Jacmel, Haiti, is one of the gems of Haiti’s Southern Coast. It was hit hard by the earthquake but has since rebuilt and continues to thrive. Jacmel is an enjoyable stop for its beaches, sights, and especially the Carnival. The old port town still has an old warehouse district with late Victorian facades poking out of buildings and wrought-iron balconies. Jacmel is sometimes called the handicrafts capital of Haiti for its vibrant Carnival masks and other arts and crafts. To learn more, read on about the top sights, activities, and places to stay.
Main Attractions in Jacmel, Haiti
Every trip to Caribbean island requires a visit to the beach, and Jacmel is no exception. You can take a stroll along the Jacmel Beach Broadwalk and buy souvenirs from vendors and purchase fresh fish to cook back at your hotel. Ti Moulliage and Raymond Les Bains are about fifteen minutes away and will be better locations if you want to swim or stretch out on the sand. During weekdays you will have an almost private experience and can hang out with locals on weekends.
Jacmel Arts Center
In 2014, Jacmel became the first Caribbean City to join the UNESCO Creative City Network and with a stop at the Arts Center, you will know why it deserves the honor. Here you can take classes and build your very own Carnaval mask, watch artists paint beautiful works of art and murals, and purchase souvenir artwork to take home. Even as you walk down the streets near the art center, you will find many local artists painting and selling their wares. After the 2010 earthquake, Jacmel rebuilt itself with stunning urban murals and you should definitely keep an eye out for those as you travel through the town.
The Marché en Fer
The Iron Market bustles with business Monday through Saturday right in the heart of downtown Jacmel. Here, you can shop and haggle for just about anything, from clothes and shoes to electronics and live animals. It’s a fun experience just to walk around the market and see everything the vendors have to offer, and if you want to pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables during your stay, this is the place to do it.
The market is pedestrians-only during the week, so you will have to duck and dodge in the crowds along with everyone else. You can also take a look at the large Caribbean baroque church which stands to one side of the square. The market is closed on Sundays.
Other Things to Do in Jacmel, Haiti
Jacmel’s Carnival celebrations are famous throughout Haiti. Thousands of festival-goers throng the streets, taking in the street theaters, street food, vendors, music, and dancing that takes over the town. The party usually starts to build up in late January with events each Sunday until the Sunday before Shrove Tuesday, when it reaches its peak.
The signature paper-mâché masks are everywhere in the city, and if you want to fit in, you can transform yourself into the birds, mythical creatures, and other animals who take to the streets. The party usually begins in the late morning and the revelry does not end until late that night.
The mountains above Jacmel, Haiti, hide one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country. Bassin Bleu is formed out of three pools of water, fed by a natural waterfall. You can swim in the three pools, and brave travelers can jump from the waterfall.
If you are a single traveler, you can take a motorcycle taxi to the entrance, or a car if you have a group of people. The hike through the Bassin Bleu pools is easy for a moderate hiker, but there are also guides at the trail entrance to assist anyone who needs help. The final pool with the waterfall is the most difficult to reach, and having a guide with a rope can really help you get there.
Jacmel Historic District
When you take a walking tour of the Historic District, you can see how resilient the city has been. It was founded by the French in 1698 and its early architecture was in the colonial gingerbread style popular at the time. Then a fire broke out in 1896, destroying many of its older structures, and the city rebuilt with new technology, importing fireproof materials such as cast iron and brick from Europe. After the city was heavily damaged again in the 2010 Earthquake, the city focused on revamping the walking tours of its historic sector. That’s a win for pedestrians, who can now easily take a stroll through the older sections of the city and see the beautiful architecture of earlier centuries.
The Best Places to Stay at
Hotel Florita – Best Budget Hotel
Hotel Florita is a charming, antique-style hotel in the artisan’s district of the old city. The clean standard-sized rooms come with mosquito nets, bathrooms, and accommodate two people in each. There is a restaurant downstairs. Rooms don’t come with air conditioning, but with fans in each and a welcoming staff, you can still find it a cool place to stay.
Cap Lamandou – Best Family
Cap Lamandou features epic views of the bay and 24-hour security. The rooms come with AC and often have hot water. Moreover, it has great food at the restaurant, a pool, and free Wi-Fi. Family rooms are available which sleep up to four.
How to Get to Jacmel, Haiti
The best way to get to Jacmel from the USA or Canada is to fly into Port Au Prince airport (PAP). Then you can take a bus or rent a car to drive the 2-3 hours into Jacmel. From the USA, you can usually find direct flights to PAP from Atlanta, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and New York City. From Canada, you will mostly depart from either Toronto or Montreal.
Finally, Jacmel is a beautiful port city on Haiti’s southern coast. From its sheltered bay you can visit many small yet charming beaches and in town, you will find a city made wealthy by its rich heritage and beautiful artwork. Whether you are in town for Carnival or to catch the natural beauty of Jacmel Haiti, it is a city well-worth the visit.