Jacmel, The City of artists
You’re almost there! You’ve taken the first step—deciding to take a trip to Haiti and experience its friendly and charming vibe buzzing with artistic inspiration. Jacmel not only has the nickname ‘city of light’ but also the ‘city of artists’. Get ready to be awed by this old-world charm!
To get the most out of this itinerary, please make sure you read it front-to-back. It is sectioned into three parts: prep, daily itineraries, and an appendix identifying everything you need to print (lodging, train tickets, etc).
Our suggestion: bring this with you on your journey via a printed version or tablet.
PLANNING & BOOKING
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!
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.
Although we advise you to book some of your hotels and excursions before you depart, it’s always good to keep some things spontaneous! Allow yourself the flexibility (and the budget!) to go on an exciting adventure to try snorkeling and diving or venture out into the countryside on a motorbike.
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. You can extend the visa for up to 90 days by applying at the Department of Immigration and Emigration. Make sure your passport is valid for three months after departure and you have two blank pages for stamps.
DAY 1 - 5 | 4 nights
Book yourself a place near the Art District and you’ll be within walking distance of several major attractions Jacmel has to offer. Here are just some of our favorites:
Auberge Inn Multi Services
R&S Caribbean View
DAY 5 - 7 | 2 nights
Port-au-Prince is the capital of Haiti and has a wide range of accommodation to choose from. Here are a few great choices to make narrowing down your options less overwhelming:
Marriott Port-au-Prince Hotel
Hotel NH Haiti El Rancho
CHECK YOUR DEVICE PLUG AND VOLTGE
It’s important to know the difference between a power adapter and power converter. An adapter is a basic tool that retrofits your US plug to ‘adapt’ to the outlet in the wall. This is what you’ll use to charge your phone and camera. In Haiti, type A and B plugs are used as the type A and B in the US. The voltage and frequency are also nearly the same as in the US. So you may not need an adapter to the converter. If you are from outside the US, don’t forget that adapter and converter!
MAKING PHONE CALLS
International: Dial the international access code (001 in US, 00 in Europe), then the country code (+509 for Haiti), then the number. Drop the initial 0 if there is one.
Domestic: If you’re calling from one number to another within Haiti simply dial the phone number, including the initial 0 if there is one. No country code needed.
Traveling light is always ideal. Roll your clothes to save space and avoid creases. If you want to take it to the next level, use vacuum compression bags to maximize space.
Choose your footwear wisely. Bring a pair of walking boots for hiking and trips out into the beautiful scenery. Pack sandals for the beach, and a pair of comfy sneakers or canvas shoes for walking around town.
Try to blend in as much as possible. Flashy outfits might make you stand out as a tourist and attract unwanted attention from vendors.
Pack your shampoo, toothpaste and any other liquids in ziplock bags in case they spill in transit. However, these are items you can
always acquire once you’re in Haiti.
Don’t forget your sunscreen, aftersun and sunglasses. The sun is
quite intense in certain parts of the country, so take care of your
You’re going to encounter some beautiful beaches, so make sure
you pack your swimming gear.
Remember your camera, charger, memory card and power adapter.
Be well equipped to capture all of the beautiful sites when
wandering the city.
Be sure to have cash on hand—it’s not uncommon to find cash only restaurants and shops, even in major cities.
Your Haitian adventure begins!
Unlike the hustle and bustle of the Haitian capital, Port-au- Prince, a visit to Jacmel is like stepping back into the long- forgotten Caribbean of elegant architecture and welcoming residents. Straddling the Caribbean Sea to Haiti’s south, Jacmel is also a fantastic place to take to the waters, bathe on the nearby beaches, or explore the lush vegetation and natural beauty of this mountainous region. It’s no surprise the city will soon be included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
Jacmel is less than 3 hours’ drive from Toussaint Louverture International Airport (also known as Mais Gâté) in Port-au- Prince. Winding through the mountains it is considered one of the prettiest drives in the country, and on a well-maintained road, although for comfort alone its best to travel by taxi (fixed rates are available) rather than the crowded public buses.
