Next Up: Exploring Haiti


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Why we’re going to Haiti later this week. A view to a different side of the country, including its re-emergence — and we hope, a path to sustainable tourism development. It’s also about our pursuit of Haitian culture, landscape and cuisine – and the unknown.

Waterfalls of Bassin Bleu near Jacmel, Haiti.
Waterfalls of Bassin Bleu near Jacmel, Haiti.

While on a press trip earlier this fall, we mentioned to a well-traveled British journalist with an intrepid penchant for hot spots, particularly those in the Middle East, that we were headed to Haiti later in the year.

“Really?!” His reply was shriek-like. “Be safe.”

When most people think Haiti, they don’t often think travel. The images that come to most peoples’ minds are those from of the 2010 earthquake and various other political and environmental disasters that news reports suggest seem to plague the country indefinitely — rather than of artists, musicians, waterfalls, clear Caribbean waters, hilltop fortresses, cave networks and the mysteries of Vodou.

So that’s where we come in.

We don’t mean to imply that Haiti doesn’t still have its share of serious economic and environmental issues to address. But like so many places we’ve visited, we suspect there’s a different, additional side to the story and dimension to the place than what we’re deprived of in prevailing media.

That’s why we’re going to Haiti this week to find out.

Haiti voodoo
Dancing and Vodou in Haiti.

Tourism in Haiti. Is that even a thing?

Not currently. Let’s just say there aren't a lot of travelers coursing through Haiti at the moment. This is one of the things that stoked our curiosity about visiting now.

In fact, when our partner G Adventures were first engaged by Haiti under an Inter-American Development Bank project to assess tourism potential in the country, its analysts were uncertain if not skeptical as to what they might find. Perhaps surprisingly, they found remarkable landscape, a rich living history – one full of art, music, Vodou religious heritage, Creole culture – and a resilient people seeking to move on toward a better future.

The result? Not only did G Adventures suggest that Haiti does have tourism potential, especially of the community-based variety, but they developed a new tour to the country for 2015 to act on their own evaluation.

It’s this tour – in addition to our own independent exploration — that we will experience during our time in Haiti.

Sustainable Tourism in Haiti?

But wait. Will tourism development be a force for good in Haiti? Can’t it destroy a local culture and environment?

Tourism is the people’s business. And how tourism develops in a country, particularly in its early stages, truly does make a difference — good and bad — to the lives of its people.

Haitian food
Time to make Dous Makos, a Haitian dessert.

Our own tourism and travel experience tells us that both outcomes are possible.

So where has Haiti landed in all of this? And more importantly, where does it hope to go?

It's still early days, but the Haitian Tourism Ministry has apparently indicated that it wishes to pursue tourism development of the more community-based or sustainable variety. It’s because of this that we’re excited to have a look at Haiti for ourselves in its formative stages of tourism development – to not only see and highlight what the country has to offer generally as a destination, but how a community-focused approach might benefit locals and travelers alike.

The circumstances recall a Haitian proverb: “Piti, piti, wazo fe nich li.” Which roughly translates as “Little by little the bird builds its nest.”

So what is there to do and see in Haiti?

Although the first G Adventures’ Haiti tour officially launches in February 2015, we’re part of a visiting group including a few independent journalists and G Adventures staff who will have the advance opportunity to experience it for ourselves. We will also extend our stay and explore parts of Haiti on our own.

Although you may find all the details for the G Adventures Haiti tour on the official itinerary, here's a snapshot of what we'll do and see:

The Citadelle Laferrière, Haiti
La Citadelle Laferrière, the largest fortress in the Americas.

