Cerro Concepción, Valparaiso, Chile

A Street Art Lover’s Guide to Valparaiso

“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves”. –  Henry David Thoreau

Valparaiso is an art lover’s paradise. Known as one of the best street art cities in the world, its 42 cerros (hills) and labyrinth of rundown streets are graced with vibrant works of art that seem to cover every open space imaginable. There are no walls left untouched or staircases without color.

With so much art to see, it is easy to feel completely overwhelmed. Although there are plenty of excellent tours, it is not too hard to explore Valparaiso’s street art on your own. The downside is you don’t learn about the history and meaning of the art however the upside is that you can take as long as you want and see as much as you want to see. Since I’m generally not a huge fan of tours, we decided to do it on our own and I’m glad we did. Despite having sore feet and getting lost at times, it was worth the effort as we truly saw hundreds of works of art all at our own pace.

Our Tour

After a delightful Chilean breakfast, we left our hotel, Casa Galos at 893 Templeman (near #16 on the map), a little past nine o’clock into the foggy cool morning notorious for early summer in Valparaiso. I was hoping for a bit of Santiago sunshine but alas we would be stuck in the coastal fog once again.  At least we had the brilliant colors of the street art popping off the walls to brighten our day.

With a highlighted map in hand filled with squiggles, circles and stars, we plotted out our course for the day ahead in search of the best street art in Valparaiso.

Marked up map of Valparaiso, Chile

We began at the top of Cerro Alegre and headed down Monte Alegre and back up Miramar to see what art we had missed from the day before (Click here to read about yesterday’s afternoon walk). The city seemed to be asleep up here in the quiet Cerro Alegre neighborhood and you could hardly hear the horns, traffic and congestion down below near the busy port and commercial area in El Plan.

With camera in hand, I began to snap away getting lost in the technicolor of imagination of Valparaiso’s glorious street art. In retrospect, I wish I had done a better job documenting exactly where each work of art was located however I have tried my best to break it down by barrios. 

Cerro Alegre

Streets to hit: Start at the top of Cerro Alegre at Templeman and Galos, and head down Galos to Monte Alegre. You can follow both Monte Alegre and Miramar all the way down to Paseo Yugoslavo. Be sure to hit San Enrique and Lautaro Rosas as well as the “Happy Hippies” part of Templeman.

Art you will see:

Some of my favorites:

Cerro Alegre, Valparaiso, Chile
Street Art, Cerro Alegre, Valparaiso, Chile

Time to allow: At least 1 1/2- 2 hours to cover all of Cerro Alegre. This is my favorite neighborhood and has lots of wonderful restaurants in case you need to recharge and refuel before you continue on.

Cerro Concepción

Cerro Concepción is another fabulous neighborhood to view Valpo’s incredible street art and probably wins the prize in the most street art per square foot. It is closer to the port and center of Valparaiso so is much busier than quiet, quaint Cerro Alegre. I also found this neighborhood to be a bit more rundown than Cerro Alegre. However, the contrast between the old and new, the dirt and beauty, is what made it all the more fascinating to see.

Streets to hit: 

After reaching Paseo Yugoslavo, continue back up Miramar and wind down Urriola. Be sure to walk down Galvez to Paseo Gervasoni and Paseo Atkinson (where nearby you can look down off the cliffs to see some of the largest murals in the city painted across a few high-rise buildings). There is also a lot of cool art near the Iglesia Luterana such as the famous “piano key” stairs. You can then wind back up A. Montt towards Cerro Alegre again following any streets you missed.

Art you will see:

Colorful Stairways 

Fascinating Alleyways

At the edge of Cerro Concepción looking down over the cliffs are these giant works of art:

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Near Paseo Atkinson and the Iglesia Luterana:

Street Art, Cerro Concepcion, Valparaiso, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaiso, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaiso, Chile

Some of my favorites:

Time to allow: 2-3 hours

After hitting all of Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción we were famished and it was time for lunch. We dined at the beautiful, yellow-colored Brighton Hotel eating perched high above Valparaiso and plotted out our course for the afternoon. We would be heading down to El Plan, the business center and up to Paseo 21 de Mayo for a bird’s eye view of Valpo’s port and even more street art.

