Dive Into Haiti
The wonders of this majestic island will effortlessly unfold before you upon arrival as you begin to discover all that this immaculate isle has to offer, from its rich history as a catalyst for freedom in the Americas, to its sweeping views and breathtaking scenery. The Citadelle Laferriere encapsulates these motifs perfectly; sitting atop of a mountain just a few miles from Cap-Haitien, this fortress is a powerful reminder of Haiti's historical status as the first Black Republic in the world. If you're looking to immerse yourself in nature, look no further than the Arcadins coast, which is renowned for its distinctive vegetation, clear waters and white sand beaches. Or, why not join the locals in Jacmel for a bit of fun at Carnaval? Haiti offers a vacation experience as rich as its culture; the only thing that is missing is you.
Mapping Out Haiti
Meaning "land of high mountains" in Taino, Haiti is composed of a distinct array of geographical features and cultural variances. The northern district is known for the preservation of its historical remains; here you will find the National Historical Park, which houses the largest fortress in the Americas. In the southeast district, and more specifically in Jacmel, you will find a people committed to freedom and the arts. If you want to experience Haiti's natural beauty, head over to the southern district, where you will find a remarkable biodiversity, which includes caves, waterfalls and beautiful beaches. The western district gives you a tourist's paradise; the combination of a buzzing city life and alluring views of the surrounding mountains and oceanfronts will undoubtedly have you coming back for more. No matter which district you land on, you'll be able to experience the Caribbean like never before.
Always Leaders, Never Followers
Having been one of the first places in the Americas in which Christopher Columbus set foot, Haiti takes a great amount of pride in its rich history. Perhaps no feat was greater than that achieved at the end of the 19th century, when a slave community gained independence and effectively made Haiti the second republic in the Americas. From that day forth, Haiti continued to fight for freedom in the rest of the Americas; the country played a large role in aiding Simon Bolivar, who resided in Jacmel, as he lead Venezuela and other nations to independence.
You can experience some of this history by visiting the National Historical Park. Composed of the Citadelle Laferriere and the Sans Souci palace and chapel, this UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to the days when Haiti proclaimed its independence. It takes some effort to get there, but you'll get to walk the first grounds constructed by black slaves who had gained their freedom.
It's Time to Celebrate
There's no better party than a Caribbean holiday celebration. In Haiti, just like in much of the Caribbean, the biggest celebrations of the year take place in February, when locals line the streets to celebrate Carnaval. A full day of parades, costumes, live music and dancing is to be expected, but in Jacmel, Carnaval gets a unique twist thanks to the paper mache masks and decorations made by the locals using recycled paper.
The party doesn't end with Jacmel's Carnaval though. Port-au-Prince's Carnaval des Fleurs ("Flower Carnival"), held in July, highlights the beauty of Haiti's flora. Also in July, many locals will make a pilgrimage to Ville Bonheur to bathe in the Saut d'Eau waterfall, where it is believed that a vision of a sacred voodoo goddess appeared back in the 19th century.
Where Tourism Thrives
Dubbed Haiti's "Second Capital," Cap-Haitien gives visitors a taste of everything that Haiti has to offer. Walk through this city's streets and you will find remnants of the history and culture that have shaped Haiti over the years, such as historical monuments, French Colonial architecture or the Numismatic Museum (which highlights Haiti's numismatic heritage). Also, if you're fine with taking a 7-mile hike, you can visit the largest fortress in the Western hemisphere.
The pristine beaches have also made Cap-Haitien a tourist hotspot. Picturesque Caribbean beaches such as Labadee have helped increased Cap-Haitien's popularity amongst tourists and is one of the reasons why the city welcomes a greater amount of international visitors than anywhere else in the country.
