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Info Cap Haitien
Cap-Haïtien often referred to as Le Cap or Au Cap, is a commune of about 190,000 people on the north coast of Haiti and capital of the Department of Nord. Previously named as Cap‑Français,Cap‑Henri and historically known as theParis of the Antilles, displaying its wealth and sophistication through its beautiful architecture and artistic life. It was an important city during the colonial period, serving as the capital of the French Colony of Saint-Domingue from the city's formal foundation in 1711 until 1770 when the capital was moved to Port-au-Prince. After the Haitian Revolution, it became the capital of the Kingdom of Northern Haiti under King Henri Christophe until 1820.
Cap-Haïtien's long history of independent thought and its relative distance from Port-au-Prince have contribute in making it a legendary incubator of anti-establishment movements. For instance, from February 5–29, 2004, the city was taken over by militants who opposed the rule of the Haïtian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. They eventually created enough political pressure to force him out of office and the country.
Cap-Haïtien is near the historic Haitian town of Milot, which lies 12 miles (19 km) to the southwest along a gravel road. Milot was Haiti's first capital under the self-proclaimed King Henri Christophe, who ascended to power in 1807, three years after Haiti had gained independence from France. He renamed Cap‑Français as Cap‑Henri. Milot is the site of his Sans-Souci Palace, wrecked by the 1842 earthquake. The Citadelle Laferrière, a massive stone fortress bristling with cannons, atop a nearby mountain is 5 miles (8.0 km) away. On clear days, its silhouette is visible from Cap‑Haïtien.
The small Hugo Chavez International Airport(formerly Cap-Haïtien International Airport), located on the southeast edge of the city, is served by several small domestic airlines and has been patrolled by Chilean UN troops from the "O'Higgins Base" since the 2010 earthquake. The airport is currently being expanded. Several hundred UN personnel, including nearby units from Nepal and Uruguay, are assigned to the city as part of the ongoing United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
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, the city was the colony's capital, then called Cap Parisian or Cap Francais. Following independence, it was briefly the capital of the monarchy established in Haiti's North by King Henri Christophe, who built a magnificent palace, Sans Souci, and giant citadel, Citadelle Laferriere, 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 nice beaches nearby.
Labadie and other beaches
The walled Labadie (or Labadee) beach resort compound is located 6 miles (9.7 km) to the city's northwest, and serves as a brief stopover for Royal Caribbean International (RCI) cruise ships. Major RCI cruise ships, dock weekly at Labadie. It is a private resort leased by RCI, which had generated the largest proportion of tourist revenue to Haiti since 1986. It employs 300 locals, allows another 200 to sell their wares on the premises, and pays the Haitian government US$6 per tourist.
The resort is connected to Cap‑Haïtien by a mountainous recently paved road. RCI has built a pier at Labadie capable of servicing the luxury-class large ships, completed in late 2009. Attractions include a Haitian market, numerous beaches, watersports, a water-oriented playground, and a popular zip-line. People not on cruises can visit the beach too.
Cormier Plage is another beach on the way to Labadie, and there are also water taxis from Labadie to other beaches, like Paradis beach. In addition, Belli Beach is a small sandy cove with boats and hotels. Labadie village could be visited from here.
Occupied for thousands of years by indigenous peoples, who had migrated from present-day Central and South America, the island was colonized in the 16th century by Spanish explorers. The Spaniards adopted the native name, Guárico for this area that is today known as "Cap‑Haïtien". Due to the chance introduction of new infectious diseases, as well as poor treatment of the indigenous peoples, their population rapidly declined.
On the nearby coast Columbus founded his first community in the New World, the short-lived La Navidad. In 1975, researchers found near Cap‑Haïtien another of the first Spanish towns of Hispaniola: Puerto Real was founded in 1503. It was abandoned in 1578, and its ruins were discovered in the twentieth century.
The French took over half of the island of Hispaniola from the Spanish in the early eighteenth century. They established large sugar caneplantations on the northern plains and imported tens of thousands of African slaves to work them. Cap‑Français became an important city of the French colonial period and the colony's main commercial centre. It served as the capital of the French colony of Saint-Domingue from its founding in 1711 until 1770, when the capital was moved to Port-au-Prince in the southwest part of the island. After the slave revolution, this was the first capital of the Kingdom of Northern Haiti under King Henri Christophe, when the nation was split apart.
The central area of the city is between the Bay of Cap‑Haïtien to the east and nearby mountainsides to the west; these are increasingly dominated by flimsy urban slums. The streets are generally narrow and arranged in grids. As a legacy of the United States' occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934, Cap‑Haïtien's north-south streets were renamed as single letters (beginning with Rue A, a major avenue) and going to "Q" and its east-west streets with numbers from 1 to 26; the system is not followed outside the central city. The historic city has numerous markets, churches, and low-rise apartment buildings (of three–four storeys), constructed primarily before and during the U.S. occupation, with much of the infrastructure in need of repair. Many such buildings have balconies on the upper floors, which overlook the narrow streets below. With people eating outside on the balconies, there is an intimate communal atmosphere during dinner hours.
