Certainly when Christopher Columbus landed on Playa Las Flechas (Arrows Beach) back in the 1400s he didn’t expect to be welcomed by a fusillade of arrows from the Taínos living along the southern coast of the Península de Samaná , but that is exactly what happened. Unfortunately, the Taínos made a grave mistake by helping Columbus to subjugate their fellow tribesmen, and it set the tone for many centuries of a turbulent history. Everyone wanted the peninsula. Pirates would hide out here, ex-slaves and African refugees settled here, various nations eyed it for outposts and bases.
The Samaná Peninsula, on very old maps, is sometimes shown as an island. The Río Yuna’s estuary now flows into the Bahía de Samaná, but there once was a channel that reached all the way up to the northern coast, creating a marshy waterway across the stretched neck of the peninsula.
Crafty pirates used this channel as an escape route to evade the Spanish. Back then, buccaneers loved Samaná for just the sort of escapist vibe the channel evoked. It seems that to this day, Samaná acts more like an island unto itself because of this history. It has a tradition of being the adopted home of invaders, violators, expatriates, and those with wanderlust.
Hundreds of years later, the former marshy waterway is now a fertile stretch of land on which rice grows easily (near the town of Sánchez ), the pirate ships have all buried themselves in the waters offshore, and the expats have opened businesses.
In 1756 Spain established Santa Bárbara de Samaná  and populated it with settlers from the Canary Islands. The land was then given up to Napoleon Bonaparte in an agreement that he give up some French-controlled land back in Spain. Even though Napoleon loved the area, he was later forced to give it up by separate British and Haitian invasions.
The United States brought freed slaves to Samaná in the 1820s. The United States had its eye on the Península de Samaná  as a potential naval base in the latter part of the 1800s. President Buenaventura Báez was all for it. It meant money and weapons and power for him. But the U.S. Senate rejected the deal. Báez, desperate for any deal, offered a 99-year lease up to a private company, giving them total political rule over Samaná, but, fortunately (as Dominicans see it) the deal fell through and Samaná stayed a part of the Dominican Republic . The Americans, for the time being, seemed otherwise occupied with Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, until World War I when they again occupied the area in an effort to keep Germany out and from establishing a base on the island.
Today, evidence of the mix of cultures that have settled here over the centuries can be seen in the last names of residents (left over from freed American slaves) as well as a language that developed as a result of the English, French, and German immigrants.