Valparaiso, Chile Valparaiso, Chile

Stay tuned…Since I don’t want to overwhelm you too much with photos, I decided to break this guide up into two parts. Coming next is Cerro Bellavista and Paseo 21 de Mayo

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Street Art, Cerro Alegre, Valparaiso, Chile

In Search of Street Art in Valparaiso’s Cerro Alegre

When planning our trip to Santiago, Chile there was no question we would spend at least a few days in Valparaiso. Known as one of the best street art cities in South America, this UNESCO World Heritage city is an art lover’s paradise. Its 42 cerros (hills) rise steeply up from the sea resulting in a labyrinth of streets, alleyways, staircases and a handful of rattling ascensores (old-fashioned funiculars dating back to the late 1800’s), all making Valparaiso or simply “Valpo” as the locals call it, one of the most unusual cities I’ve ever visited.

Valparaiso’s grittiness, seasonal fog, run-down 19th century, colorful corrugated-iron mansions and stray dogs make a sharp juxtaposition to its world-class vibrant street art that seems to cover every single free wall, staircase and building in the city. It is literally a walking museum of art and for that reason, has an unexpected charm that is hard to shake. As a street art lover, I knew that I would be in paradise and Valparaiso did not disappoint.

Street Art, Cerro Alegre, Valparaiso, Chile

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Barrio Bellavista, Santiago, Chile

A Stroll through Bellavista in Search of Santiago’s Vibrant Street Art

I have always loved street art and while Valparaiso is world renown for its amazing, slightly overwhelmingly large collection of street art, in my opinion Santiago is not too far behind. Despite not having the sheer size and scale of murals as found in Valparaiso, the street art scene in Santiago is equally as colorful and fascinating. If you adore street art, it is definitely worth your time exploring the Barrios Bellavista, Brasil and Yungay. Since our time was limited, we picked the trendy Barrio Bellavista for our first flavor of Chilean street art. We were not the least bit disappointed.

We began our stroll from our wonderful hotel, the CasaSur Charming Hotel in the Barrio Italia -an up and coming tree-lined neighborhood loaded with delightful restaurants, boutiques and shops- and followed the Parque Bustamante towards the Plaza Italia and the Rio Mapocho, the main river that meanders through the heart of Santiago.

It was a typical hot, summery day in Santiago and the city was alive with the bustle of people and students going to and from class at one of the country’s top universities in Bellavista. As we crossed the bridge at Pio Nonio, I couldn’t help but notice that even the walls surrounding the river were painted in graffiti. It was a sign of what was to come. I also wondered why the water was so brown in color and was soon to learn that it was due to all the sediment coming from the melting glaciers that feed and nourish the entire Maipo Valley surrounding Santiago with water and life.

Rio Mapocho, Santiago Chile

As we crossed the river, I saw that the bridge was covered in locks. Curious, I asked our hotel what it meant and they said that the locks are placed on the bridge by couples to represent unbreakable love. The couples write their initials on the locks and then throw the key into the river to symbolize everlasting love. I found it quite interesting.

After we crossed the river, we were finally in the infamous Barrio Bellavista, a bohemian neighborhood known for its artists and intellectuals as well as dining and late night partying given its numerous bars and discos all smooched together within the narrow streets between the river the the Cerro San Cristobal. Bellavista is also home to “La Chascona“, the historic home of Chilean Nobel laureate poet Pablo Neruda, which is now a museum open to the public. We didn’t have time to visit but did see his other house in Valparaiso which is definitely worth a visit.

Barrio Bellavista, Santiago, ChileWhile the nights are known for its wild carrete (nightlife), the quiet, calm afternoons in Bellavista are perfect for exploring its colorful streets and snapping photos. I felt ridiculously giddy at my luck at having such brilliant sunshine and not a soul in sight as we wandered the charming streets.  I instantly noticed that the colors felt like they were bursting off the walls and sides of the buildings. They were so incredibly vibrant and bright.

