There’s a good chance you’ve never thought about going to Haiti for vacation. Maybe you’d consider going for humanitarian efforts, but a vacation there isn’t likely. Our family hadn’t thought about it much, either, until we actually went.
Part of the adventure of traveling in our family is going off the beaten path and doing things that most sane (or normal) people would never consider. Every time we had heard about Haiti in the past, we saw poverty, disease, natural disasters, corruption, and chaos. As we looked at our world map and thought of places we could go in a five-day window without kids, we asked ourselves how bad could it be to visit a country in the Caribbean that has virtually zero tourism. We wanted to escape the crowded San Diego lineups and spend some quality time together without our hyperactive 1 and 3-year-olds, so we thought it might be cool to do something way outside of the box. After a little research – like 15 minutes’ worth – we pulled the trigger. We got in contact with a local surf organization called Haiti Surf and asked them where to stay and what to do. We also reached out to our friends, the McIntyres, from our favorite TV show, On Surfari, and pro surfer Holly Beck, who had all previously been to Haiti. They gave us a good rundown of where to stay and surf.
We flew into Port-Au-Prince and it was exactly what we had imagined. Trash was everywhere, people were everywhere, and dust was everywhere. We were pretty excited to move on and up into the mountains, south toward Jacmel. The ride was hot, dusty, bumpy and windy. The roads are horrible in Haiti, although it was a pretty scenic drive once we left the city. Once we got to Jacmel, it looked like a typical beach town on a Caribbean island (translation: laid back and beautiful). We could have been in Puerto Rico or Barbados for all we knew.
We got the boards off the car and jumped into the pool immediately to cool off. In case you didn’t already know, August in Haiti is hot. We were the only people staying at the Villa Nicole hotel, which is right on Kabik Beach, one of the best surf breaks in the country with a view of the break from our bed. We had a local surfer show us around and our surfing buddy, Alex, brought us to an empty palapa where we could sit right on the shoreline. A waiter soon came out of nowhere and we pointed to what we wanted to eat since we could not communicate with him verbally. We waited almost two hours for our meal, which turned out to be the norm in Jacmel. They apparently don’t use ovens or other appliances but cook over a fire and charcoal. Every meal is made fresh and the food was incredibly and unexpectedly good. Just make sure to order your food long before you get hungry.
Our vacation was actually very relaxing and romantic. Not only were we the only tourists the entire duration of our trip, but we were also the only white people around. The white sand and palm tree lined beaches and Caribbean blue water were more enjoyable without a bunch of other tourists photobombing, talking loud, walking slow, stopping right in front of you to take pictures…all these were huge bonuses. Imagine spending all day with your significant other, with nobody around. It was much more of a romantic and intimate vacation than we were expecting.
The number one attraction that we enjoyed was Bassin Bleu. It was a crystal clear waterfall that had three different pools. The water was bright blue and again, not another tourist in site. You could easily spend an entire day there swimming, climbing, jumping, squeezing through tiny crevices, and exploring.
We surfed a place called Pistons, which is one of the best waves in Haiti. The lineup is right next to an 80-year old, 20-foot boat engine that sticks out of the water (according to the locals). The beach, unfortunately, was the most trashed and littered beach we have seen in any of our travels. We found ourselves knee deep in trash as we walked to the break and I actually paddled out with my sandals on. I have surfed in well over 20 countries in some murky and questionable lineups, but nothing like this. This place made the Tijuana Sloughs look like Bora Bora. We had no idea what was on the bottom, so we walked out in our sandals and surfed with them tucked into our board shorts and bikini. We made sure to exhale vigorously while underwater and to keep our eyes and mouths shut anytime we were submerged. We had a fun session and no one got sick, so I’d still recommend giving this place a try. No crowds, fun little waves, and a mellow atmosphere. Just be sure to get your Hep-A shot.
Much of what made this trip so great is that it was unique in so many ways. My wife and I are glad we took a chance and got out of our comfort zone. Haiti doesn’t have the most appealing reputation but if you’re adventurous you shouldn’t let that deter you from visiting. It offers a unique culture with great food and unique art. The people are very nice and happy. We couldn’t communicate with anyone because we don’t speak Creole or French, but we could feel their friendliness and beauty. Overall, it was awesome going somewhere off the beaten path. We like challenging the status quo in our family and Haiti was no exception. Simply put, we scored big time.