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Cap-Haïtien

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A street scene in Cap Haitien
Cap-Haïtien is the second largest city in Haiti. It lies along a bay on the northern coast of the country. When Haiti was the French colony of Saint Domingue, as Cap Parisien the city was the colony's capital. Following independence, it was briefly the capital of the monarchy established in Haiti's North by King Henri Christophe, who built a magnificent palace and giant citadel, the largest fortification in the Americas, nearby. The country was unified upon Christophe's death in 1820, and the capital moved to Port-au-Prince. Today the city is a busy port and has a number of beaches nearby.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Cap-Haïtien's airport is called Hugo Chavez International Airport (CAP), renamed from Cap-Haïtien International Airport in 2013. It is located a few miles from downtown. A flight from Port-au-Prince takes about 30-45 minutes.

IBC Air [1] flies from Fort Lauderdale and Miami to Cap-Haïtien. Cabin service and bathroom available on 30 passenger flights. Anticipate jet air service to Cap Haitien soon.

Tortug'Air [2] flies multiple times a day to and from Port au Prince and other destinations in the country. It also flies to the Turks and Caicos.

Other international airlines serving Cap-Haïtien include Sky King, Turks and Caicos Air (InterCaribbean; daily flights to PLS) and Pine-apple Air. The airport is small and has very few facilities: no ATM, for instance, but is being upgraded. Taxi drivers will ask for up to $20 to take you into town but $10 or even $5 is more reasonable. There may be some fairly aggressive baggage handlers too -- they'll grab your bag and say they work at the airport and then ask for a tip.

By bus[edit]

Caribe Tours goes from Santo Domingo via Santiago and Monte Cristi in the Dominican Republic. The trip takes about eight hours and the buses are reasonably comfortable. The bus station is downtown and a cheap taxi to and from your hotel is recommended. Round trip price is $60 (as of 2012), plus small entry fees each way. They will take your passport and return it at the border; make certain that it is put in the pile going to Cap rather than their other bus to Port-au-Prince. The Haitian roads are adequate. The actual border is a little stream and Haitian immigration is in a hot little building. Passports seem to be handled quickly. When crossing the other way there is a longer delay for Dominican customs.

Get around[edit]

The city is small and compact enough that you can walk most places. There are, however, many taxis and motor-taxis available. Taxis from the airport will try and change US$20 to visitors, but you can bargain down to significantly less than this.

See[edit][add listing]

The downtown area is full of French colonial architecture -- it looks like New Orleans may have looked in the past. There is a wide promenade, Bouleved du Carenage, along the bay offering a nice view and sea air. A number of restaurants line the Boulevard. The downtown has shops and restaurants, but most cater to locals.

The Cathedral and Grand Place downtown are also rather impressive.

The nearby town of Milot is the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sans Souci Palace and the Citadelle Henri Christophe, both built by King Henri Christophe. The palace ruins are impressive, as is the Citadelle, a massive castle that has been renovated and is really pretty amazing to see.

Beaches[edit]

To the north of the city are a few beautiful beaches.

Labadee beach and village

The walled Labadie (or Labadee) beach resort compound is located six miles to the city's northwest, and serves as a stopover for Royal Caribbean cruise ships. Major Royal Caribbean Cruise ships, including the largest and most luxurious, dock weekly at Labadie.

The resort is connected to Cap-Haïtien by a mountainous road that was recently paved. Royal Caribbean has built a pier at Labadie capable of servicing the luxury-class large ships, completed in late 2009.

People not on cruises can visit the beach too for a small fee.

A view of the beach at Paradis

From Labadie, one can catch a water taxi to Paradis, a secluded beach located in a nearby cove. There's a tiny tiki bar and locals will catch and grill seafood for you if you ask. Rates vary, generally 1000 gourdes and up (bargain with them!)

Cormier Plage is another beach on the way to Labadie with a really nice and large beachfront hotel, restaurant and bar.

In addition, Belli Beach is a small sandy cove with boats and hotels. Labadie village could be visited from here.

Water taxis parked at Labadie beach

Do[edit][add listing]

The Boulevard du Carenage is a nice walk.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Marketplaces dot the city with frenetic hustle and bustle. Sidewalks are crammed with vendors selling everything from charcoal to second hand bicycles fresh from Miami by boat. If it's avocado or mango season, do yourself a favor and buy some.

  • Tourist Market, Rue 24 & Blvd Carenage. closes around 6-7pm. A new tourist market is open with a number of stalls with a lot of vendors, some of better quality than others. The metalwork is pretty nice, and there's also a lot of jewelry, woodwork, clothing and paintings. The vendors are nice and it's worth a visit. A worthwhile endeavor for the city.  edit

Eat[edit][add listing]

