A LOT of people have been inquiring about my Haiti trip and for good reason. It’s rare people travel to Haiti for leisure, either because of the rumors that Haiti is violent or the images we see on international newsrooms. Haiti was amazing for me. The first free black nation and many Haitians revel in that, yet they still carry the shame of the Caribbean.
Haiti is mountainous and large, housing 10.8 million people (appx 5 million of them live in the city center) making Haiti the most populous country in Caricom. Though Haiti shares the same land as the Dominican Republic, the country struggles with access to commodities like electricity and gas (there was a gas shortage while I was there) and poverty.
There are many cities in Haiti that one could visit. Port Au Prince (PAP), the capital, Cap Haitien and Jacmel, just to name a few. We decided to go into PAP. It would be the shortest flight, we boarded a JetBlue flight from JFK and took the 3.5 hour flight. [Direct flights to Haiti from NY are extremely affordable]
Upon arrival, through some dope friends, we got the royal treatment and got diplomatic processing for immigration. There were no immigration lines, no waiting for my own bag. We exited through a back entrance, boarded a shuttle and got taken to a lovely building to await our driver. We were even offered an arrangement of beverages while we waited.
Now the trip begins, our driver arrived. Haiti is very dusty. Piles of trash are on the street side waiting to be burnt (I am sure why there isn’t a drop off for all the trash) and the locals drive like it’s Tokyo Drift. There are no street lines, there is driving up one-way streets, the infrastructure is terrible. I could go on.. but Haiti is a gem.
We arrived at our hotel, the Marriott – Port Au Prince. Amazing hotel and staff, with lush and modern amenities, a dope pool and comfortable beds. We had our driver available to us for 24 hours per day so we quickly changed and headed out for lunch and a day at the Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien. This museum features artifacts and history on the heroes of independence; I highly recommend a visit if you decide to visit PAP.
We were lucky to find out PAP – Jazz, a week-long music celebration, was going on. Having done our research, we went to Fubar. (Club Azu at Karibe Hotel is also a great Friday night spot but it rained so we went to Fubar). At Fubar, there were several acts belting out beautiful musical notes, but it was there we discovered Phyllisia Ross. Since returning home. I have not stopped listening to her music.
Although we were not familiar with each song performed word for word, the zouk and konpa notes booming from the sound system, felt familiar enough to get us dancing. We were told, Fubar on Saturday night would be even more amazing, as they were celebrating their one year opening the following night.
The following day, we started our morning with rest and then headed up to the Observatoire. A restaurant with city views where one could see all of Port au Prince. What a remarkable view. The food at the restaurant was nothing to talk about but the experience is worth it. [Regarding Haitian food, I am not a meat-eater, so with my options limited to fish and rice, I wasn’t too impressed with their food]
After spending almost four hours chatting and taking in the view, we headed back to our hotel to shower and change for Fubar, party night. We got to Fubar and the vibe was completely different from the “stage” set up before. We had a table situated on the stage this time, with bottle service, hookah, and cupcakes. Hundreds of people filed in for a night of fun.
DJ Bullet (unlike other islands) played the whole night. I loved the way he mixed genres simultaneously. Soca was played (even current 2018/2019 soca) fused with dancehall, hip hop, pop, afro beats and of course, zouk and konpa. We had an amazing time. When we left around 4am, we did not head home, instead, we headed to an after hour bar, Adik. We did not end up getting home until 5am. Which was insane, because we had to leave at 6am to drive to Marina Blue so we could go sailing.
After the two-hour drive, we met our captain with our boat for a day of sailing and discovering Gonave Island. We sailed over a sand bar in the ocean, which is what you see pictured behind me. Gorgeous water right?
Now what we were surprised to find out was that Haiti has a pre-karnaval parade EVERY Sunday before their main parade days on March 3-5. Can you imagine? Carnival every Sunday? So we were in for a treat, we got some tshirts for freeski (which grant us access to the band and truck) and got ready for a long night of dancing.
There were THOUSANDS of people on the road. It was insane. There were about 9 trucks, each with their own DJ, blasting an arrangement of Haitian karnaval songs. It was certainly different from the parades I’ve become accustomed to.
I’ll be very transparent here in saying that my Haitian friends made my trip splendid. Having the right contacts is key to having access to certain locations [and even gas during a gas shortage]. With most Islands, it is about who you know. Labadee and Cap Haitien are marketed toward the tourist crowd, so feel free to venture into those areas first. I would not recommend Haiti for solo women travelers. That said, Haiti has some gorgeous beaches and can be just as relaxing. I had the most amazing time and cannot wait to discover other areas of Haiti.
Would you visit Haiti? Until next time.