Cap- Haitien, Haiti

cap-haitien: the paris of the antilles

Welcome to the Caribbean! Where else can you find such a mix of cultures, from voodoo practiced by the descendants of African slaves to French je ne sais quoi, than the northern Haitian city of Cap-Haitien? Hope you are bringing your gusto along with your suitcase!

Quick Tips

See

There’s a plethora of things to see in Cap-Haitien. Gorgeous cathedrals, beautiful ports, bustling markets and museums to get cultured at - it’ll be hard to run out of things to see. 

Do

Spend your days soaking up the sun at Labadee, visit the notable Citadelle, take a short water taxi ride to Paradis, or even zip-line...Cap-Haitien cater to all types of travelers!

Eat

From the busiest restaurant of Cap-Haitien (Lakay), to the quaint eatery of L'Observatoire de Boutilliers Restaurant - discovering the flavors of Haitian food with its Creoloe influences and West African heritage will be the highlight of your trip. 

Stay 

Stay at a 19th century Gothic mansion perched amidst lush tropical greenery, or stay at a cozy Airbnb for a local experience, you’ll probably spend most of your days by the unrivaled beaches anyway!

City Guide

Plan

Flights & Transport

Flight costs are annoyingly unpredictable. You’ll save the most money if you book 3-6 months out. Coaches and taxis are the most common means of intercity transport used by tourists in Haiti. Alternatively, you can hire a car for additional flexibility. Recommended booking websites and hire companies are listed in Additional Resources.

Accommodations

A few months before your trip is the best time to secure your flights, tours and accommodations. Take a look at our hotel and activity recommendations for each location and book now to ensure your trip is exactly what you want it to be! This way, you’ll save a lot of time and stress. Plus, you’ll avoid the disappointment of your favorite places and activities being sold out.

Insurance & Passport

Travel insurance is an absolute must. Ensure you take out a policy that includes a good level of medical cover, or expect a huge bill in serious health emergencies. Although the majority of tourists visit Haiti without incident, it is also worth being insured against petty theft. Check with your insurer if you plan to indulge in adventure sports such as quad biking or skydiving.

Visa- free  travel!

Citizens of most countries, including those from the US, EU, and Australia don’t need a visa to visit Haiti for a duration of 30 days. Make sure your passport is valid for three months after departure and you have two blank pages for stamps.

Checklist

Book yourself a place near the Cathédrale Notre-Dame and you’ll be within walking distance of several major attractions Cap-Haitien has to offer. Here are just some of our favorites:

• Habitation Jouissant

• Cromier Plage

• Marquis Paradise

• Chato Relaxo

• Grenique Guest House

• Lauriers Hostel

Itinerary

Day 1 

Arrival

Welcome to Cap-Haitien!

You’ll undoubtedly receive a warm welcome from the  people of Cap-Haitien, a jewel not just in Haiti’s crown, butin that of the entire Caribbean. From its UNESCO-listed World Heritage Sites to the feeling of communal intimacy in the city’s streets,Cap-Haitien is a unique destination Straddling the country’s north coast, its waters are warm and perfect for swimming while its surrounding hills act as the lungs of the city and provide an escape from the hustle and bustle of the downtown area

Morning

SETTLING IN

Labadie beach which is 6 miles from the city center, is a stopping point for cruise ships ,but most visitors will arrive at the small Hugo Chavez International Airport a similar distance away.Colorfully-decorated (and very crowded) ‘tap tap’ buses ply routes from the airport, but you’ll also find private hire taxis on your arrival.

Afternoon

TAKE A STROLL

Taking a stroll around the city’s main streets is easy enough, with north-south streets in the center named from Rue A to Q, while east-west streets are named 1 to 26. The center is the most historic area of Cap-Haitien, with numerous churches, markets, and low-rise apartment blocks dating back at least 100 years. Among them, you’ll also find the elegant Cathedral of Notre-Dame and the  socalled ‘gingerbread houses’ dating from the nineteenth century. Architecturally similar to Victorian-era buildings of the United States but with a French twist, they’re typified by timber frames.