  • Lakay, Boulevard du Carénage, [3]. Probably the best restaurant in Cap-Haitien, Lakay has good Haitian food, some American and French food, and also pretty decent pizza. They have live music sometimes as well. Definitely worth a visit if you're in town. Mostly outdoor seating but they do have umbrellas.  edit
  • Croissant d'Or, Route Nationale 1 (SW of downtown, just past the gate). A tasty French bakery that also sells pizza and sandwiches. Really good pastries.  edit
  • Ti Boukan, Route National 1 (SW of downtown, just past the gate, next to Croissant d'Or). Good Haitian restaurant and bar with outdoor seating. Good lunch too, though a little slow. (19.732651,-72.224467) edit
  • All System BBQ (Deny's), Rue 23 & Rue A. Affectionately known as Deny's, after the owner, this is a roadside, no-frills barbeque spot. Deny's specialty is a plate of barbequed chicken with a tangy sauce, fried plantains with pikliz (spicy coleslaw), avocado (in season), macaroni salad and sometimes other sides. It's tasty and inexpensive, something like 100-150 goud. He also makes other things if you ask him, and can also do the plate to go. Deny keeps upgrading as more people visit, he recently got tables and chairs and now has some Ikea plates too. He has lots of inexpensive Prestige beer, and if you want some klerin (Haitian moonshine) there's a stand next door. All System is an experience. cheap.  edit
  • Auberge du Picolet, 90 Boulevard du Carénage, +509 29 45 5595. The restaurant at this nice little hotel has good seafood, a tasty good steak sandwich (which is only on the lunch menu, but they'll make it at dinner too) and good pastas. The pikliz is super spicy and the rum sours are fantastic. If you stay at the hotel, breakfast is included. US$8-15.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

Most of the restaurants are also good for drinking places, but there are a few bars too.

  • Riarmanita, Rue D near Rue 24 (near the Hotel Roi Christophe, just up Rue D). A small, fun, standing-room-only bar located near the Hotel Roi Christophe. Nice staff, fun dance music. No sign, just look for the open door and loud music. We never knew what the place was called so we asked the owner -- it's her name, Rita, with her favorite brand, Armani. Thus Riarmanita.  edit
  • Deco Bar, Rue A & Blvd. du Carenage. A noisy, fun disco.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

The view from the restaurant at Cormier Plage
  • Hostellerie du Roi Christophe, Rue 24 B, +011 509 3687 8915. Nice, Old World style hotel in a former colonial mansion relatively near the center of town. Lush grounds surrounded by a big wall. Wireless internet. With bar and large hotel restaurant. US$75+.  edit
  • Hôtel Mont Joli, Rue 29 B, +011 509 262-0326 / +011 509 262-0300, [4]. A nice hotel with a nicely stocked gift shop, a bar and restaurant. US$100.  edit
  • Auberge du Picolet, 90 Boulevard du Carénage, +509 29 45 5595. A very nice small hotel located right on the water on the Boulevard du Carénage. The restaurant is good and rum sours are fantastic. Breakfast is included in the bill. It's located down the street from Lakay, a nice restaurant, and Kokiyaj, a restaurant and small market with American and European items. Also near Deco Bar, a disco. US$100.  edit
  • Hotel Beau Rivage, Boulevard du Carénage (near Kokiyaj Market). A decent hotel in a big old house. Visitors say it's a bit more rustic than Auberge du Picolet. Faces the bay.  edit
  • Habitation Jouissant, 509 2 227 7799, [5]. A very nice and new boutique hotel located in the hills above the city. Really nice view over the bay. The bar, Lime Bar, gets good reviews too. US$90-200.  edit
  • Cormier Plage, Route de Labadie (about 8 km north of the city), +509 3702-0210, [6]. A really nice beach resort, Cormier Plage is located literally on a white, secluded beach. There's a big restaurant and tiki bar and lots of rooms that face the ocean. You can hear the waves roll in. Very relaxing, and the bar has great rum sours. The restaurant has a lot of really fresh seafood -- the conch is great, as is the lobster salad. The price includes breakfast. US$92. (19.782289,-72.227627) edit
  • Hôtel Beck, +011 509 262-0001.  edit
  • Hôtel Imperial, Route Nationale #1, about 1 km south of city, +011 509 262-0171 / +011 509 262-0534. A very good budget/mid-range option (for Haiti). Standard room starts at $US 50. Has a nice pool, bar/patio/hang out area, Wi-Fi. Staff is very friendly, and manager is excellent. All round excellent value for Haiti.  edit
  • TheCoOp Guest House, Rue 22 at Ave C (corner house, #12) (2 blocks from Hotel Christophe), 509-3114-1970, [7]. An affordable alternative for foreign visitors with meal-provided option. Special rates for volunteers, short-term or long-term. US$40.  edit

Stay safe and healthy[edit]

General warnings about Haiti are true also for Cap-Haïtien, though the city is, on the whole, safer than Port-au-Prince. Drink bottled water, even at restaurants and hotels, and use hand sanitizer before eating.

Get out[edit]

Inside the ruins of Sans Souci Palace
A view from the top of the Citadelle Laferriere outside Milot

A tap-tap to Milot will cost around HTG 15 ($.45), but taxis are probably a bit safer, or at least less stressful. Some of the hotels offer jeep tours for USD$80. The Citadelle Laferriere and ruins of Sans Souci Palace are very impressive and worth a visit. You can hike from the palace up to the Citadelle, but it's very steep and a lot of work. The Government of Haiti recently built a ticket stand and marketplace for vendors at the foot of the trail to the Citadelle, and there you can hire a guide (recommended) or rent donkeys. You'll need to be in good shape if you don't take a donkey.

A taxi to the airport from the town will cost around HTG 100, or $2.50. On leaving, you will be required to pay taxes of $60 in cash dollars, although some of the smaller regional airlines don't charge this. There is no ATM at the airport.



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