4 reasons why Haiti is an adventure
Travellers exploring the Kaskad Pichon waterfalls, Haiti
Photo: Frank Fontain
The jungles, jagged coastlines and wild white-sand beaches of Haiti were made for adventure travel, and the list of thrills is longer than the Chaîne de la Selle mountain range and bigger than Lake Azuéi. Haiti is a place not many tourists go, but where adventure-seekers thrive. It’s a place for the brave and curious.
Head for the hills in the Forêt de Pins, where a myriad of lush trails lead through the tropical conifers to Pic la Selle. Scuba dive off the island of La Gonave and discover a riot of underwater colours. Spend a day snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of Anse a Galets. Go caving behind the wild waterfalls of Bassin Zim. Feel the fresh air and adrenaline as you fly through the skies on the Dragon’s Breath zipline - the longest overwater zipline experience in the world.
You'll need to do some real exploring
As far as Caribbean destinations go, Haiti is still a path less-travelled. As such - you won’t always find the sorts of creature comforts served up in the luxury hotels of cuba, or an exhaustive directory of thoroughly reviewed local experiences. Unspoiled by the throngs of tourists you’d expect elsewhere, Haiti is a destination reserved for the intrepid, the inspired, the intrigued.
Haiti is raw. If the Caribbean was a menu, Haiti would be wild-caught and forest-foraged. For every manicured garden you stumble into, there are a hundred wild white-sand beaches waiting for you to kayak to, and for every paved road there’s a thousand rocky paths heading into the jungle-covered mountains, accessible only on foot. With a few exceptions, you won’t find the coolest cafes on instagram or the picturesque panormas on Pinterest - you’ll have to get out of your room, holster your smartphone, and find them yourself.
People relaxing by the sea
Photo: Angelo Miramonti
You'll need to be prepared
You won’t be completely in the dark though - cell phone coverage is pretty good, you can find wifi in the cities and bigger towns, there’s another AirBnB added every month and an increasing number of hotels can be booked directly from a mobile phone. But take spare battery packs for everything - there’s no telling whether the solar electricity advertised at your Airbnb will last as long as claimed.
Google Maps coverage of Haiti is getting better, but there are still shortfalls. For directions to many destination, you’ll need to rely on local guides. All directions you find online should be taken with a grain of salt and seasoned with up-to-date advice. Google Maps can’t guide you through the intricate network of public transportation options, and doesn’t take into account the ravines made impassable by recent rains, or the truck that has been broken down and blocking that road for a week now.
Practice your French - or better yet, Creole!
Before you can navigate your way around boulders, you’ll need to navigate your way around the local languages! For some travellers, the most adventurous aspect to a trip to Haiti will be finding yourself in a country where the vast majority do not speak English. French is the official second language here, so if you have some high school French, dust off that dictionary and brush up before you go. Compared to France and Quebec, the locals of Haiti will be glad for your attempts to speak French, so don’t be shy. Don’t forget to smile and greet everyone with a joyful “Bonjour!”.
Better yet, embrace the chance to learn something new, and have a crack at Haitian Kreyol. You will win over anyone you encounter by making an honest effort at speaking their language. What you lack in vocab you can make up for in enthusiasm: stretch your hands and get ready for a real life game of charades.
Moto on the beach
Photo: Kolektif 2 Dimansyon
It’s not a postcard - it’s an experience
If you’re looking to leave behind the theme-park “paradise” offered at the bigger Caribbean islands in favour of something less iconic but more inspiring; if you want to ditch the dull itineraries and dive into a different perspective; if you’re sick of the curated seaside resorts and want to walk among real people shaped by hard work and hope, who’ve overcome more than their fair share of dark history and recent hardship, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re seeking a pinch of unpredictability, visit Haiti.
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” -Anthony Bourdain
Expect the unexpected, and don’t forget to bring your sense of adventure!
The best Haitian getaways for a long weekend
Aerial view of the beach at Port Salut, Haiti
Photo: Ricardo Lartigue
Looking for adventure?
Hispaniola is one of the most mountainous islands in the Caribbean, and Pic La Selle is Haiti’s highest peak. A day hike to Pic La Selle offers spectacular views over the dramatic landscape of Hispaniola.
Bassin Zim is a spectacular natural landmark in Haiti, with a waterfall, a chain of turquoise-hued pools and a network of glittering underground grottoes.
Snorkelling, street food and white-sand beaches home to most of Haiti’s resorts - here's what not to miss if you're visiting Montrouis.
Bassin Bleu is a series of four cobalt-blue pools connected by waterfalls and guarded by impressive rock formations, just 12km west of Jacmel.
The south coast is full of hidden treasures waiting to be discovered, and Saut-Mathurine, Haiti’s largest waterfall, is one of them. A 40 minute drive out of the western city of Les Cayes, the waterfall is at its most spectacular around May and June
Fresh air, forest and stunning views make the Forêt de Pins a great destination for active travellers looking to hike into Haiti’s wildlife and nature.
Labadee beach is one of the crowning jewels of Haiti, with fine sands and crystal-clear blue water that attracts cruise ships from around the world.
Citadelle Laferrière is the largest fortress in the Americas. Haitians call it the eighth wonder of the world and, if you make it up the summit of Pic Laferrière, you’ll see why.
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