Barrio Bellavista, Santiago, Chile

Barrio Bellavista, Santiago, ChileBarrio Bellavista, Santiago, ChileBarrio Bellavista, Santiago, Chile

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Manuel Antonio Park Costa Rica

Pura Vida: A Window into Costa Rican Life

“I stuck my head out the window this morning and spring kissed me bang in the face.” – Langston Hughes

“Pura Vida“, she smiled as she handed me a cup of savory rich Costa Rican coffee. “Gracias” I replied playfully, letting my rusty Spanish bounce off of my tongue. We had just arrived at our hotel in Manuel Antonio, and would be spending an entire week in Costa Rica for our family Spring vacation. When the waitress left, my twelve-year-old son who had just started learning Spanish at school asked me what “pura vida” meant. I told him that it was not exactly easy to translate. Instead, it was something that would have to be experienced in order to fully comprehend its meaning. He shrugged his shoulders at my response, looking a little bit miffed. Over the course of the next nine days he would certainly learn, I assured him. He would just have to be patient.

We would see nature like never before – such as sloths, monkeys, rainbow-colored grasshoppers, venomous snakes, and lots of beautiful birds. We would play in the waves of the ocean at sunset, walk high above the jungle on suspension bridges, zip-line above the trees, canyon down waterfalls, ride inner tubes down the rapids of a river, and horseback ride below a volcano. We would stay way up at the top of a mountain at a typical Costa Rican farm where we would be served hot rice and beans with friend plantains. We would constantly have to pinch ourselves that we were in a place so utterly beautiful and serene. Yes, we would experience Costa Rica’s pura vida in a little over a week.

If there are two words that sum up Costa Rica, it is “Pura Vida”. Literally translated as “Pure Life”, Pura Vida means much more than its basic definition. The saying can be used as simply as  “you’re welcome” or “hello”. Or even as a statement or a response to “how are you”. Yet in my opinion, Pura Vida symbolizes an entire way of life that Ticos (the nickname for Costa Ricans) enjoy. A life filled with appreciation, love and gratitude for the beauty of their amazing surroundings and nature. An energy and joy of simply being alive.

Gifted with some of the greatest biodiversity of flora and fauna on earth, there is no better place to experience pura vida than in Costa Rica. In her canopies of rainforest filled with life and her mystical volcanoes peeking out of the clouds. In her majestic sunrises and sunsets painting the sky in hues of pink, purple, orange and red. In her endless species of flowers delighting the eyes, the roar of the howler monkeys at the first sign of dawn or a pair of scarlet macaws flying directly overhead. There is no place on earth where one feels more of the pure beauty of life than in Costa Rica.

Here is my window into the meaning of pura vida….

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa RicaTulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio Park Costa RicaManuel Antonio Park Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio Park Costa Rica

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The Peace Foundation, New York City

A Slice of New York at 110th and Amsterdam

“A true community is not just about being geographically close to someone or part of the same social web network. It’s about feeling connected and responsible for what happens. Humanity is our ultimate community, and everyone plays a crucial role”.  – Yehuda Berg

I got off at 110th and Amsterdam to the of sea of humanity and life that defines New York. As I walked down Amsterdam through the neighborhood of Morningside Heights in the Upper West Side, I was flooded with curiosity at what I’d find. It only took a few blocks for a potpourri of senses to settle in. Flower stalls, coffee shops, a Hungarian bakery, and any ethnic eatery under the sun caught my attention. The smell of greasy hotdogs, freshly baked bread and chicken curry infiltrated my nose while the sound of car horns, trucks braking and the distant hum of Mexican music rang in my ears. And I had only walked a block.

At 111th, I see a homeless couple sleeping on a plastic mattress on the dirty sidewalk, he shirtless with his arm stretching across his bare chest and resting upon her smooth sweaty shoulder. Shoes off, dirty sheets, and all their life’s possessions in a couple of see-through plastic bags. A few blocks later comes the grand entrance to the elite grounds of Columbia University where students of every color are abound, wearing ear buds, texting on cellphones and toting backpacks in route to class. Millennials eating lunch inside the fenced off green grass at the university or atop the grand stone stairway to their future success. Meanwhile a bum wearing rags and pushing a shopping cart collects trash from a full garbage can about a block away.