Evening

ENJOY THE SUNSET

Head to the coast-hugging Boulevard du Cap-Haitien, north of the port area, to watch the mesmerizing sunset with a drink in hand and meal in preparation. There are several fine restaurants along this stretch of the thoroughfare, offering a mix of traditional Creole and American menus, including the likes of conch and pumpkin.

Day 2 

Morning and Afternoon

TAKE OUT YOUR BEACHWEAR!

Having explored a little of Cap- Haitien’s  history, spend the day enjoying its climate and spectacular natural beauty by heading to one of the city’s many nearby beaches. By far the best equipped is that of Labadie, just 6 miles away. Owned by the Royal Caribbean cruise line, it is also open to non-cruise visitors to Cap-Haitien and is the place to get the adrenaline pumping with a multitude of watersports and the Dragon’s Tail zip-line.

You can, of course, simply settle down on the soft sand and enjoy the breathtaking sea views, or take the opportunity to get hold of some souvenirs from the local handicraft stalls. Water taxis also shuttle to Paradis  Beach, while other alternatives include Cormier and Belli beaches.

Evening

DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY

To get a feel for modern Haiti, join the fashionably-dressed trend-setters in one of the city’s nightclubs. Pumping out traditional compas rhythms from the sound systems, they also serve Haitian food staples, such as griyo (pork),, at fair prices as well as the renowned local rum Barbancourt.

DAY 3

MORNING

It’s believed that up to half the Haitian population actively participate in Voodoo practices while also belonging to Christian churches. The religion played an important part in the country’s history, some of which can be explored further in Cap-Haitien. For instance,  just south of the city you’ll find the Bois Caiman, a tree where Voodoo rites were performed at the beginning of the slave. 

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The revolt led to slaves burning the French owned plantations and cane fields they worked, such as the nearby Habitation Le  Normand de Mezy at Morne Rough, and the massacre of colonists, which eventually resulted in Haiti’s independence as the first black republic in the world in 1804. The ficus tree is close to a colonial-era well believed to hold mystical powers.

Also nearby, Vertières was the location of a significant independence battle of the same name and the last of the revolt. Locals are confident Voodoo played a significant role in the ultimate success of the small Haitian slave force.

Evening

If you’re not already too tired from your day’s exploits, it’s wonderful to promenade along the city’s Atlantic coastline as night falls. Not only are the views phenomenal, but so is the atmosphere, as Haitian families and courting couples join you on the walk. When you’ve walked enough, step into the mix of bars and restaurants nearby where you can relax and unwind from your day.

Day 4 

Less than 20 miles from Cap-Haitien you’ll find the UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes the mountain-top Citadelle Laferrière castle and the ruined Sans-Souci Palace. Both were constructed on the orders of Henri Christophe, a rebel leader who declared himself king of northern  Haiti on its independence from France. The Citadelle also offers sublime.

Morning

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HEADING INLAND

Though it’s possible to visit Citadelle Laferrière and Sans- Souci Palace by public transport, it’s almost certainly not worth the hassle. Taking a private taxi, the short distance will not only be easier but also gives you greater flexibility and freedom. Prepare a picnic so you don’t have to worry about food, or stop off at the village of Milot.

Afternoon

UNESCO WONDERS

The largest fortress anywhere in the Americas, Citadelle Laferrière is an icon of Haiti. On the 3,000 feet high Bonnet L’Eveque mountain, the Citadelle was designed to protect the northern coast from future French attack and contained 365 cannons of various sizes. It covers an area of 10,000 square feet, with walls 130 feet high reached along a winding forested path. Horses (and guides) can be picked up from the start of the seven-mile path in Milot.

