10 Top Things to Do in Haiti

Royal Caribbean ship at Labadee Beach on Haiti
Royal Caribbean International Cruise Line

Even though the country has suffered through poverty, natural disasters, and environmental degradation, Haiti remains proud and carries on. Since the Port au Prince earthquake in 2010 devastated the country, an effort has taken place to not only rebuild the infrastructure for international tourists but reintroduce them to this once-popular Caribbean travel destination. There are still landmarks from the early 19th century—including UNESCO World Heritage Sites—along with many culturally and historically interesting things to see in this country, which takes up almost half of the island of Hispaniola shared with the Dominican Republic.

01 of 10

Take a Dip at the Bassin Bleu Waterfall

Bassin Bleu Waterfall Basin courtesy of Oana Dragan

G Adventures / Oana Dragan

Near Jacmel, there is a beautiful waterfall aptly named for the rich cobalt color of its pools. Accessible by a 30-minute hike, after paying parking and entrance fees, the waterfall is made of three natural pools where swimming is allowed. The hike can be rigorous and requires climbing and rappelling over slippery rocks, but you can hire a guide to help you navigate. If it has recently rained, the water might lose its blue color so it is better to wait and visit after a dry spell.

02 of 10

Discover the Flavors of Haitian Cuisine

Haitian chicken and broccoli

Steve Depolo / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

While you explore the island, you should not miss out on any opportunity to try traditional Haitian foods. The cuisine of Haiti is heavily influenced by African traditions and tends to be very hearty and meat-centric. One you'll see in just about every restaurant bouillon, a beef stew made with meat and other vegetables.

The national dish is griot, fried pork that has been marinated in a slightly sweet and sour sauce. When you're craving seafood, order the lambi, a grilled conch dish that is unique to the Caribbean. And for dessert, try to get yourself a Haitian beignet, which incorporates bananas and cinnamon.

03 of 10

Tour the Historic Citadelle Laferrière

Citadelle Laferrière fortress, Haiti

U.S. Army / Wikimedia Commons

Address
HQF4+4H3, Vaseux, Haiti
Phone +509 34 28 4386

Haiti's rich history includes the most successful slave revolt in the New World, which led directly to the establishment of the independent nation of Haiti in 1804. Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the leader of the revolt, was named emperor of the new nation and ordered the construction of a vast fort atop the Pic Laferrière, near the town of Milot in northern Haiti.

The sturdy construction survives largely intact and, along with the nearby Sans Souci Palace, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can tour the defensive works and see hundreds of cannons and cannonballs, still seemingly ready for action against an attempt by the French to retake the island. Tours can be arranged out of Milot or with a local guide.

04 of 10

Explore Sans Souci Palace

Sans Souci Palace ruins, Haiti

 Steve Bennett / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Address
JQ3J+VCM, Milot, Haiti

Located in Milot (near the city of Cap-Haïtien), Sans Souci was the most elaborate of the many homes and palaces built by Haiti's first king, Henri Christophe. Seen as a symbol of Black Power, the opulent palace completed in 1813 was inspired by European designs and played host to elaborate balls attended by foreign dignitaries.

It was also the place where King Henri I killed himself after suffering a stroke in 1820, and where his son and heir were murdered during a coup that same year. The palace was heavily damaged in an earthquake in 1842, but the ruins hint at the past glory of a palace favorably compared to Versailles in its heyday.

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05 of 10

Visit the Unique City Jacmel

Palm trees on beach, Jacmel, Haiti

Christian Kober / robertharding / Getty Images

Address
Jacmel, Haiti

As one of the safest places in Haiti, Jacmel has been at the forefront of the country's tourism revival. Founded in 1698, the southern port city of Jacmel, about 25 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, is a time capsule from the turn of the 20th century, with impressive mansions and urban architecture. Many of these buildings have been turned into galleries and workshops by the city's large population of artists and craftspeople. The Hotel Florita is also little-changed since its construction in 1888, yet is the top-rated hotel in all of Haiti and just a block from the beach.