The Perfect Destination for Eco-Tourism
Haiti is truly an untouched gem. The country has managed to conserve species endemic to this region, even some of which can only be found in this isle, allowing Haiti's beauty to transcend and be reflected in the beauty of its beaches and landscapes.The country's potential for eco-tourism has become one of its strongest assets. The rice fields at L'Estere and the sugarcane fields of Damien will give you a first-hand look into the country's agriculture. For a sense of adventure, visit Furcy, where you can hike the mountains or rent a horse and explore the area; or head out to La Visite National Park, a haven for extraordinary fauna and flora. Basins, beaches, vegetation, agriculture, waterfalls, mountains, caves... Haiti truly has it all.
Taste Unique Caribbean Flavors
There's truly no other place like Haiti. Haitian art and cuisine emanate a truly authentic taste and experience that has been cultivated from such a rich and inspiring history.
Haitian cuisine acquires its unique taste from a mix of several different influences, primarily African and French. The dishes aren't elaborate per se, but the bold African flavors supplemented with French sophistication provide a truly unique experience you won't find anywhere else.
Haiti also has their own special take on rum, which has received international recognition. They've achieved this sought out flavor through a special process where they substitute the traditional ingredient, molasses, with homegrown sugarcane juice. If you're looking for a refreshment while at the beach, grab some of their world-renowned Rhum Barbancourt and see what has everyone raving!
Haiti Quick Facts
Language: French & Haitian Creole
Currency: Gourde (HTG)
Electricity: 110 volts (U.S. Standard)
Passport/Immigration: All U.S. citizens must have a valid passort when traveling to and from Haiti.
Drinking Water: Drink only bottled water. Avoid tap water and drinking beverages with ice cubes.
Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time (UTC/GMT -4 hours)
Peak Season: The best time to visit Haiti is November through March.
Tips & Transportation
Best Place to Stay: Cote Des ArcadinsIf you find yourself in this true Caribbean destination, Cote des Arcadins is the perfect place to hang your hat. Located near the coast of Western Haiti, in the Artibonite Department, Cote des Arcadins is the place to be to experience a vast array of activities. From diving in and exploring the crystal clear waters of Wahoo Bay Beach, a gorgeous 300 meter expansive beachfront, to a mountainous adventure on the Kay Piat trail, this sanctum of tranquility and adventure could be just what you need.
Best Site to See: Citadelle Laferrière
Deemed a World Heritage Site in 1982, Citadelle Laferrière is the largest structure in the Western hemisphere, a truly incredible feat given the circumstances it was built under. It's as impressive as it is intimidating, dominating the top of the mountain. Once atop you'll be greeted with a gorgeous panoramic view of the Caribbean and Haitian landscape. If you have the chance to visit the Citadelle, don't pass it up!
Experience the Culture
Haitian culture has inhabited itself everywhere you look. Vendors line the streets offering hand-crafted goods from clothing and art to metal works. Traveler's tip: If you find a vendor offering items that interest you near where you're staying, they will usually craft something personally for you if requested.
Also, if you're looking to escape the winter blues in February, Haitian Carnival spans country wide and lasts for an entire week, with events going late into the night. There's no better way to immerse yourself in Haitian culture than traveling during Carnival. It's an event you don't want to miss.
Toussaint Louverture International Airport (PAP) is a major regional airport for Haiti, located 15 minutes from Port-au-Prince. It’s about 45 minutes to an hour from Cote des Arcadins, along the coast.
Immigration & Customs
At the immigration desk, you’ll have to purchase a 30-day tourist card instead of a visa. Haiti requires a departure tax that’s usually included in your airfare. Your flight attendant will typically give you customs paper work to fill out on the plane. After you’ve been through the immigration desk at the airport and you’ve picked up your luggage from baggage claim, you’ll go to customs, where officers will possibly check your bags.
Getting to Your HotelTaxis are available to take you to your hotel at the airport. Many hotels offer transfers to and from the airport, so check with your hotel and schedule a pickup/drop off in advance.
Getting Around Haiti
Private taxis, as well as car rentals (sedans and 4x4s), are available from various agencies. Local travel agencies can also arrange cars and minibuses with drivers and guides for transfers and excursions.