The Dominican Republic has long been a favorite of U.S. and international buyers, thanks to plentiful beaches and high-quality golf courses, high-end developments coupled with affordable prices, and a stable, democratic government.

Forty years ago, the nation’s first developed tourism area was around Puerto Plata and Cabarete on the northern coast. But for the past two decades, the north has been largely overshadowed by the southeast, especially La Romana and the heavily developed Punta Cana peninsula.

Now, thanks to infrastructure improvements and the simple desire to find the next hot place, second-home buyers are heading back north, spurred by the development of the Samaná Peninsula. A new highway, part of a huge ongoing government infrastructure investment, links Samaná with the capital, Santo Domingo, and has dramatically reduced travel time from more than five hours to under 2½.

The newly emerging Samaná Peninsula began as a second-home destination for Dominicans but is increasingly being “discovered” by overseas buyers.

“On the south of the peninsula, the biggest city is Samaná, which has the cruise dock and several new developments, the largest of which is Puerto Bahia, attracting more Dominican buyers,” says Pedro Purcell, a broker with Dominican Properties in Santo Domingo.

“The two highest-profile developments are on the north, Balcones del Atlántico and El Portillo. There are more American buyers in the north, as well as French, Germans and Italians.

“Unlike Punta Cana, Samaná is mostly condos, not the big villas and estate homes, and it is not as expensive as Cap Cana or Casa de Campo to the south, where people look for celebrities,” Purcell adds.

“Here, they look for the beach lifestyle, and while the projects are high-quality, they are not nearly as large as in the Punta Cana area.”

A look at three North Shore neighborhoods

• Puerto Plata. The Dominican Republic’s first major tourism enclave, this beach town has a lot of hotel and restaurant development, but with few second homes besides Seahorse Ranch, which was built in the 1980s. The gated 250-acre equestrian and beach community has more than 100 private homes ranging from $500,000 to $8 million. The Victoria Hotel within the Playa Dorado golf resort here plans to begin offering a fractional ownership club this year.

• Cabarete. Less developed than Puerto Plata, beach-centric Cabarete has until recently attracted mainly European buyers. That is about to change with the transformation of the Playa Grande golf course — known as “the Pebble Beach of the Caribbean” — into a high-end residential community. It will include an equestrian center, clubhouse and recreational facilities, with villas and estate houses on sale later this year. Luxury Asian developer Aman is also planning a private enclave of residential villas here.

• Samana Peninsula. Several towns on this 40-mile-long peninsula are seeing development, but for U.S. buyers, the runaway favorite is Las Terrenas. Already home to several boutique hotels, the longtime fishing village is emerging as a culinary hotspot, with European chefs taking advantage of the seafood. A 66-acre former coconut plantation, Las Terrenas’ Balcones del Atlantico will have 350 residences, from apartments to beach villas, from $475,000 to $1.7 million. The second of three phases, which includes a hotel from RockResorts, opens this summer.

By Larry Olmsted Special for, USA TODAY