As I continue on, I hear a melodic harmony of sounds floating out an open window of a piano hall. I stop for a moment and close my eyes to listen but am interrupted by the piercing sirens screaming towards the Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital up at 113th. I then realize that within these four short blocks is a slice of New York and I am dumbstruck of how every spectrum of humanity seems to live within this small radius of space.

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Jean Baptiste Jean Jospeph, Isador Gallery, Haiti

The Textures of Haiti

“Men Anpil, Chay Pa Lou” = “Many Hands Make the Load Light”. Haitian proverb

Haiti is often a misunderstood place. Besides the poverty and squalor, there is beauty to be found amidst its incredible art and culture. When visiting Haiti, one has to keep an open mind in order to comprehend her immense problems and appreciate the good things that this country has to offer the intrepid spirit. I will not lie, travel in Haiti is difficult. However, the rewards for those who seek to visit this place are immense. Alongside the poverty and despair exists a resilience and hope in the future and a beauty that inspires through Haiti’s incredible art.

Take a walk with me and embrace the colorful, vibrant textures of Haiti.

The capital city Port-au-Prince is overcrowded, congested and chaotic yet also home to some of the greatest artisans, artists and designers in the entire country. Croix-des-Bouquets, a community on the outskirts of the capital,  is home to over 1,000 metal artisans with over 60 different shops and studios creating social change and opportunity within the community. It is a magical, happy place filled with energy and life.

Croix-des-Bouquets is also home world-famous beadwork artist and Vodou priest Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph. Some of his beadwork sells in the thousands of dollars to the rich and famous. His studio is a magical, spiritual place filled with so much colorful beadwork and art that it leaves you dizzy with inspiration.

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Pascale Théard Creations

A Step into the World of Haitian Designer Pascale Théard

There is no studio in Haiti as beautiful as that of Haitian designer and community arts activist Pascale Théard. A step inside Pascale’s divine space, Pascale Théard Creations, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti is pure magic. Instantly, a visitor’s eyes are welcomed by a burst of color and emotion that no one besides Pascale could create. It is no wonder that Pascale’s work is world renown and she is one of the most famous designers in Haiti.

The daughter of a Haitian industrialist, a lover of art, and a French mother, heiress of a 200-year-old family tannery, Pascale Théard grew up in Port-au-Prince to the rhythm and beat of Hait’s unique culture. Her childhood was filled with art and creation which eventually became her lifelong passion and career. Pascale left Haiti to study in France where she worked with some of the top luxury leather goods brands in Paris and Milan before returning home to launch her own unique brand, Pascale Théard Creations, the first handmade luxury leather goods brand in Haiti.

It was my second visit to Pascale Théard Creations and despite having toured her studio before, I was still completely mesmerized by the absolute beauty and life of her work.

Pascale Théard Creations

Pascale’s studio

Pascale Théard Creations

Immediately as you open the door, you are invited into a world bursting with color, life and ingenuity. The words painted across the wall reveal Pascale’s utter love and devotion to her country: AYITI NAN KÈ’M (“Haiti is in my heart)”.

Her current theme is based on the incredible, vibrant art found on Haiti’s tap-taps. A tap tap (which literally means “quick quick” is a privately owned vehicle for hire that is usually made from a pick-up truck and has some of the most incredible, painstakingly detailed art imaginable.  Even buses are used as larger tap taps for longer distance rides, and are equally as impressive as the done-up pick-up trucks. Along the streets, tap taps are everywhere painted like a kaleidoscope of colors and imagination. (I did an entire post on the art of Haiti’s tap taps. To read, click here).

This time Pascale was not in town to greet us however her lovely mother was there. We marveled at the gorgeous new products on display in the entryway and shop before heading back to see the artisans and craftsmen and women behind the scenes. I couldn’t resist purchasing a beaded vodou doll for my daughter and a beautiful leather and beaded passport holder for myself. I knew that would be an instant conversation starter while traveling!

