July 23, 2016 / 50 Comments
Haiti is the only country in the Caribbean that earns only 10% of its income from tourism. Most of the other Caribbean countries earn 90% of their income from tourism and related industries. This fact is not surprising, given that most of what people hear and see on the news about Haiti is not exactly inviting.
You´ve probably heard about its political instability and the natural and man-made disasters that have devastated this small country. Most people have a preconceived idea of Haiti, and its probably not a positive one. So, as a “blan” (foreign) lover of Haiti who has the luxury of having family here, I will share with you about the Haiti that the news won’t show.
As a January 2016 TIME article states, there are two Haitis, “The CNN Haiti, and the real Haiti.” Every time I come here I observe the shortcomings of this largely misunderstood country and revel in its upsides, which are many.
If you ever decide to come to Haiti, these are just some of the perks you can enjoy if you are wiling to embrace new experiences and avoid comparisons with your first-world life.
1.- Beautiful landscapes.- I am told by family that I have not seen the most beautiful areas of Haiti, and yet what I have seen is pretty breathtaking. Outside of the cities, there are lush mountains, natural pools, and welcoming beaches. You will have to mingle with the locals to enjoy these, since there is minimal foreign tourism, but that is what I most enjoy about the experience. We recently visited Bassin Bleu near Jacmel and it was a refreshing and fun experience. There were local Haitians taking pictures and videos of us “blan” tourists!
2.- Tasty food.- Haitian food is amazing. Chicken tastes like chicken. Eggs taste like eggs. You don´t need to buy organic food because the food is as natural as you can get it. My favorite dish is lambi (conch), but the goat and pork are just as good. No matter what you eat, you can´t go wrong. If you are worried about getting sick, just exercise common sense and don´t eat unwashed fruit or vegetables, or drink tap water. I have never gotten sick in Haiti so far, and on the other hand became ill from food at a restaurant in a five star resort in Turks and Caicos.
3.- Unique art.- If you are a lover of arts and crafts made with recycled material, Haiti is the place to go. During my recent visit I was able to go to an artisan village in Croix de Bouquets and watch the artisans at work. I bought a beautiful metal angel that I´m taking back to Florida to remind me of the good things in life.
I was also able to visit the famous Iron Market in downtown Port-au-Prince.My family and I went up and down every single aisle checking out everything from carved wood souvenirs to vodou flags, powders and bottles. Unfortunately for the merchants, we were the only tourists there. I bought a beautiful metal bracelet, and a bunch of necklaces for gifts. But you can also find beaded purses, clothes, handmade sandals and more. It was a lot of fun and the merchants were not overly aggressive, trying to sell us their wares. On the contrary they were all very happy to see us. I just wish they had more clients!
4.- Great music.- If you have never listened to Haitian music I suggest you give Boukman Eksperyans a try! I discovered them thanks to a family member who took my husband and I to a concert in Pétion Ville in 2012. I bought all their CDs and quickly became an ardent fan. If you can see them live in Haiti, don´t miss it! During my second visit, I was fortunate to attend a dance class with one of the dancers that performs with the group. How cool is that? This time around I´ve found that the youth in Haiti listens to music that is very similar to what the youth everywhere else listens to—but in Creole.
5.- Friendly people.- For the most part you will find that Haitians are interested in “blans” and happy to see tourists. If you attempt to speak French or Creole, they will do their best to figure out what you´re saying. Or you may find they speak English or Spanish too. If more foreigners came to visit, this would boost the country’s economy and empower its people.
If you’ve been to Haiti, I’d love to know what you most enjoy about it. If you haven’t, what else would you like to learn?
Love Haiti. My husband and I lived there the past 3 years on and off and helping teach Haitians construction, hospitality, organization, planning ahead, etc. I love the people…. They know how to just BE with one another. I work to hard and to much, to just sit and BE.
Love the food…zamboka(avacado) , mango, lambi, kabrit, etc…
Love to beauty of the sea (ocean), the coolness in the mountains, etc.
Great place to travel to….
I absolutely agree with you about “they know how to just BE with one another. I work too hard and too much, to just sit and BE.” This time we spent a few days in Cayes Jacmel and the electricity went out. I had limited opportunities to work during those days and I couldn´t see myself in the mirror or use a hairdryer. It was refreshing!
That beautiful picture at the beach over looking Gonaive was that taken at Kaliko beach?
Yes, very close! It´s from a private home but very close. 😀
Thank you Lorraine, your are an extraordinairy person with an incredible heart that’s why you can the positive things over this Country, I love you for who you are and your hard work over there and I send you all my bless !!!
I always look for beauty. But the beauty in Haiti is pretty obvious. At least to me. I wish more people knew about it!
I am happy to see people that do understand Haiti. It’s not perfect but a very unique place. I was born in Haiti but grew up in the USA. You can’t look at Haiti in a “first world” eye or else you will not see its beauty. I love most things about Haiti and feel very blessed that I was born there.
