Haiti — Attractions
Haiti’s attractions are in stark contrast between stunning, idyllic Caribbean island nature and diverse culture and history. You can spend time visiting any number of pristine beaches on the main island or take a trip to one of the smaller outliers for a peaceful escape. Underground there are subterranean caves, and on land, antiquated forts indicative of Haiti’s strategic position during the age of empirical European power.
Jacmel is located 25 miles south of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and a beautiful spot to unwind and take in the beauty of the Caribbean. There are three main beaches to be enjoyed here: Congo Black Beach, Raymond les Bains and Sand Beach, all swathed with mighty palm trees and enticing blue waters. Around the bay you can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, diving, and kayaking, and there are many local operators offering equipment for rent. Alternatively, you can hike along the rugged coastal mountains, which is another fine way to spend the day.
Address: Jacmel, South East Department
Cap-Haitien is the second largest city in Haiti and offers a more relaxing atmosphere than the capital, Port-au-Prince. Visitors are often taken aback by the magnitude of architecture here, with a mixture of fortresses and churches built in the early colonial era. Most notably of these buildings are the ruins of Sans-Souci Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1982. Cap-Haitien is also a good starting point for visits to the nearby beaches of the Labadie peninsula and Tortuga Island.
Address: Cap-Haitien, North Department
The island of Tortuga is legendary from the age of sea-roaming pirates and has consequently been featured in many fiction novels and films since the early 20th century. The link to the true pirates of the Caribbean is real; however, not much evidence of their existence is on show in Haiti today. Certainly it is a valuable daytrip from the main island to take in the pristine sandy beaches and other natural attractions like hidden waterfalls.
Address: Tortuga Island, North West Department
Henri Cristophe Citadel
Overlooking the city of Milot, this fortress (also known as “Citadelle Laferriere”) was built over a period of 15 years by about 20,000 workers in order to protect the newly independent state from its former French rulers. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982 alongside Sans Souci Palace in nearby Cap-Hatien. Today, it is an icon of Haiti, the first slavery-free country following the rebellion. Views from the top of the 3,000 ft peak are impressive, and it is popular to rent a horse to ride the seven-mile distance from here to Milot.
Address: Citadelle Henry Christophe, Northern Department
First landed on by Christopher Columbus in his expedition of 1492, this peninsula in the northwest of Haiti offers a combination of heritage sites and outstanding natural beauty. It is home to 27 vestiges of colonial forts, including Fort Georges, Saint-Charles and Les Ramparts. It is recommended to see the area by boat where you will be treated to a glorious sunset on this western tip. Popular activities include wind and kite-surfing around the bays.
Address: Mole-Saint-Nicholas, North-West Department
Lake Saumatre (also known as “Azuei Lake”) is one of those places in the world that is a true delight to the eye. Experience a plethora of wildlife that includes crocodiles, flamingos and waterfowl. The water is an intense shade of blue, paralleled by the skies, and is actually a mix of fresh-water at one end and salt-water at the other, accounting for its odd ecosystem that attracts so many species. Intriguingly, the lake is entirely landlocked, fed by water which emanates from the surrounding rocks, and has an approximate area of 65 square miles.
Address: Lake Saumatre, West Department
Caves of Haiti
Three underground caves can be explored in Haiti: Marie-Jeanne, Bellony and Kounoubwa. You will need to go with a guide, but each offers something different in the subterranean world. All are located in the western peninsula of southern Haiti, and you should allow for between one and four hours for each visit.
Address: Marie-Jeanne Cave, Port-a-Piment; Bellony Cave, Pestel; Kounoubwa Cave, Camp-Perrin