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Atelier Calla, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

A Visit with Haitian Bone and Horn Artist Christelle Paul

“Sonje lapli ki leve mayo ou” – Remember the rain that made your corn grow (Haitian proverb)

I had never heard of Horn and Bone art until I first visited Haiti two years ago and met with Haitian Horn and Bone artist Christelle Paul, founder and chief designer of her workshop Atelier Calla“ in Port-au-Prince. Horn and Bone art began within the walls of Haiti’s prisons in the 1950s. To pass the time, the men in prison enjoyed playing games and they ingeniously discovered they could use old horns and bones to make pieces for card games. The art continued to evolve over the years being passed down from generation to generation.

Christelle has always been passionate about art yet she pursed a career in business and worked in the banking industry for many years. One day back in 2006 she was out shopping and noticed that there were a lot of products made out of horn and bone yet none that she really liked. This inspired her to start creating her own horn and bone jewelry based on the designs and ideas she desired. What began as a hobby suddenly grew into a passion. Yet the journey from being a full-time banker to full-time artist was a long one.

A series of setbacks such as the devastating 2010 earthquake stopped Christelle from following her dreams. A inspiring meeting with world renown designer Donna Karan was the final push Christelle needed to leave banking and pursue her passion for Bone and Horn art full-time. Her workshop Atelier Calla“ was opened in October of 2011 and today her team employs a handful of artisans within the community who were once unemployed. Her mission is to provide fair wages and work opportunities to help young, unemployed people find a fulfilling, sustainable career in the arts. She is a remarkable woman.

The last time I was in Haiti in 2015, I had visited Christelle’s studio to learn more about this unique kind of art and also hear how her studio and workshop have helped other Haitians pursue a career in Horn and Bone art. Since my past visit two years ago, Christelle has moved to a new location in the center of Port-au-Prince in her mother’s home that was abandoned after the 2010 earthquake. Christelle is in the process of rebuilding the house as her studio and workshop. The roof fell down and walls have crumbled leaving a big part of the house in ruins. However, Christelle is determined to rebuild and get her new studio and workshop all fixed up. She has done it before seven years ago after the earthquake struck and she lost everything. She had to start all over again, working seven days a week while raising three young children yet succeeded. She attributes her strong resilience to simply being Haitian. The path is never easy but with hard work, perseverance and resilience I am certain Christelle will succeed.

Driving from our hotel to Christelle’s studio. Conditions in Port-au-Prince are still very difficult and the infrastructure throughout the country significantly needs to be improved. This is a challenge for entrepreneurs as it makes getting their products to the market difficult. 

Caribbean CULTURE Haiti
Jean Baptiste Jean Jospeph, Isador Gallery, Haiti

A Step Inside the Studio of Vodou Priest and Artist Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph

“Kay koule tronpe soley, men li pa tronpe lapli” – Haitian proverb meaning “A leaky house can fool the sun but it can’t fool the rain”. 

No visit to Croix-des-Bouquets is complete without a stop at the studio of world-famous vodou artist and priest, Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph. Jean Baptiste’s Isidor Gallery has been receiving customers from all over the world for years and some of his most impressive pieces sell for thousands of dollars. Yet despite his fame and notoriety, like many of the other highly successful artists of Croix-des-Bouquets Jean Baptiste has decided to stay in Haiti and continue his work and mentorship to other aspiring artists. This is what makes Croix-des-Bouquets so special.

Stepping into the Isidor Gallery feels like stepping into a dream. The scent of incense flavors the air and the walls are filled with a riot of colorful, imaginative vodou flags intricately designed and handcrafted. The lights are low or even off, and the hot, humid heat of Haiti adds to a slightly dizzying effect. To be inside Jean Baptiste’s studio and to see his work, gives one a true sense of Haiti’s rich, intricate culture and religion. It feels like magic.