  • Citadelle Laferrière: Haiti was the first independent nation in Latin America and the Caribbean, born of a slave revolt from 1791-1804 that defeated French forces and resulted in the founding of a free country. With that in mind, we’ll visit the UNESCO-designated Citadelle Laferrière, a hilltop fortress built in the early 19th century to help defend Haiti’s newfound independence from its colonizers.
  • Cap-Haïtien: We’ll explore various markets and learn how to make Haitian rum from a brandy-like sugar cane extract called guildive, a mispronunciation of “kill devil” which is supposedly what happens when you drink the stuff.
  • Port-au-Prince: The 2010 earthquake left Haiti’s capital city largely in ruins; remnants of this are still visible. We’ll visit the artist community of Atis Rezistan that has emerged from the rubble, and we’ll have a chance to learn more about Haiti’s Vodou culture by meeting with a Vodou priest. Of course, we will spend time in local markets and walking the streets.
  • Jacmel and Bassin Bleu: We continue with the theme of local artistic expression in Jacmel by exploring the town’s street mosaics and visiting the studios of various local artists. Then we’ll enjoy some time at Bassin-Bleu, a network of waterfalls and freshwater pools.
  • Port-Salut and Grotte Marie-Jeanne at Port-à-Piment: On our way out of Jacmel we’ll stop by the Art Creation Foundation for Children. The foundation provides leadership training and practical lessons in various crafts – in addition to providing meals — to at-risk youth. From a stopover in Port Salut, we’ll set off for Port-a-Piment to explore the underground cave network at Grotte Marie-Jeanne.

We will spend an additional week in Haiti in Les Cayes along Haiti’s southwestern coastline, in and around Port-au-Prince, and quite possibly climbing Haiti's highest peak, Pic la Selle.

Follow our Haiti adventure in real-time

Curious to know what Haiti is like? Who are the Haitian people? What do they eat? What does the island look like? What is the spirit of the place?

We hope to answer that and more.

Please follow along real-time with our adventure via social media. Follow the hashtags #DnA2Haiti and #GadvHaiti on Twitter and Instagram. We will also share updates on our Facebook and Google Plus pages. We're excited to have the opportunity to share what we see and experience in Haiti with you.


Photo credit: Oana Dragan (G Adventures) and Alex Proimos

Disclosure: Our trip to Haiti is provided to us by G Adventures in cooperation with its Wanderers in Residence program. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own.
About Audrey Scott
Audrey Scott is a writer, storyteller, speaker and tourism development consultant. She aims to help turn people's fears into curiosity and connection. She harbors an obsession for artichokes and can bake a devastating pan of brownies. You can keep up with her adventures on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And you can learn more about her on the About Page and on LinkedIn.

18 thoughts on “Next Up: Exploring Haiti”

    • Caroline, we’re also quite curious about what traveling in Haiti will be like and what stories we’ll find. Have been curious about the country for a long time, so when the opportunity came to get involved and visit we jumped on it. Hope this is the start of more people exploring Haiti.

      Reply
  1. Please be sure to get out of the tourist areas on your own journey time. Perhaps a trek up to Mizak just 30 minutes from Jacmel. Take time to speak to the locals who are NOT involved in tourism to get a true sense of this amazing country. I interviewed 20+ Haitians in the Mizak area, all of whom have created amazing educational community, environmental and entrepreneurial projects on their own initiative. What I heard from every single Haitian I spoke to was, “Please take time and talk to us and Listen to us. Please stop pitying us. Please work With us.”
    They are understandably tired of so many outsiders coming in with their own ideas and projects. Haitians are doing an incredible job in innovation and creation. And if you’re going to see any Voudon, please remember it is a religion that’s been around a very long time. I know you and Dan will bring all beautiful respect in, as you do everywhere you travel. Haiti has a spot in my heart after what I witnessed as too many people with good intentions creating more harm than help.
    Thanks for listening. HUG.

    Bon voyage and have a wonderful time.

    Reply
    • Kristin, thanks so much for your long and thoughtful comment sharing your experiences in Haiti and the spirit of Haitians (& their stories). We are spending extra time in Haiti so that we might be able to do some treks and get into the hills a bit. Thanks for the recommendation for Mizak near Jacmel (we’ll have an extra day there, so that’s perfect). And do understand the importance of talking to people from all backgrounds in life. Everyone has a story. I was wondering, did you have an interpreter with you when you were collecting storiese or were you able to speak either English or French with people?

