Haiti & North Haiti overview

Haiti and North Haiti



The Republic of Haiti is a Caribbean country which occupies the western third of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the Dominican Republic.

With 10 million people, Haiti is the most populous full member-state of the Caribbean Community but also the poorest country in the Americas as measured by the Human Development Index.

Haiti has two official languages: Haitian Creole and French. There is a distinct linguistic split: Creole is the language of the people, spoken by 90% of the population; French is the language of the educated elite, who these days also have very good English.

Haitian culture is a mixture of primarily French, African elements, and native Taíno, with influence from the colonial Spanish.

The world's first black republic remains a quixotic and deeply compelling destination, with fanciful gingerbread architecture and Creole flair. Despite the ordeals that Haitians have endured over the years, the country has maintained a welcoming and proud spirit.


Port au Prince, Thursday January 30, 2014 -. "This destination seems to be experiencing a global renaissance" was the conclusion of Fox News in a short article confirming Haiti as a "GO" destination in 2014. Haiti was once at the forefront of Caribbean tourism. After decades of absence on the international tourism scene, Haiti is back on the global tourism map, according to recent publications from prestigious international media institutions and organizations. The open-minded adventurer will find a country whose contradictions will linger in mind, head and spirit.

The richness of the country lies in its history and culture. The slave revolution left behind a wealth of historic sites, and the cultural heritage lives through its art, music, and literature. The first independent black republic has also palm-fringed beaches with white sand and turquoise sea to rival any of its neighbors. Its intensely spiritual people are known for their humor and passion, upheld in the face of poverty, civil strife, oppression and urban population.

Just 90mn by air from Miami, Port-au-Prince is a chaotic place still baring the scars of the 2010 earthquake, but with a lively cultural scene. In the South, there are beaches galore along the Caribbean coast; the town of Jacmel has a fascinating architectural heritage and is famous for its bright handicrafts and vivid Carnival Celebrations. Heading North, Cap-Haïtien, once one of the richest colonial ports in the world, is the ideal base to visit the magnificent Citadelle la Ferrière, a castle perched on a mountain, and the ruins of palace of Sans-Souci.

The poor touristic and urban operations of the country have allowed preserving the essence of culture and urban heritage, monuments and natural areas of Haiti.

Government promotes tourism development in Haiti based on respect for the environment and community integration (Integrated Tourist Region): hotels of low densities and impact, harnessing renewable energies, resources regional or supply, coastline respect, reforestation, waste management, training qualified personnel in hotel management.

North Haiti

History is everywhere in north Haiti. It was where Colombus made his first landfall in the Americas, the powerhouse of the French colonial slave plantations, and then the crucible of the heroic revolution that gave birth to the free black republic. At Milot, near Cap Haitien are the two grandest reminders of Haiti's history: the imposing fortress of the Citadelle and the ruined palace of Sans Souci. Cap-Haïtien is a fascinating destination in its own right, as well as being close to some great beaches along the Atlantic coast. It is less densely populated than southern Haiti, but the scope for exploration is enormous.

Top activities

  • Art, music and crafts: Haiti's visual arts are unmatched in the Caribbean. From its painted buses and street art to stylish galleries and works of the great masters, there is plenty of color to draw the eye. The music is a result of the mixture of peoples who have inhabited the island, particularly the Europeans (French and Spanish) and African. Konpa is the most popular musical genre and it is inspired from African rhythms and European ballroom dances. The crafts scene is also very rich (iron, wood, ceramics, palm).
  • Architecture: French colonial architecture, old forts, and wooden "gingerbread houses" (which are paragons of elegant tropical living). The Citadelle, the mountain fortress that all but symbolizes the great victory of the Haitian Revolution is the country's stand out site.
  • Festivals: especially Carnival and Vodou festivals (a tradition associated with the arrival of slaves from Africa to America, unique in the country and which is practiced by more than half of the population).
  • Discovering amazing landscapes: Haiti is very picturesque; the island is the most mountainous in the Caribbean. Between the ranges lies lush fertile valleys (coffee, rice, bananas and tobacco thrive here), and waterfalls. Hiking is therefore a great discovery option.
  • Scuba diving and snorkeling

Top events

  • Carnival, in February: Haiti's biggest parties and street celebrations. The parades of decorated floats, costumes, music and dance in the streets inundate of colors and joy the lives of Haitians
  • Fet Géd, in November: Nationwide Vodou festival held near Gonaïves
  • Saut d'Eau, in July: Haiti's biggest Vodou pilgrimage, held at a sacred waterfall by Mirebelais
  • Souvenance, in April: a week-long huge Vodou festival

Wildlife and nature

Haiti is a country with a surprising nature. The island is geographically diverse for such a small country, and contains several climate zones with a wide variety of plant species.

More than half of the country is mountainous with a difference in level of more than 40%. This gives the landscape a special beauty, with enormous hills lapped by the ocean waves.