Croix-des-Bouquet Haiti

Jean Baptiste Jean Jospeph, Isador Gallery, Haiti

Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph was born in 1967 in La Vallé Bainet and was raised in Croix-des-Bouquets, a community known for its metal artisans in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. At a young age Jean Baptiste became passionate for folk art and textiles. Following his dream and passion for beadwork, he worked in a small factory where he honed his skills by sewing pearls and beads onto wedding dresses. Then in 1991, thanks to the receipt of a small loan from a friend, Jean Baptiste opened Isidor Gallery in Croix-des-Bouquets.

Caribbean CULTURE Haiti
Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti

A Visit to Meet the Metal Artisans in Croix-des-Bouquets

No trip to Haiti is complete without a visit to Croix-des-Bouquets. Croix-des-Bouquets is a unique artist community on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince that has grown into one of the largest, sustainable metal art communities in Haiti. It all began in the 1950s by a local blacksmith named Georges Liautaud who began using recycled oil drums to create amazing freestanding sculptures of art known as “fer découpé”. Liautaud mentored and inspired many metal artisans within the growing community of Croix-des-Bouquets and although he passed away in 1992, his most celebrated apprentice Serge Jolimeau continues to be a moving force within the community. Known as the godfather of Croix-des-Bouquets, Jolimeau opened up his land to the artisans so they have a place to work for free and learn the trade through apprenticeships.

Today, Croix-des-Bouquets has over 1,000 metal artisans with over 60 different shops and studios creating social change and opportunity within the community. It is a magical, happy place filled with energy and life. Although Jolimeau travels the world with his art, he continues to reside in Croix-des-Bouquets where he supposedly never even bothers to lock his door. It is that kind of close-knit community; a sharp contrast to some of the neighboring slums.

Croix-des-Bouquets is located on the edge of Port-au-Prince in the district of Noailles. You can tell you have arrived in the right place by the non-stop clanking of the hammers on metal. Beautiful handmade metal signs hang outside each workshop and the entire place is alive with the sounds of creativity. I felt like a kid in a candy shop looking at row after row of artwork with each piece being more spectacular than the last. My camera in hand and notebook ready, we began our tour of Croix-des-Bouquets and I was thankful it was not my first visit. Taking it all in for the first time can be quite overwhelming.

Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti

Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti

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Observatoire, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Where to Eat and Stay in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

“Anpil men chay pa lou” – Haitan proverb meaning “Many hands make a load lighter”.

To say that the bustling, congested and vibrant capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, is a bit chaotic and overstimulating would be an understatement. Monstrous traffic combined with endless honking horns, pedestrians, street vendors, motorbikes and every thing imaginable being sold on the street leaves you with such an immense sensory overload that your head is spinning by the end of the day.

As a newcomer, it is hard to conceive that peaceful, beautiful places coexist with the utter chaos of this hectic city of neglected potholes, broken down cars and uncollected garbage. However if you dig deep within the local culture and outskirts of town, you will be surprised at what true treasures Port-au-Prince has to offer.

Above the urban sprawl rising up the northern hills of the Massif de la Selle lies the affluent suburb of Pétionville which was founded in 1831 and named after Alexandre Sabes Pétion (1770-1818), a Haitian general and president who is recognized as one of the founding fathers of Haiti. Today Pétionville hosts some of the most desired restaurants, shops, hotels and residences in the capital. The views from Pétionville are beautiful and the air is much clearer and calmer than in Port-au-Prince.

However, the growth of Pétionville has not come without a price. A lack of governance in development has led to some serious problems with squatters. On the outskirts of Pétionville, a massive slum of rural migrants have dangerously built homes moving up the slopes of the mountainside, offering little protection against mudslides, heavy rains and earthquakes. The slums are always in view and are a big contradiction to the large mansions and wealth of Pétionville.

Oftentimes it was hard for me to wrap my head around the luxury I was experiencing and the horrible conditions just across the way. Yet, as a conscious traveler to many developing countries, it is something I just have had to accept and hope that at least my voice as a blogger and my tourist dollars will somehow help.

