20 Things To Do In Haiti

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Haiti is the largest Caribbean country in terms of population, estimated at approximately 11.5 million. The Spanish controlled Haiti before the French took over and the United States was in charge for a period in the 20th century. Decades later, “Papa Doc” and his son ruled as dictators and life was miserable. Political instability remains and poverty is widespread even today. Haiti, part of the island of Hispaniola, has had huge problems, political, social and economic, and as a result, rarely featured as a place that attracted tourists as islands like Barbados.

The Caribbean is a hugely popular tourist destination. Even before mass tourism emerged, the proximity of the islands to the United States, Americans saw the Caribbean as a major attraction. Think of Cuba, pre-Castro, when the USA still controlled much of its economy.
Haiti has the same lovely beaches, warm weather and blue waters yet it is only now that tourism has begun to expand. Challenges remain but there are several positive reasons why you should consider visiting Haiti. Growth may be slow but why not give Haiti a try? The details below of things to do in Haiti will hopefully get you taking a closer look.

Haiti, Caribbean

Top Tours

Haiti hand lettering and doodles elements and symbols emblem.
Looking for things to do in Haiti? Check out our top 20 attractions.

20 Things To Do In Haiti

1- Climb La Citadelle la Ferriere

It is impossible not to be impressed by everything to do with La Citadelle la Ferriere, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is one of the largest fortresses in the whole of the Americas and you may well gasp at its location.

It clings to ridges on the Bonnet a L’Eveque Mountain like a limpet shell clings to a rock on the seashore.

Haitian slave rebels built it early in the 19th centuryas defence against the French from whom the country had just won independence.

In those days, there were up to 400 cannons in place.

There are plenty of cannonballs and other artifacts still there.

The location is just to the south of Cap-Haitien.

If you want to climb there, it is quite a trek to get there along a difficult 7 miles (11 kilometres) from Milot.

Recommended tours:

2- Take A Tour Around The Sans-Souci Palace

The Sans-Souci Palace is also in the northern hills and is another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It was the home of Henri Christophe, the Haitian leader during the struggles for independence from the French.

The location is an old plantation, and the style copying the grand mansions of Europe during those days.

The halls and grounds are very interesting with the palace well worth combining with the nearby Castille on a day out starting at Milot.

Christophe, already ill and definitely unpopular, supposedly committed suicide in 1820 using a silver bullet and you will see where that happened.

Days later, his son and heir was assassinated leading to a regime change.

Recommended tour: Citadelle Laferrière & Sans Souci Palace Half Day

3- Enjoy The Highlights Of Jacmel

Beautiful Pictures Of Haiti beach at sunset
Admiring the sunset from a beach is one of the things to do in Haiti.

On the south coast not far from Port-au-Prince, the national capital, Jacmel is a small place that has a reputation for its arts and crafts.

As you walk its streets you will find several boutique galleries and even more shops selling souvenirs.

Multi-coloured fruit bowls made from coconut wood, trinkets associated with voodoo and headgear with a reggae theme are among the most common and popular.

Apart from the shops, if you visit Jacmel you will find a lovely beach and promenade.

Palm trees line the coastline while there are eateries typically selling seafood flavoured with local spices.

Recommended tour: Jacmel & Bassin Bleu

4- Explore Cap-Haitien

Cap-Haitien, a port city on the north coast, is relatively small but a place where you can enjoy a range of activities.

It is easy to explore on foot due to its size. As you walk, you will see lovely house and buildings.

Cap Haitien was the capital of the French Colony of Saint Dominique from 1711 until 1770, and then of the Kingdom of Haiti under Henry Christophe until his death in 1820.

It actually has a small airport with a few international flights so it may be your “port of entry” to Haiti.

Many of the most famous landmarks of Haiti are in this part of the island.

There are also lovely stretches of sand nearby.

Recommended tour: Citadelle Laferriere Sightseeing Tour from Cap-Haitien

5- Cool Down At Bassin Bleu

Not far from Jacmel you will find Bassin Bleu, the two often combined either in a tour or suitable to be combined in independent travel.

It is 74 feet (22.5 metres) deep, warm, blue water hidden in the hills.

The gushing water is part of Petite Riviere that winds through the hills.

There is s limit on numbers that can visit at any one time.

As a result, a tour is the logical way to enjoy it in which case you will be collected from your hotel, provided with lunch and returned to your hotel at the end of the day.

There are small grottoes and caves to see as well as several waterfalls and the experience of being able to enjoy the jungle flora, especially the orchids.

6- See The Artistic Village Of Noailles

Art lovers should definitely visit the village of Noailles while holidaying in Haiti.

