Tortuga, Haiti

Photo: PoohE via wikimapia
Photo: PoohE via Wikimapia

It’s taken nearly seven years, but Haiti is poised for a comeback. In January 2010, a massive earthquake devastated the Caribbean nation. Port-au-Prince was reduced to rubble. Millions of people were displaced. While more than 150,000 lives were lost. Though aid arrived quickly, the recovery was slow. Change—though put on pause by Hurricane Matthew—is finally coming now.

A big part of Haiti’s revival will come from tourism. An increase in visitors will bring cash, jobs, and opportunities to people who desperately need them. Haitian officials see huge potential in Tortuga, an island off the northwest coast of Hispaniola. A cruise port is already in development there.

Christopher Columbus dubbed the island Tortuga due to its turtle-shell shape during his first voyage to the Americas in 1492. The nearly 70-square-mile island changed hands—between the Spanish, the French, the English, and even pirates—in the decades that followed. Most recently, La Tortue, as the locals call it, has been known as a haven for drug smugglers. That too is about to change.

Mountainous La Tortue is still beautiful and, amazingly, largely undeveloped. The north coast is rocky and mostly inaccessible by both land and sea. Tobacco farms dot the south-facing slopes. Little fishing boats line Basse-Terre, the arrival point from Port-de-Paix on the mainland. While even smaller villages (connected only by boat), golden-sand beaches, hidden coves, and a protective reef face the Canal de la Tortue on the southern coast. The island is calm, pristine, and unspoiled. Go now, before the cruise ships arrive.

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