In Haiti, there are three national parks: The National Historical Park in the north, the Macaya National Park and the La Visite National Park in the south. The latter, a few kilometers from the capital, has just been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. One can ride a bicycle or walk to the top of the mountains.
It also has unique natural areas as the Bassin Bleu (Jacmel), the waterfalls of Saut d'Eau (Mirebalais), or caves, such as the Marie Jeanne Grotto (Port-a-Piment), place of worship of the Taino people.

Visitors who prefer the sea will find 1700 km of coastline, including Côte des Arcadins, Côte-de-Fer or Port-Salut in the south and Cormier or Labadee in the north. In addition, some of the smaller islands of the country are of great beauty, such as Ile-a-Vache.

Haiti has a particularly rich birdlife, with over 260 species recorded.

Hiking and walking

Macaya National Park contains Haiti’s last region of cloud forest. It has an extremely rich biodiversity, particularly birds and amphibians, with a high number of endemic species. One in every 10 plants is only found inside the park, with orchids notably represented. Macaya has several potential treks, the most challenging, taking four days there and back, is to the top of Pic Macaya (2347m). Tents and food are necessary.

In La Visite National Park, you can do one of Haiti’s best hikes: a day of trekking that takes you across the western section of the mountains toward the Caribbean. The route traverses four mountains and takes in some truly beautiful terrain, from wooded slopes to almost-rolling green hills, as well as lovely views out to sea. A decent degree of fitness is required to do the trek, which usually takes six to eignt hours. The route is also a well-used pedestrian highway, traveled primarily by women on their way to market, balancing produce on their heads.

Forêt des Pins National Park is also perfect for hiking: the denser parts of the forest are cool and tranquil, with birdsong and sunlight filtering through the trees. Good hikes from the park entrance include the gentle 5km walk to Chapotin, where views stretch to the sea, and to Lake Enriquillo in the Dominican Republic, or the stiff climb to Do Gimbi ridge for more fantastic views of the mountains, forest and sea.

Adventures on the water

The best place for snorkeling and scuba diving is the Côte des Arcadins, which offers clear water and some good coral in places, as well as a large sink-hole near Saint-Marc. Another option for snorkeling, in the north, is Amiga Island, an hour’s sail out of Labadie. The tiny island sits just behind a large barrier reef and you can snorkel amid the coral, there are plenty of bright tropical fish. Kayaking is also possible in Labadie.


Just as its music, Haiti's cuisine comes from the fusion of flavors of peoples who inhabited the country and the Caribbean dishes such as the National Rice (with beans) or bananes pesées (fried green plantains).

Overall, Haitian dishes are spicy and accompanied by hot sauces. You can savor the tchaka (beans with corn and other ingredients), the griot (seasoned and fried pork), the giraumon (pumpkin) soup and the beef or chicken bouillon....

Its condition as an island nation gives Haiti a large variety of fish, cooked in sauce or grilled, as well as lobster and shrimp. You can also try the giant hermit conch shell in Creole sauce.

As a Caribbean country, Haiti is an ideal place to find tropical fruits such as mango, pineapple, papaya, soursop, grenadine, peach or fig Ti Malice, the tastiest banana. Not to mention two of the most typical Haitian food products: coffee and sugar cane rum. In Haiti, you can enjoy one of the best coffees in the world and Rhum Barbancourt together with the local beer, Prestige, which have both been recognized in international competitions for their quality.

Port-au-Prince boasts an international dining scene, where you can sample Taiwanese, Lebanese, and Italian as well as Asian fusion cuisine.


Haiti offers a reasonable selection of accommodation, in most levels: small private guesthouses, hotels, a string of beach resorts, but there is often a shortage of midrange beds. As a rule, rooms come with bathrooms and breakfast is included. Even cheap hotels usually have a ceiling fan. Camping isn't really an option.

When to visit

Tropical Haiti is a year-round destination, with a strong Caribbean sun and temperatures from warm to hot. April to November is the hottest time (around 30°), December to March the coolest months (around 22°). There are roughly two rainy seasons: May-July for the Center and the South, and November-January for the North. August to November is the time of tropical storms and hurricanes across the Caribbean.

How to get to Haiti

Haiti's main hub is Aéroport International Toussaint Louverture in Port-au-Prince, although a few flights also connect Cap-Haïtien to Florida.

From London, Port-au-Prince is accessible via one stop in the USA (Miami/New York / Atlanta)

In the North, Cap Haitien is accessible by a short internal flight from Port-au-Prince, or by road (7 hours).

By land, there are several border crossings with the Dominican Republic, and direct bus services link Port-au-Prince with Santo Domingo, and Cap-Haitien with Santiago.

Getting around while there

Haiti's main hub is Aéroport International Toussaint Louverture in Port-au-Prince, although a few flights also connect Cap-Haïtien to Florida.
Haiti is not a large country to travel around, and has a road network of variable (although improving) quality, and a decent selection of internal flights. It is possible to discover the country by personal vehicle (but if at all possible, avoid driving at night); by bus, or taxi.


The Haitian gourde (HTG) is the national currency. Creole speakers will call U.S. dollars.

1 GBP = 66 HTG

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Photo credits: [All images: www.haititourisme.gouv.ht]
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