It is a small settlement within the Croix-des-Bouquets commune, only a short distance north east from the capital, Port au Prince.

The ironwork sculptures found there are remarkable.

The sculptors have used scrap metal taken from old oil drums to create memorable pieces.

You will find some that have been made to sell to visitors as souvenirs of their visit but it is the larger ones that are truly impressive.

While you are there, you will get the chance of trying to create something yourself.

7- Do The Voodoo Pilgrimage To Saut-d’Eau

Haiti has always been associated with voodoo and many souvenirs available for visitors are images related to voodoo.

Saut-d’Eau in Central Haiti is a beautiful place with rivers and lush vegetation but it is also a place of religious significance for both Catholics and voodooists.

Pilgrimages during July celebrate “Our Lady of Carmel” but Voodoo followers also come for the cleansing streams most weekends.

Cool waters are wonderful after a hike through the jungle.

Voodooists come because this is supposedly the place where the Voodoo Goddess Erzulie appeared in the 19th century.

8- Sample Creole Cuisine In Lakay

Cuban Cuisine, Pork Meat With Congri Rice
Sampling Creole Cuisine is one of the interesting things to do in Haiti.

Lakey is a great little place to enjoy local cuisine while listening to music, both reggae and samba, and watching the dancing.

The music is live, played by local bands.

Creole cuisine is here so please ignore things on the menu such as pizza and go for the authentic dishes that have always been part of local food.

Spiced chicken or the lobster salad with cashews are favourites and definitely worth a try.

Chocolate sundaes and brownies are recommended with refreshing, fruity cocktails such as pina colada a perfect accompaniment.

9- Try The Rum In Barbancourt Distillery

The Aging Process In Action
Tasting rum is one of the fun things to do in Haiti.

Barbancourt is an iconic brand in Haiti; it has existed for more than two centuries.

Its produce is a major “dollar-earner” for Haiti with the Hispaniolan version of the Caribbean’s most famous liqueur, rum, a great seller.

The Barbancourt Distillery is in the district of Petionville within Port-au-Prince.

You are welcome to visit! Tours through the distillery are very informal and as you walk you will hear about how rum is made and see many of the processes.

These include the brewing rooms and barrel houses.

Naturally, you will enjoy the tastings and you can buy at the end of the visit.

The 15-year-old rum is certainly a good choice.

10- Walk Through The Grand Rue Musee d’Art

Grand Rue Musee d’Art is in the middle of Port-au-Prince, between a huge auto repair shop on one side and a junkyard on the other.

The name suggests something grand, almost regal yet that is not the case.

In reality, the whole place is unplanned and haphazard.

There are sculptures and carvings there as well as mechanical figures and art regularly made from scrap materials.

Old car engines have provided the parts for some of the human figures, sci-fi has used old axels and motorbike parts have been transformed into voodoo symbols.

11- Take A History Lesson At The Musee du Pantheon National Haitien

The Musee du Pantheon National Haitien is the place to choose if you decide to add a single museum into your itinerary.

It is a concrete building in the capital with white cones and mosaic décor.

Here you will find the best in-depth collection of exhibits concerning the history of Haiti.

They go back to the original native Tainos tribes while other rooms concentrate on the colonial periods of the Spanish and French.

Elsewhere, you will see more about the struggles for independence.

The silver gun used in Henri Christophe’s suicide in 1820 is one highlight; another is the anchor from Christopher Columbus’ ship.

12- Inspect The Ruins Of Notre-Dame de L’Assomption

The Notre-Dame de L’Assomption reminds you of the time when the French controlled this part of the Caribbean.

Its construction in Port au Prince began in 1884 with completion 30 years later.

Unfortunately, the huge earthquake that caused such devastation to Haiti in 2010 caused loss of life and structural damage.

One victim was Notre Dame and although the aim is restoration, there are plenty of other priorities for this relatively poor country.

Some visitors who travelled to Haiti before 2010 will see the “before and after.” First time visitors have only the current position to remember.

Hopefully in due course, the cathedral will return to its former glory.

13- Go Around Fort Jacques

Fort Jacques may not be on the scale of La Citadelle but nevertheless it is worth a bit of your time while you are in Haiti.

Its construction at the beginning of the 19th centurywas as part of the defensive strategy against the French.

The name remembers a national leader, Jean Jacques Dessalines.

It is surrounded by forests and certainly there are rarely any of the crowds associated with La Citadelle.

You will see the remains of its powder houses and arsenal.

The cannons are rusty of course and there are plenty of cannon balls which will never be fired.

