs sheltering abundant aquatic life. Some of the group went snorkeling while those of us who had been enjoying the bar stayed aboard to spot turtles bobbing in the surf. Once the snorkeling was over we headed away from the island towards Punta Islita, the captain fired up the speakers, and that’s when the party began. The crew circulated refilling drinks while explaining the scenery, flora, and fauna. One of the crew, a nature guide, pointed out an outcropping of rock that he said was about to be a new island…in about 100 years. From our vantage point it looked as if he were right. Eventually the moment we had all been waiting for arrived and we were in position. Samara Beach is known for dramatic sunsets, but for true sun worshippers the unobstructed sunset at sea is the way to go. Just as the sun was setting, someone asked the captain to turn up the music and we danced to Bachata, Salsa, and maybe even some Merengue as the sun dipped below the horizon. The Canadians seized the moment to invite the crew and captain to dance with us and the fiesta got real. By the end we were all singing, as best we could, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”. Sadly our tour came to an end, we made it to shore, and were dropped off in the center of town, as requested, to get some dinner to soak up the rum we had been enjoying. A few days after the tour we ran into some of the people who had been on board—they were still talking about what a good time they had. I showed them the panoramic video I made of us singing and dancing during the golden hour, the time just before sunset when everyone is most photogenic. It was magical, we all looked amazing. My only regret was that we had been coming to Samara for five years and only now decided to get touristy with it. Don’t make the mistake we did, book the sunset tour today. If you don’t have a large group, don’t worry Maria will hook you up and make sure you have great companions and an incredible time. Salut!
By Dernier Mile