Port-au-Prince has been all but obliviated by the earthquake of January 2010. Several of its major hotels, hospitals and major government buildings (such as the national palace and UN headquarters) were destroyed. The cost in human lives and misery is staggering.
Haiti’s south is all about taking it easy. Pulling out of Port-au-Prince on Rte National 2, the urban hustle is soon replaced by a much more relaxed air and rightly so – you’re heading toward the Caribbean Sea. Of the towns strung along the coast, Jacmel is the gem. It’s an old coffee port full of pretty buildings, with a chilled yet friendly welcome.
Sheltered by a beautiful 3km-wide bay, the old coffee port of Jacmel is one of the most friendly and tranquil towns in Haiti. Little more than a couple of hours drive south from Port-au-Prince, it’s a popular weekend destination for city dwellers, and hosts one of the country’s best Carnivals every Lent.
If you’re interested in how Haiti came to be as it is today, head for the north coast. It all happened here, from Columbus’ first landfall on Hispaniola to the key events of the Haitian slave revolution, and there are still many monuments left to mark out this path of history. Everything starts at Cap-Haïtien, Haiti’s second city.
Haiti’s second city feels a world away from the throng and hustle of Port-au-Prince. During the French colonial era it was the richest city in the Caribbean, and even if that grandeur has long since faded, the city still maintains a relaxed and parochial atmosphere.