Hotel Montan Pétionville, Haiti

Off in the distance, moving up the hills at the edge of Pétionville lies the slums. These were built illegally by rural migrants who came to the city.

Pétionville, Haiti

Sadly these slums are poorly constructed and prone to washing away during mudslides. A lot of destruction and devastation happened here too from the 2010 earthquake.

From Port-au-Prince, there is one main road that winds up the mountainside to Pétionville. The road is narrow and depending on the time of day, traffic can be horrific especially if there is a stalled car. It is best to plan at least an hour from downtown to Pétionville unless you leave very early in the morning or very late at night.

As you drive up the mountain, the road is filled with art stands selling all kinds of local Haitian art. The views of the city are spectacular but it is hard to stop since there are no shoulders on the road.

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One thing I love to do when I travel is stay and eat local. Being conscious about where my tourist money is spent and how can have a big impact on the local community. Sadly, the majority of revenue earned from tourism often goes into only a few hands (large international corporations or wealthy elite) and very little money goes to support the local community. This is a huge missed opportunity because supporting local businesses creates a ripple effect that benefits entire communities of people. More local jobs means more income enabling more people to send their children to school, buy food and afford homes. In a country of vast unemployment, sustainable local tourism has an enormous potential to help eradicate Haiti’s crippling poverty.

I was pleased that our guide Haitian-American Natalie Tancrede of Explore with Nat selected all locally run and owned venues for our stay in Port-au-Prince. We could have chosen to stay at the beautiful new Marriott Hotel downtown but instead opted to stay at the tranquil, family owned Hotel Montana in Pétionville. It was my second stay at this beautiful hotel and I would go back there in a heartbeat.

Here is my list of the best places to stay and eat in Port-au-Prince.

Where to Stay:

Hotel Montana

The Hotel Montana is a true gem. Located up in the hills of Pétionville high above Port-au-Prince Hotel Montana has been run by a Haitian family since 1947 and is designed in Haitian Art Deco flair. The grounds and 45 rooms are stunning and the staff is delightful. There is a large open-air terrace that has a restaurant, bar and pool affording breathtaking views of the city below. The personalized service is lovely and it feels like a home away from home for many of the guests.

Hotel Montana Pétionville, HaitiHotel Montana Pétionville, Haiti

Pétionville, Haiti

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Haiti Bound: A Week Exploring Culture and Adventure

“Dèyè mòn gen mòn” – Haitian proverb meaning “beyond mountains, more mountains”. 

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Haiti as part of a social good blogging trip to learn about the amazing artisan market that is helping put Haiti on the map. It was a life-changing trip that challenged a lot of misperceptions about this beautiful place. I wrote quite a lot about the trip and had always wanted to go back but the timing never seemed to work out. (To view all my posts on my past trip to Haiti, click here. There are a ton but these are some of my most favorite posts on my blog to date!).

Carnaval 2015 Port-au-Prince

Our group, #Bloggers4Haiti

Fast forward, and I am now sitting in the Miami International Airport waiting to catch my flight to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I will once again be traveling with my Haitian-American friend Nathalie (Nat) Tancrede who at the time ran the artisan program in Haiti. But this time, I will be doing something completely different. I will be joining Nat on her first adventure and cultural tour for her new travel business, Explore with Nat, as her storyteller and social media companion. I can hardly wait!

I will be live blogging and social media sharing during the entire week in Haiti and it is my goal to show the world the beautiful, amazing parts of Haiti – not the sadness they read about and see in the media. As a dedicated writer, I did what I always do before going on a trip. I purchased a travel guide – or shall I say the only travel guide on the market. Haiti is not currently known as a tourist destination and only the most off the beaten path travelers seem to venture to the tiny nation. It is my aim to uncover the beauty and culture of this often misunderstood place, and I will have a week to do it.

During my past trip, I visited Port-au-Prince and Jacmel, a lovely coastal town a few hours away from the capital. This time I will be exploring a few new places such as Cap Haitien and a beach resort near Montrouis. I will be learning more about the historical and cultural side of Haiti which will be utterly fascinating.

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