A small town with all points of interest to the visitor close to each other, Jacmel is easily explored on foot. The coastal breeze makes it a pleasant place to wander and enjoy the slow pace of local life, and it’s small enough to explore haphazardly without the fear of getting lost. Don’t be afraid to pop unannounced into some of the handicraft workshops – the perfect place to pick up a souvenir of your time in the city of artists. Founded by the Spanish in 1504, it was the later arrival of the French that created the well-preserved nineteenth- century buildings that exist today.
A beautiful place for a seafront stroll at any time of day, the recently renovated Promenade du Bord de Mer takes on a life of its own as evening approaches. Recently installed mosaics provide additional color, as locals enjoy the tradition of promenading as the sun goes down, accompanied by the sound of Rara bands.
Morning & Afternoon
Having explored Jacmel’s architectural heritage in the center of town yesterday, spend today enjoying the sun, sea, and sand by heading the short distance to one of Jacmel’s nearest beaches. The stunning white sands of Plage Ti Mouillage lies roughly 10 miles east, just beyond the atmospheric village of Cayes Jacmel. With bars offering fresh seafood, you can also rent a surfboard, or simply while away the time in a hammock strung up between two coconut palms.
Alternatively, the hotel-owned beach of Cyvadier Plage comprises just a small sandy cove edged with rocks but is a great place to swim since there is no undertow. Also nearby, the Plage Raymond-les-bains is a popular beach with a wondrous backdrop of mountains.
Enjoy the local cuisine. To get a true sense of what the local cuisine is all about head down to the rough and ready shacks of Manje Lokal situated just behind the promenade. Sound systems blazing, they offer up filling local favorites such as griyo (fried pork) or Lanbi an Sòs Lanbi Kreyol (conch in creole sauce).
Journey the short distance along twisting roads into the mountains to the beautiful Bassin Bleu Waterfalls on the Petite Riviere de Jacmel. Not for the faint-heart, you’ll need to be prepared to hike the last part of the journey, for roughly 20 minutes, before ‘roping’ or rappelling down a twelve-foot rock face. Less dangerous than it may at first sound, the rope is a permanent addition to the site.
Local guides can be hired from near the tourist office, where you’ll need to give a small donation for access to the series of chutes and pools, a fantastic place for a secluded and relaxing swim. The best well known of the four pools is bassin clair. Water tumbles more than 30 feet into the turquoise waters of the 75- foot deep pool. Right at the bottom of the falls system, it is surrounded by smooth rocks (perfect for resting on) and creeper ferns. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the nymphs that are supposed to live there!
It won’t take long to return to Jacmel from Bassin Bleu, since it’s no more than 10 miles or so, but its best to stay safe on the roads and do so before darkness falls (when you wouldn’t be able to enjoy the mountain scenery in any case). Keep the relaxed vibe going by seeking out fresh coconut or corn ice cream in Jacmel.
Let’s go on a day trip!
From Jacmel to La Visite National Park
via Taxi or car hire
Duration: 90 minutes each way
A great way to get up close and personal with Haiti’s natural beauty is by visiting La Visite National Park, one of Haiti’s two protected areas, in the Massif de la Selle Mountains. Combining broadleaf forest, pine forest, and grasslands, it offers great walking opportunities as well as the chance to catch sight of some of Haiti’s rarest bird species.
To get the most out of your day trip to La Visite National Park you’ll want to depart in the early morning, when temperatures are at their lowest. Taking a private taxi will not only be easier but will speed up your journey and also give you greater flexibility and freedom. Take a picnic so you don’t have to worry about food.
There are a good number of walks possible within the confines of the park, with the half-day trek from Furcy to Sequin or vice versa being a particular favorite, though you could instead return to Jacmel on foot! The walks provide spectacular views over the Massif de la Selle mountain range, as well as allowing you a view of the lives of local Haitians. You’re likely to come across women on the path carrying heavy loads on their heads, for instance.