Cap-Haïtien is known as the nation's largest center of historic monuments; it is a tourist destination. The calm water of the bay, picturesque Caribbean beaches and monuments have made it a resort and vacation destination for Haiti's upper classes, comparable to Pétionville. Cap‑Haïtien has also attracted more international tourists, as it has been isolated from the political instability in the south of the island.
It has a wealth of French colonial architecture, which has been well preserved. During and after the Haitian Revolution, many craftsmen from Cap‑Haïtien, who were free people of color, fled to French-controlled New Orleans. As a result, the two cities share many similarities in styles of architecture. Especially notable are the gingerbread houses lining the city's older streets.
Transportation - Get In
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. Taxi drivers will ask for up to $20 to take you into town, but $10 or even $5 is more reasonable. The airport is small and has very few facilities: no ATM, for instance. The airport did recently undergo extensive renovations funded by the Venezuelan Government.
American Airlines began service from Miami in October 2014 with once daily flights, and is the only major air carrier with service to the airport. It currently serves the city with an Airbus A319 (Jul/2015).
Sunrise Airways provides service from Providenciales and Port-au-Prince.
interCaribbean Airways provides service from Providenciales interCaribbean was formerly known as Turks and Caicos Air and purchased its rival Sky King.
Missionary Flights International also flies to Cap from Florida but only affiliated missionaries and their guests are welcome aboard.
Caribbean Air provides excellent charter flights for missionary groups from Ft Lauderdale to Cap-Haïtien. Cabin service and bathroom available on 30 passenger flights.
Tortug'Air, a local airline, has also flown to Cap from Port-au-Prince.
Transportation - Get Around
The city is small and compact enough that you can walk most places. There are, however, many taxis and motor-taxis available. Most restaurants and bars are in the central, gridded part of the city.
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Market places 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 tourist market is open with a number of stalls with a lot of vendors who sell arts, crafts and souvenirs, 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.
- Kokiyaj Market and Bar & Grill, Boulevard de Carenage at Rue 26. A small supermarket on the first floor and a bar and grill upstairs, the market has all the necessities -- food, toiletries, water, alcohol and so on.
There are various restaurants, many near the waterfront or the Hotel Roi Christophe. Many places serve good seafood dishes (lobster and conch especially), French food, American food or a mix. Traditional Haitian food often includes rice and beans, flattened and fried plantains (but not sweet ones) and pikliz, a spicy cole slaw.
- Lakay, Boulevard du Carénage. 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.
- 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.
- Ti Boukan, Route Nationale 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.
- 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 and Deny is super nice. He speaks Spanish, French and some English.cheap.
- Auberge du Picolet, 90 Boulevard du Carnage, .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.
- Hotel Roi Christophe, Rue 24 B, . The Hotel Roi Christophe has a nice restaurant and a cozy bar on its large campus near the center of town. The restaurant is in a nice older wood building with art and plants and is open on two sides. Lots of Haitian and French specialties, plus pizza and burgers.
- Jardins de l'Ocean, Boulevard Carenage. A nice little seafood restaurant up on a hill overlooking the ocean.
- Kokiyaj Market and Bar & Grill, Boulevard de Carenage at Rue 26.Above the market is a relaxed restaurant and bar with a water view serving American Creole and Haitian food.
Sights & Landmarks
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.
To the north of the city are a few beautiful beaches.
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. Some of the largest and most luxurious, dock weekly at Labadie. The resort is connected to Cap-Haïtien by a mountainous road that was recently paved. People not on cruises can visit the beach too for a small fee.
From just outside Labadie, one can catch a water taxi to Paradis, a beautiful 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.
Things to do
The Boulevard du Carnage along the water is a nice walk and there are bars, restaurants and craft shops. Beaches north of the city are very nice, and outside of town are the Citadelle and Palais Sans Souci.
Most of the restaurants are also good for drinking places, but there are a few bars too.
Prestige, the local beer, is tasty, and rum drinks are popular. Barbancourt 5 star is the best local rum (and most expensive!) Try a rum sour, made with lime, lemon and sugar.
Kleren is the local moonshine which you can buy on the street or from some stores. It's strong and variously flavored -- fruit, cinnamon, even conch (sea snail!) It can be tasty but drink at your own risk, as it's often homemade.
- 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.
- Decobar, Rue A & Blvd. du Carenage (near Auberge Picolet). A noisy, fun disco.
Safety in Cap Haitien
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. Arranging transportation through your hotel maybe be safer and easier than finding it on the street, but probably a bit more expensive.