Haitian society is notoriously steeped in injustice. When visiting you’ll witness the extensive slums nestled up against luxury hotels, a stark and startling contrast that's more than enough to put plenty of visitors off (the slums are also notoriously dangerous, and best avoided). Look in the right places, however, and the newscast memories of well-publicized voodoo sacrifices and endless coups will quickly be replaced by blurry, rum-fueled nights and epic panoramas.
Haiti holds its African roots high, having overturned the slave trade with a revolution centuries ago, and in many ways is more reminiscent of parts of Africa than the surrounding islands. You’ll find a lofty spiritual aspect permeating into every day life, from the drums of the voodoo ceremonies to the heartfelt rituals surrounding a successful fishing trip.
Capital Port-au-Prince is almost painfully bustling, with a frantic nightlife and striking contemporary arts scene, as well as some intriguing museums. In the Musee National, for example, you’ll find an anchor rescued from Columbus’ Santa Maria, as well as a pistol the nations former king used to kill himself. Down the coast, Jacmel is full of typically stunning Caribbean sands. In between the occasional resorts, the houses look like they’re straight from a fairytale, and locals dress in checked skirts for festivals, parading down the main street and dancing in front of the hilly backdrop, and sell intricate local handicrafts the rest of the year.
The trip to Jeremie takes you through misty hillside forests, before landing you in an isolated traditional port town, while La Citadelle La Ferriere - guarded by lines of canons that still have heaps of cannonballs piled up next to them - is an imposing fortress. Turreted and stark, it stands at the top of a steep hill with a single winding path to the summit and views for miles across the forest canopies.
While the security system is sometimes as dubious as the newspapers would have you believe, this can even work in your favor: Haitians are invariably keen to show their homeland in a more positive light, and are often overwhelmingly friendly. With a more substantial and edgy culture than the majority of the Caribbean, Haiti offers the adventurous a haven of intrigue amongst the endless palm-strewn paradisos.