It can be tough even without a heavy load, so ensure you don’t take on more than you can chew, bring plenty of water, and protection from the sun. At times you’ll be clear of the trees and so without shade. The park provides ample opportunities to excite bird watchers, so it’s well worth taking a pair of binoculars if you have them.
RETURN TO JACMEL
A private taxi gives you the flexibility to return to your hotel in Jacmel whenever you should choose, meaning you can get the absolute most out of your day trip, and a godsend after a hard day’s walking. It’s considered prudent to make the return journey to the town before nightfall, simply due to the fact the roads are not lit after dark.
On your return, you’ll probably want to indulge in some food and drink, but make sure you spend enough time in your hotel assembling your things together for your departure the next morning. Soon, your journey to the capital Port-au-Prince awaits!
HEAD TO PORT-AU-PRINCE
You’ll know from your arrival into Jacmel that the 80-mile journey to Haiti’s capital, Port-au- Prince, lasts approximately 3 hours by private transport such as a taxi along well-maintained mountain roads. If you travel by bus, you should add a significant amount of time and forget any idea of comfort you’ve ever had!
CHECK-IN AND RELAX
Port-au-Prince became Haiti’s capital in 1770, while the country was still under French colonial rule, but destroyed just a year later by rebels seeking independence. Despite its troubles, such as the 2010 earthquake, the capital sits at the heart of Haitian life and must be part of any trip to the country.
Upon arrival into the capital, check into your hotel, and perhaps get something to eat before exploring. Then get your first feeling for the bustling capital by visiting the sculptures of Artis Rezistans on Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines, telling the country’s story in art.
Travel along Route de Kenscoff to the mountain-top L’Observatoire de Boutilliers restaurant, and you can enjoy not only traditional Haitian food such as conch and pumpkin soup but superb views over the city. More centrally, there are also a plethora of good-value hipster eateries opening up, and your hotel will be able to recommend the hot place of the moment.
Your first stop today should be the Musée du Panthéon National Haitien, or MUPANAH. Located in the center of the city at the Champ de Mars, its underground construction is attributed to saving important artifacts during the 2010 earthquake which caused damage elsewhere in the city. Many artifacts date from the period of slavery and the fight for independence, though the highlight is perhaps an anchor said to come from Christopher Columbus’ ship Santa Maria.
You also shouldn’t leave the capital without having paid a visit to Expressions Art Gallery. Containing more than 10,000 pieces of contemporary Haitian art, it is a must for art lovers. To fully comprehend the destructive power of the 2010 earthquake, you only have to head to the eerie pink façade of Port-au- Prince’s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. Badly damaged by the quake it now lies roofless and ruined in the center of the city.
You could do far worse than visit Hotel Oloffson, a nineteenth-century ‘gingerbread’ mansion that was the home to two Haitian presidents. As well as a fine bar, it hosts regular performances by the famed mizik rasin (or ‘roots music’) band RAM, and was the model for the Hotel Trianon in Graham Greene’s novel The Comedians.
Au revoir Haiti!
You thankfully won’t need to travel far for your flight home. The capital’s Toussaint Louverture International Airport (also known locally as Mais Gâté) is just 4 miles from the center of the city. As a result, you may well have an hour to two more in the city before needing to reach the airport’s check-in desks.
Use the time beneficially by seeking out some last minute sights and sounds. The French-era Marche de Fer market is the perfect place. Boasting kitchen wares, children’s clothes and everything in between, it gives a real final sense of what the city is all about.
RESTAURANTS & BARS
Makadaso Jacmel Diner
Rue st jacques #74 Jamel, Haiti +509 48 92 5151
Ave De La Liberte, Jacmel, Haiti
Congo Plage - Bar Restaurant
Ave De La Liberte, Jacmel, Haiti
Rue Du Commerce, Jacmel, Haiti +509 41 47 5000
Route Départmentale 41, Cyvadier Plage, Jacmel, Haiti
+509 38 44 8264
Jacmel International Airport
Phone: +509 44 80 5107 Jacmel, Haiti