      And, we’ve seen what you’ve described in many countries – locals rather tired of outsiders coming in and saying how things “should” be done instead of listening. And, outsiders trying to do “good” and actually doing more harm. We’re very sensitive of both of those things. Although G Adventures is a foreign company, they are working very closely with Haitian companies to set up the itinerary and do respectful visits to local artisans and community organizations. That goes as well for the visit with the Voodoo priest. We’ve been fortunate to see a Santeria ceremony (by chance) during our visit to Cuba a while go, so understand the importance of being respectful, as well as curious.

      After reading the links you left I’m even more excited for the trip. Thanks!!

      Reply
  2. Sure is exciting! Looking forward to the updates. Haiti is a place I had never really had an image of but It’s interesting to read about the perceptions people have of the place, it will certainly be good to read about it first hand.

    Reply
    • Rebecca, perhaps it’s good that you never had an image of Haiti in your head 🙂 That allows you to go in without many assumptions. We look forward to sharing what we experience and find in the country here & as we go on social media. Stay tuned!

      Reply
    • Thanks, Cam! Also curious to see and learn about this as well. In reading up for this trip I’ve read some incredible stories of resilience and communities building something new since the earthquake, but I also know that there are still large populations living in temporary housing and many economic/environmental/health problems that persist.

      Reply
  3. Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott

    I think you for what you are doing for Haiti. you might not remember who I am. We met in the plane on your way to Haiti and I cannot wait to see what discover from your trip.
    Thank you for visiting Haiti.

    Reply
    • Hi Kechener,
      It is great to hear from you here! Yes, we definitely remember you and thought about our conversation on the flight to Haiti often during these last couple of weeks. We really enjoyed our time in Haiti these last two weeks and our heads are full of impressions and trying to understand just a bit of this fascinating culture and place. I was thinking about you taking your children here for the first time – what an amazing experience that will be for them!!

      Keep checking back here as we will be posting more articles and photos from Haiti in the next weeks/months.

      Cheers from Port-au-Prince airport 🙂

      Reply
  4. I have a friend who grew up in Haiti, and her whole family is still there. Its kind of crazy actually to hear some of her stories. I was in a group with her when she got a call about the earth quake. It was pretty devastating as she really didn’t know for a while whether her family was okay or not. Nice to see that Haiti is starting to hopefully get some positive attention. They deserve it and I’ve met a lot of good people from there. Hopefully it all turns out for the best, and to help their overall economy.
    Cheers,

    Reply
    • Cory, we had quite a few conversations about the earthquake with people who were in Haiti at the time and those who were abroad and went through a similar experience as your friend trying to find out whether family members were OK. Some terrifying stories.

      Haiti certainly still has its share of political and economic challenges, but you can also see so much potential not only tourism development, but also other types of economic and agricultural development. Haitian people have an open and spirited way about them, which was refreshing and fun. Agree that there are lots of good people there, and we were fortunate to meet a group of Haitians very passionate about their country and trying to share it with travelers. Stay tuned for more stories from our two weeks in Haiti!

      Reply
    • Miguel, after spending the last two weeks in Haiti we can assure you that the country is even more surprising than we had even expected. Stay tuned for more stories from our time in the cities, art communities, markets and mountains of Haiti!

      Reply
  5. Hello there! I just wanted to say, being a Haitian American and have traveled to Haiti many times (6 times this year alone) I must say your photos and stories are a TRUE representation of what Haiti really is. The Country, as you know, is BEAUTIFUL! The Food is amazing and the People are one of a kind! thank you for sharing your experiences to the World and showing them Haiti isnt just what you see on CNN. So again I think i can speak for all Haitians when i say MERCI!! Lakay Se Lakay!

    Reply
    • Chris, thanks for your kind comment. Our travel experiences have taught us that there are usually other stories to be told about a place than what appears on CNN or the mainstream news. Haiti was certainly no different – truly a beautiful and fascinating place.

      Reply

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