06 of 10

Venture to Massif de la Hotte and Pic Macaya National Park

Rhinoceros Iguana (Cyclura cornuta) in Haiti

Ger Bosma / Getty Images 

Address
9XCJ+9MX, Duplantin, Haiti

Named for the second-highest mountain in Haiti, Pic Macaya National Park, established in 1983, is one of the country's two national parks and is located in the Massif de la Hotte mountain range. UNESCO declared the Massif de la Hotte a Biosphere Reserve in 2016. In a nation that has largely been deforested in the past century, this park of more than 8,000 hectares in the southwestern part of the country contains one of the few remaining cloud forests in Haiti and is a sanctuary for a wide variety of flowering tropical plants like orchids and beyond. It also houses the world's largest population of endangered species, notably endemic birds and amphibians.

07 of 10

Explore the Capital of Port au Prince

Haiti, Port au Prince, popular district of Canape Vert

 

GIUGLIO Gil / hemis.fr / Getty Images

Address
Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Port au Prince, Haiti's capital, was hit hard by the 2010 earthquake, but the city still holds many charms for visitors, such as the upscale Petionville neighborhood, a hillside sanctuary and home to many of the city's better hotels and restaurants.

In the heart of the capital and located in a quaint area, El-Saieh Gallery is a beloved place to visit and retreat from the city life; it's filled with Haitian paintings, wood carvings, beadwork, metalwork, and mosaics. The gallery is near Oloffson Hotel, an interesting location in itself: This 19th-century Gothic mansion in a tropical garden was once home to two previous presidents of Haiti.

08 of 10

Visit the National Museum of Haiti

Slavery Memorial in Ogier-Fombrun Museum in Haiti

Sebastien Desarmaux / Getty Images

In Port au Prince, the National Museum of Haiti educates the public on the country from the times of indigenous peoples up until the 1940s. Also of interest is the Musée du Panthéon National Haitien—a tribute to Haiti's national heroes—and the National Museum of Art, featuring pre-Columbian art from around Haiti.

Museum Ogier-Fombrun in Montrouis, a coastal area south of Saint-Marc, is a small but interesting spot to learn about Haitian history through photos and artifacts on an estate built in 1760. The museum is in the main building, which used to be a sugarcane processing area. In Croix-des-Bouquets, about eight miles from Port-au-Prince, head to Village Artistique de Noailles, a community of artists making and selling distinctive metal artwork.

Address
HT 218 Avenue Jean Paul II Pòtoprens HT, Pòtoprens 6110, Haiti
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09 of 10

Lounge in Labadee

Dock at Labadee

KenWiedemann / Getty Images

Labadee, a northern coastal peninsula with a pretty beach, is undoubtedly the place in Haiti seen by more international travelers than any other, thanks to Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines establishing a private resort here in 1986. Cruise passengers come onshore via a huge concrete pier and can lounge on the sand, ride waterslides, or snorkel in the ocean. They also engage in activities like ziplining or shopping from (carefully vetted) local merchants. However, the visitors cannot leave to explore elsewhere in Haiti, and most Haitians are kept out by a security system unless they are employees of the property.

Address
Labadie, Haiti
10 of 10

Taste Famous Rum in Barbancourt Rum Distillery

Bottles of rum at the Barbancourt factory

 AFP / Getty Images

Address
Barbancourt Rum Distillery, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Founded in Port au Prince in 1862, the double-distilled Barbancourt Rum is one of the country's oldest businesses. The rum is world-famous, having won many competitions, and is possibly Haiti's most prominent export as well. The estate where the sugar cane is grown and the rum is distilled is located about 10 miles outside the city in the town of Damiens; it's open to visitors for tours and tastings, and you can buy their aged and reserve rums at bargain prices here. Reserve a tour ahead of time to learn about the history and production of the popular drink.

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Top Things to Do in Haiti