The Sans-Souci Palace (derived from the French for carefree) is situated close to the start of the path of the fortress and was the residence of Henri Christophe – or Henri I as he styled himself. Now in ruins, it was the most important of nine palaces and fifteen chateaux he built. Before its destruction by the earthquake in 1842, it was also considered the Caribbean’s Palace of Versailles

Welcome to Kaapstad! Cape Town is South Africa’s second largest city, known for being the country’s legislative capital. Over the years, Cape Town has turned into a bustling cultural hub, with stunning views of both the sparkling South Atlantic Ocean and rugged mountaintops from it’s neighborhoods. Cape Town has a number of trendy districts, each with their own distinct personalities. Whether it’s people-watching on the beaches, or exploring the mountains, it all starts here!

RETURN TO CAP-HAITIEN

A private taxi gives you the flexibility to return to your hotel in Cap-Haitien whenever you choose, meaning you can get the absolute most out of your day trip to Haiti’s internationally recognized wonders. However, it’s considered prudent to make the 30-minute return journey to the city before nightfall, simply due to the fact the roads are not lit after dark.

On your return, you’ll probably want some food and drink, but make sure you spend enough time in your hotel in order to get your things together for your departure tomorrow morning for your journey to the capital, Port-au-Prince!

Day 5 

Morning

HEAD TO PORT-AU-PRINCE

Route Nationale 1 stretches the 150 miles from Cap- Haitien  to Port -au-Prince, however, the journey by road can take up to 6 hours, so it’s far more common to take one of the frequent 30-minute flights between the two cities. There are generally three flights per day from Cap- Haitien’s Hugo Chavez International Airport.

Afternoon

CHECK-IN AND RELAX

Port-au-Prince replaced Cap-Haitien as the country’s capital in 1770, while still under French control, and burned down only a year later by rebels. It remains at the heart of Haitian life even despite tragic events such as the earthquake of 2010 which saw the grand Presidential Palace irreparably damaged.

Upon arrival in the capital, whether by road or by air, check into your hotel, and perhaps get something to eat before exploring. It’s worth noting that Haiti is one of the safest countries in the Caribbean, with crime rates.

Evening

MOUNTAIN VIEWS

Why not spend your first evening in the Haitian capital overlooking the city? Head along the Route de Kenscoff to the mountain-top L’Observatoire de Boutilliers restaurant, where the traditional Haitian food inside is as good as the views outside. If you’d rather remain more central, there are a plethora of hipster eateries opening up. 

Day 6 

Morning

Your first stop for the morning should probably be the National Museum of Haiti, better known by its French name the Musée du Panthéon National Haitien, or MUPANAH.

Located in the center of the city at the Champ de Mars, two blocks from the destroyed Presidential Palace, it sunder ground construction is attributed to saving many priceless historical artifacts. The highlight is perhaps an anchor said to be from Christopher Columbus’ flagship, the Santa Maria.

Afternoon

Another popular destination for visitors is the Hotel Oloffson, a nineteenth-century ‘gingerbread’ mansion that has been the private home to two different Haitian presidents, and was also the model for the Hotel Trianon in Graham Greene’s book The Comedians.

Art lovers will also adore Expressions Art Gallery, containing over 10,000 pieces of contemporary  Haitian art , while to understand the power of the 2010 earthquake you only have to head to Port-au- Prince Cathedral, which now lies roofless.

Evening

You could do far worse as evening falls than to return to Hotel Oloffson. As well as containing a fine bar amid wonderful surroundings, the building is also a regular performance venue for musicians including the famed mizik rasin (or ‘roots music’) band RAM, who protested throughout the dictatorship of Cédras in the early 1990s.

Day 7 

MAKE THE MOST OF THOSE PRECIOUS LAST MOMENTS

You’ll need to head to the capital’s Toussaint Louverture International Airport (also known as Mais Gâté) for your flight home. Just 4 miles from the city center, you might have time to spend an hour or two in the city before needing to reach the airport for your departure.

You can use the time to seek out some last minute sights and sounds such as at the French-era Marche de Fer market. Having said that, whatever you choose to do, leave plenty of time to reach the airport, especially if you decide to take public transport.


Emelryn Vebs Dichoso