Traveling was never intended to be limited to North America, Europe, and Australia (or maybe it was), but our world is in crisis. If there were ever a time for increased cross-cultural dialogue and understanding, it’s now. This is not a drill; suit up and get in the game. First stop: Haiti.
- Easy to get
- No charger
- Left handed use only
- Supports only Apple products
- Low storage
When it comes to global perception, I have to admit, Haiti has a pretty bad rep. The typical picture is either starving children on the street, crumbled post-earthquake buildings, political unrest, or White people building orphanages–you know how it goes. Even recently the country received quite a bit of press for being called a “Shithole” country by none other than the 45th President of the United States. But honestly, Haitian people have overcome far worse than being called a “shithole.”
Haitian History Sparknotes-Style
Let’s start from 1791 for the sake of time. It was the beginning of the end for the slave owners. The seeds of a slave revolt were planted and blossomed into the first black republic after the defeat of Napoleon’s army in 1804. As the first country in the Western hemisphere to abolish slavery completely, the people of Haiti helped many of the independence movements in Latin America. Of course, the White powers that be weren’t with it and refused to acknowledge Haiti as a nation nor trade with them. Actually, France demanded Haiti pay restitution of 150 million gold Francs for their independence! After that, a lot of other stuff happened including disastrous earthquakes, several hurricanes, political turmoil, exploitation of resources, U.S. invasions, etc., And now here we are in 2018.
Moral of the story: Postcolonialism is a bitch.
I think we can all agree that the country has had more than its fair-share of hardships, and the fact that it’s still standing makes it one of the most resilient nations in the world. Haiti is a country of great wealth and natural resources but was assaulted, abused, and exploited. Colonialism rewrote the history of so many great nations and communities across the globe, so now the global narrative of Haiti is one of poverty and strife. The unfortunate reality is that, yes, the global narrative is true, but that is only a small fraction of the story. Now it’s our job as a generation of global citizens to widen the scope of that narrative to include the rich beauty and culture of this country.
Okay so let’s get started.
Book a Flight
Airfare from the U.S. to Haiti is about $200-$450 round trip, depending on your city of departure. Haiti has two international airports: Cap-Haïtien International Airport in Cap-Haitien, and the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince.
How to Spend
It’s worth noting that there are three functioning currencies in Haiti; the U.S. dollar, Gourdes, and Haitian dollars. People generally quote in U.S. dollars for tourist services.
Where to Go:
Port-au-Prince is the capital of the country and the most populous city of Haiti. It’s pretty much the center of all the the action. The metropolitan area’s population is around 3.7 million, nearly half of the country’s national population. With that, Port-au-Prince is also home to numerous restaurants, cafes, and art exhibitions.
Cap-Haitien is the second largest city in Haiti and is located along the north coast. It was historically nicknamed “The Paris of the Antilles” because of its wealth and sophistication, expressed through its beautiful architecture and artistic life. It was the center of the revolution from the late 18th century into the early 19th. This is a good spot for you history buffs to get started.
Jacmel is along the southern coast just south of Port-au-Prince over a mountain range and a three-hour drive from the capital. The city has well-preserved historical French colonial architecture that dates back from the early 19th century and and is a popular destination for travellers. There you’ll enjoy the cool Caribbean breeze on the beach, with a plate of delicious fresh fish, drinking Prestige (the local beer), and ignoring all of your work emails.
Labadee – While Labadee is not a city, this port has become a major tourist destination in Haiti. Royal Caribbean leased this land within Cap-Haitien and created a tourist-oriented resort. They are home to the longest zipline over water, a 300-foot water slide, a beautiful beach front, roller coasters and much more. Honestly guys, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic aren’t the only Caribbean countries with cool resorts!
Where to Stay
These are just a few of the best-rated hotels in the country. The Experience Haiti webpage provides many additional options for accomodations.
Karibe is located in the center of all the activity in Port-au-Prince, therefore providing you the resort vacation experience, while still giving you the opportunity to go out and explore a more authentic side of Haiti. Amenities include a spa, fitness center with regularly scheduled classes, a business center, meeting rooms, a restaurant, bars, rooftop lounge, and transportation to and from the airport. Price Estimate: $159 + tax
Kaliko Hotel, an all-inclusive resort located on the waterfront, is the closest beach club to Port-au-Prince. Their amenities include poolside service, transportation, security, Haitian cuisine, unlimited drinks, cabanas with butlers, a newly renovated spa and salon, and various watersports. Price estimate: $140 + tax
Cormier is a beachfront resort just a 15-minute drive from the city center of Cap-Haitian. Guests can enjoy a shuttle to and from the airport, complimentary breakfast and dinner each day, access to the beach bar and bar/lounge, tennis courts, and the garden.
Price estimate: $120 + tax
Hotel Florita is located in Jacmel, one block from the town beach. Amenities and services include a restaurant, tour bookings and concierge services. Built in 1888, the Florita has also been land-marked by UNESCO. Price estimate: $100 + tax
What to Eat
So over time I’ve come to realize the primary way I choose to experience different cultures is predominately through food. It’s my favorite part almost every single time. But it’s more than the food, its the culture and ritual around the gastronomy. Anyways, here are a few must-try Haitian delicacies.
Griot – Fried Pork
Lambi – Conch
Du Riz Djon Djon – Rice with black mushrooms
Soup Joumou – Pumpkin Soup
Fish on the beach
Picklese – A spicy cabbage-based condiment
What to Do
At this point I’m well over word count, so I’ll be brief, but the opportunities are endless. Engage with the locals, ask questions, eat the food, dance to the music, admire and participate in the art scene, hike to the Bassin Bleu waterfalls, go to the MUPANAH Museum and learn more about Haiti’s rich history, visit Citadelle and see the fortress where the Haitians defeated Napoleon, drop by the Palace of Sans Souci envisioned by Henri Christophe and modelled after the Palace of Versailles, and of course, go soak up the sun on the beautiful beaches. This list could go on for days.
What’s the Point?
Don’t let an ill-informed comment cause you to miss out on a rich experience. Don’t limit yourself when traveling. The world we live in has seven continents and 195 countries, all with their own unique history and culture — take advantage of that! Be true to the traveler in you and be open to exploring the unknown. I challenge you to push yourself to the edge of your comfort zone, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll realize it’s actually the most comfortable place you’ve ever been.