While you are there you will get some great panoramas; remember defensive sites were regularly in places where lookouts could see impending attacks.

14- Try Your Hand At Haggling

The Iron Market (Marche an Fer) in the centre of Port au Prince is the heartbeat of the city, indeed the country.

The market opened in the last decade of the 19th centuryand ever since it has been a place selling local produce, food and crafts, and demonstrating many facets of local life.

A national symbol, this huge bazaar’s oriental architectural style is certainly different.

That’s not a surprise because it was intended for Cairo, Egypt at one time.

Whichever stall you approach, you are expected to haggle whether you are after voodoo souvenirs, jackfruit, fresh fish, or artistic carvings.

Check out the spices and local condiments as well.

Even if you are not interested in buying, observing the activities is fun.

15- Learn The Story Of the Ogier-Fombrun Museum

The Ogier-Fombrun Museum is in the middle of an 18th centurysugar plantation.

The plantation and the neighbourhood in general were abandoned for quite a time until the architect Gerard Fombrun decided to undertake a redevelopment in 1977.

Ever since the museum has attracted anyone interested in history and specifically of course Haiti.

Several exhibits predate the time when Christopher Columbus first anchored here.

There are many artifacts, as well as original historical documents and furniture.

16- Relax In Labadee

Beach loungers on the beach with cruise ship in the distance
Relaxing on the beach in Labadee is one of the things to do in Haiti.

Labadee on the north coast is a stretch of sand, sea and sun, some of it privately-owned under the Royal Caribbean International banner.

Cruise ships and travellers enjoy this small place with a low fence separating it from the rest of the country.

The colours are wonderful; white sand, turquoise sea, palms and colourful tropical flowers.

Beach bars are well patronised while snorkellers investigate marine life.

Nellie Beach is a place for kayakers while Adrenaline Beach offers even more including zip-lining.

Columbus Cove is an ideal place to relax with Barefoot Beach the privately-owned area reserved exclusively for guests of Royal Caribbean International cruises.

17- See The Wildlife In Pic Macaya National Park

Pic Macaya National Park opened in 1983 with the aim of promoting and conserving the country’s ecological diversity.

It is one of two national parks in Haiti where local wildlife can thrive undisturbed other than by visitors wishing to see it.

Six species of frogs, thought to be extinct at one time, live in the park.

It covers an area of over 8,000 hectares (19,800 acres) and its efforts have resulted in recognition by UNESCO as a world biosphere reserve.

You should go with a local guide familiar with the trails within the park to get the maximum benefit from a visit.

Remember however, nothing is guaranteed when it comes to the movement of wildlife.

18- Take In The Views Of Saut-Mathurine Waterfall

Saut-Mathurine Waterfall is the largest in the country.

The water cascades down into an emerald-green lake surrounded by beautiful exotic flora.

You are welcome to swim in the waters, or simply just back to enjoy the great views and the setting as a whole.

If you are brave enough, how about diving from the top? Incidentally, the authorities use the waterfall for the generation of electricity.

As a result, you may not find no water because of the draining.

There’s a restaurant close to the falls for food and drink.

19- Climb Pic la Selle

Pic la Selle, at 2,680 metres (8,800 feet) is the highest point in the Chaine de la Selle.

Indeed, there are few higher places in the whole of the Caribbean.

You will find it near to the border with the Dominican Republic and there are numerous trails crisscrossing making it a very accessible mountain.

The most commonly-used route to the summit begins in the town of Mare Rouge.

It then heads through pine forests and past some little farming villages before the summit.

The panoramic views are wonderful while there is the added benefit of cooling breezes at altitude.

20- Trek Through The Furcy Forest

The Massif de la Selle and Furcy Forest provide a great day out for anyone wanting to explore Haiti.

There are numerous trails through the trees and plenty of panoramas as you walk.

Be sure to have suitable footwear as you head out by the way.

You will hear and see the waves on the southern coast.

One of the best routes heads down to Jacmel with another going to Sequin.

You will certainly take 4 hours on some of the trails and a whole day on others.

It makes sense to carry plenty of water, and also some food even though you may find one of the very small shops dotted around.

Riding the zipline is one of the fun things to do in Labadee, Haiti.
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Steve Smith is a widely travelled man who has lived on the South West Coast of Turkey since 2008. He hails from North East England where he lived most of his life but has been to every continent of the world, with a particular love for Southern Africa and its wildlife. He lists Argentina, India, and Vietnam as other favourite places that he enjoyed greatly while sport is also a passion, cricket and golf as a participant, rugby union and soccer as a spectator.