Haiti is buzzing with art, music, history and culture dating back 2,000 years. It is not a fly and flop destination but a touring destination delivers what you would expect from a Caribbean destination - beaches, authentic cuisine and rhum and then some more. You can learn about the first free black republic’s struggle against the French, Spanish, and British as an underlying theme, and see how this influenced our culture. Must do’s include a visit to Port-au-Prince the capital and the hills above, the northern region of Cap Haitien to see the Citadelle, and lastly the coffee port town of Jacmel.
Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. “Ayiti” means mountainous land in Taino and this is because as they say in kweyol “behind mountains there are more mountains”. The mountain range above the capital – Pic La Selle raises 2,670 metres above sea level (2nd tallest in the Caribbean) and involves a 3 day trek for the adventurous. The town is largely back to normal after the earthquake except in the downtown commercial district where many government buildings are still being built. Points of interest here include the Musée de Pantheon (MUPANAH) museum, the iron market, the metal arts village, galleries, and the nature and flora in the hills above the capital. Inside the MUPANAH is a treasure-trove of historical relics such as the anchor of the Santa Maria – Christopher Columbus’s flag ship and artefacts dating back 2,000 years and is the best place to start your trip. Don’t forget to be in Port-au-Prince on a Thursday to enjoy the vodou rock band RAM performing at the Olofson hotel made famous by Graham Greene’s book “The Comedians”. There are a range of local and international brand hotels including the Marriott, Occidental, Bestwestern and the NH Group.
Cap Haitien was the port from which 40% of all sugar in Europe set sail from in the 1800’s. It is here that in 1791 the slave revolt began and where Citadelle Henry was built after the French were defeated in 1804. The Citadelle stands majestically on a 900 metre mountain and is the first fortress build in land. Completely intact it houses the largest collection of artillery from its era today and is the largest fortress in the Western Hemisphere. Royal Caribbean stops at the Labadee beach not far from here several times a week.
The southern peninsula’s high mountains and thundering waterfalls attract nature lovers. Visit Jacmel town, Bassin Bleu (a triple waterfall with deep pools), and Pic de Macaya, which is populated by rare orchids and birds.
There are great beaches right around the 1,500 kms of coast but the most developed area at present is the Cotes des Arcadins just one hour west of the Port-au-Prince airport. A new beach resort will open west of Jacmel in a few years and Il a Vache has stunning beaches as does Cap Haitien.
Airports / Gateways / Flying times
Airports: Aeroport International Toussaint Louverture (PAP) is in the capital Port-au-Prince and Hugo Chevz International Airport (CAP) is in the north at Cap Haitien. Haiti is served most frequently from New York and Miami with multiple flights a day. Airlines include American Airlines,Delta, US Airways and JetBlue. There are also flights from Santo Domingo (Sunrise Airlines), Santiago de Cuba , Panama (Copa), Guadeloupe (Air France) and Paris (Air Caraibes) . A popular way to travel is into Punta Cana or Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic with BA or TUI and then over the border by land or by plane from Santo Domingo.
Average daytime temperature is 24-32 degrees celcius at sea level but as every where is mountainous, it can be cooler. Night time temperature can drop to 15 degrees celcius. Rainy season is from May to July and September to early December, 20-25 days of rain annually.
Haiti has a unique kweyol cuisine and many international styles as well. Petion Ville is the best area in Port-au-Prince to try out the varied fare. It is important to book ahead or go early on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday as Haitians love to go out.
Kweyol is the main language but many people in the tourism industry speak French and English. Spanish is also widely spoken.
Haiti has some of the best night life in the Caribbean. Thursday, Friday and Saturday are big nights. During the July / August and Christmas holidays thousands of Haitians come home from the US.
There are enough things to see and do in Haiti to cover a 3 week trip. Based on your interest, a good tour operator can create a tailor made trip for you. Visit www.ExperienceHaiti.org to get a feel for what you can do.
Haiti has 3 carnivals – Jacmel (pre-lent), National (a week later), Flowers in July. There is also an annual vodou pilgrimage in June and Jul