Ah, nothing is perfect. There is a lot of beauty in your country of birth. I only wish more people would be willing to discover it. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to leave a comment!
I recently revisited Haiti after 27 years and it was amazingly beautiful! I loved every day I was there and didn’t want to come back home. I didn’t get a chance to visit many other places. But I plan on taking a 3 week vacation and travel all around Haiti to see and live its beauty.
My father in law arrived in Haiti many moons ago, and apparently back then it was even more beautiful. I wish it could be restored to that glorious time … And yet, just by looking around you can see it is still majestic.
I too, agree with LaNae. The people are what I love best but in the 7 years I lived there with my husband and our 5 children, we explored much of the natural beauty of the southern peninsula. From snorkeling in the warm waters of the Caribbean, to exploring caves, to climbing the mountain peaks, there is a unspoiled beauty that we were privileged to be a part of. As part of our mission work that we did that included bringing groups down to put on a roof of either a school or a church that the local community had put up the walls of, we lived and ate and worked among the Haitian people. Those times out in the villages are highlights of our time there, but even just living the everyday life in our hometown of Les Cayes had its special moments. A large part of my heart is and will remain still there.
Thank you Joan for sharing your experience. You are right about the unspoiled beauty. I also feel that I leave a bit of my heart there every time I leave.
Great article. I have been to Haiti three times and can say that the Haiti I know is very different from “CNN” Haiti. By and large the press are very unfair.
On one day in 2014 I went in a hired truck to Bassin Bleu and that same evening I attended a voodoo ceremony, getting there in the same truck. In between I swam in the crystal clear surf at Cayes Jacmel. It was one of the best days of my life.
Unfortunately, the press don’t report good things.
Yes, that´s why I stay away from posting what others have seen too much of. It is unfair to the country and it´s people. When I started posting photos on my Instagram account, many commented saying that they could never have imagined Haiti to be so beautiful.
Thanks a lot for this about the country of my heart and soul. The world needs more people like you to be a better place.
No, thank YOU for taking the time to read and leave me a comment. I have written about Haiti many times from this point of view and will continue to do so!
Thank you for embracing my culture. Until today, year 2016, there are still many Haitians living in the U.S. Who refuse to left people know that they are Haitian . You have children born to Haitian parents, that will tell you , my parents are Haitian , but I’ am not. I don’t think the problem is only ” the Haiti that CNN ” wants the world to see. I think the issue is also with us the natives. Most of us don’t appreciate our culture, thus make it impossible to teach it to our children and friends. I love my country?? I was born there and came to the State when I was 16. Went back and got married there 22yrs ago. I wish more people could see pass “CNN” and get to know the history of Haiti and what this beautiful Island has to offer.
I hope this changes. It used to happen with other cultures in the U.S. So far when I meet Haitians in the U.S. and tell them how much I love their country they are happy and tell me they miss it too. This time around I met a young man who was returning to Haiti at 22 after not having lived there since he was 7. He was very proud of his roots. But you are right, as people we all need to be the best ambassadors of our countries (I am bicultural – Spain/U.S. mainly). In the meantime I hope other foreigners read this and are inspired to give it a try!
I just want to thank you for this amazing article that showing the beauty of my lovely country. Wish more people will read and share it
Oh, I hope so too! This is one of the reasons I love the Internet and social media. Beauty can spread too! Thank you for reading and commenting!
I feel a little bit disappointed that you didn’t make a trip to Cap Haitian. You will discover the Sans Souci Palace ruins, the beautiful church of Milot and the majestic Citadelle Laferrière, built by the King Henry Christophe.
Oh, trust me, I´m disappointed! We just couldn´t make it this time around. But I have it in my plans to make a trip just for that next time. I know there is a lot more that I need to discover about beautiful Haiti!
(Thanks Junior for sharing this.) I visit Haiti each year, leading a team to work along side our friends in Ft. Liberte. There are many things I love about Haiti. I wish the economy could improve so more Haitians would be content to stay. Haiti inspires me. I see beauty everywhere. I hope to one day write a book of poetry inspired by Haiti, encouraging people to visit.
Ooh! Why “one day”? Why not start the book now? I am one of those who would love to see Haiti restored to its heyday. But in the meantime,I, like you, find beauty everywhere.
I’m very happy because you talk about the real Haïti. It’s a pride for me as Haitian to see a foreign like you, talking about Haïti’s beautiful landscapes and its tasty food, unique art, great music and its friendly people. Thank you for visiting, writing and thank you for liking my country.
Oh, thanks to Haiti for being the way it is! I really wish more people would dare discover it. There is a lot to be proud of being Haitian!
Haiti is one of my most loved countries. Lived there over ten years. Know almost every corner. The country…food…music…colours…but most of all the people. They are kind…friendly…giving. And they are survivors. People who ignore Haiti for the sake of an all inclusive vacation are missing a trip of a lifetime. Thanks for sharing. You got it right!
Oh, yes, survivors and also resourceful. I am not one for all inclusive vacations. I have only gone to all-inclusive for work reasons. I much prefer to get to know the real side of the country I´m visiting. 10 years! What took you there?
I went originally as an 18 year old, to just live with my brother and sister-in-law. They were working there for a childrens hospital in PAP. Grace Childrens Hospital. I ended up running a childrens feeding program which took me to 32 schools across the island every month. I then got a job with a shoes factory as a manager until they shut down and moved to the DR. Me with them. But Haiti was a yearly visit from the DR at least once or twice…any time someone wanted to go. I loved taking people there because they all, bar none, came away going “Wow! I loved it”!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your comment and sharing of your experience!
Thanks for this article. I’ve been to Haiti 3 times – 1999, 2003, and 2010 just six months after the earthquake. I’ve been into small villages, swam in the Caribbean, visited orphanages, talked to witch doctors, and even shopped the Iron Market. Like others have stated, I left a piece of my heart there every time I went and the country and people mean so much to me.
It breaks my heart to see what is played on the news knowing that it’s a skewed version of that beautiful country. The people are poor in material things but rich in love and would give you their last possession if you were in need.
Thanks for making me want to go back to Haiti 🙂
Oh, thank YOU for commenting. It´s a beautiful culture. Every time I go I brush up a little Creole and then it goes away. But maybe I will learn some more before my next visit. I also leave a bit of my heart every time!
My husband and I have been to Haiti four years in a row now. We travel with a medical mission group. I am not medical nor is my husband. He builds and repairs whatever is needed. I do whatever I can to help out. We go to Fort Liberte in the northeast. I have come to love the people and,in fact,sponsor two beautiful children! You can find beauty everywhere! Looking forward to going back in March!
Thank you for your comment! You are so right. What´s interesting is that every time I go people in the U.S. ask me whether I´m going on a mission. And no, I´m not. I´m going to visit. I´m so glad you go back every year!
I just moved to Haiti 3 months ago, and i was so happy to see this, becaouse a few months ago i wrote something in my blog (islandroadtrippers.com) saying a lot of similar things in an article named “The 3 things you need to know about Haiti”. I am Dominicana, and the amount of people that want to come to Haiti now that im here its amazing!!! Haiti has such a lot of things to offer that i will love to keep on bringing people to meet this amazing country ( i just had my second group of friends) so yes, i love your article and of course keep on visiting this beautiful island!!!
Thank you for sharing your post too! It just shows how a few people together CAN make a difference. Gracias.
I love Haiti ??
Me too! Thank you!
Thank you for your beautiful depictions of Haiti. Despite the news and some bad seeds, yes this is truly a beautiful and vibrant country. I often say that I wish I was born there just so I am a little close to my roots. That was the only unfair thing my parents did to me ?. But being second generation Haitian is not bad either. Your story behind the angel touches me because often enough we do forget that there are good things in life. Thank you for the reminder. You rock Lorraine!
Oh, I have a lot of Haitian art, crafts and jewelry at home. I love love love when people ask me about it! … And yes, there are a LOT of good things in life. Like YOU!
You stole my ending ☺ ! Just like you too! Thank you ?
My pleasure! 😀
You’ve made me want to visit Haiti! My husband is half Creole so I know he would love it. Thank you for giving us a peek into this beautiful place.
The only requirement is to approach it with “new eyes,” not expecting the commodities you enjoy in a first-world country. With that premise, it´s a joy to visit.
Your photos are absolutely beautiful! I loved following your visit via Instagram because you showcased the country as I’ve gotten to see it too. I first traveled to Haiti in 2012 (and have been every year since!), knowing there was another side to the country that we weren’t seeing on the news after the earthquake. What I discovered was true beauty, kind people, and talented artists who wanted to make a living by selling their handmade items. It’s unfortunate that Haiti is often depicted negatively in the media but I appreciate your photos and stories to showcase why it should be considered a travel destination for those of us living in the U.S., especially when it’s only a hour away from Miami!
Thank you Leticia! I know you are a Haiti lover too!
Haiti is a beautiful country, I love my Haitian people they show you love and respect. I was there 2 weeks ago I just can’t wait to go back. Proud to be Haitian.!!!!
As you should be! Thank you for reading and commenting on your beautiful country!
I came back from a trip I took with my significant other who is a native Haitian. I absolutely loved Haiti. Yes, the poverty in parts PAP is pretty horrific but as mentioned, outside of the city and up towards Caphatian, much of this nation is a wonderful experience.
I was in the area struck by the recent hurricane and the photos broke my heart. I drove over the very bridge that was washed away and had a great time mixing it up with the locals including my new friend Francois.
I met a very young girl, maybe four years old, who wanted a new pair of sandles. Of course, I bought her a pair. I surely hope she and her family survived the storm!
Oh my, I I have not been back after the hurricane. Poor Haiti gets ravaged way too often. thank you for reading and commenting!