Posted by: Caroline | June 30, 2012

Lounging in Labadie

So, remember those tap-taps I told you about? This is our view from one–packed in with 15 other people, a spare tire, two huge bags of individual water packets, a cooler, luggage, and my fear that all of us would tumble down the side of the mountain as we bumped along a treacherous, cliff-hugging road. My hope for Plage Labadie (Labadie Beach), a reputed gem of Haiti’s North, is what kept me going as my spine was crunched between pieces of metal and my legs wedged between a person, the cooler, and my backpack. (Not the most comfortable way to travel after a day riding horses up a mountain.) And yet, after extensive discussion, Alex and I concluded that this is NOT the hardest we have ever worked for a beach. That honor still securely belongs to Carrusca, Mozambique.

We survived the harrowing ride there, which dropped us right in front of the boat taxis. We hopped in one and asked for Kay Norm.

Norm’s Place is a beautifully restored French colonial style guesthouse with its own swath of beach along the sea and plenty of mango trees. The place was started by an American businessman in the 70s (back when it was just ruins). His widow, the witty Angelique, now runs the place.

The view from Norm’s Place.

The guesthouse’s private beach, which is often shared with fishermen and village kids out for a swim.

The place is swimming in history. Angelique told us that many of the building materials for the Citadelle came from here, and she’s found a number of artifacts from the years leading up to independence and after, like this cannon.

The best part about Plage Labadie is the vibrant village…

… filled with inquisitive kids who can’t help but chase down strangers and try out their English phrases.

This little guy was particularly enamored with Alex.

The town square, with trash cans courtesy of the US.

Our favorite place on the square was this walk-up bar (no open container issues here) run by the affable Justin. As we sipped our Prestige beers in the square, he walked up to us and said, “I don’t mean to bother you, but someone needs to tell you. This is a quiet place. A calm place. No one will do anything to you here. If anything bad happens to you, I will take full responsibility.” As with many small towns, everyone at the Plage seems incredibly honest in two ways: they will tell you what they think, and they will never, ever cheat you–nor expect you to cheat them. Once when we forgot our wallets back at Norm’s Place, a guy selling us water said, “That’s fine, you can pay later.”

The perfect activity after sunset: tuck into a home-cooked meal of fresh fish…

…or lobster.

Hopefully I’ve got you convinced that the Haiti we see on the news is not the full story. Labadie village feels as tranquil and cozy as any close-knit small town, with families chatting on their laundry-draped porches and kids playing bottlecap checkers in the central square.

So here’s the weird part.

While all of this is going on, up to three huge cruise ships pull up to a walled-off beach compound (once a part of Haiti but now essentially property of Royal Caribbean) and unleash loads of tourists onto a strip of perfectly manicured sand that seems a world away from Labadie village.

Here, you see real Plage Labadie in the foreground and Royal Caribbean’s version in the background.

Despite being one of Haiti’s most beautiful beachfronts, Haitians aren’t allowed to go there. Although they could once pay a fee to enjoy it on the 6 days out of the week when cruise ships aren’t there, it’s now completely private.

Although the beach looked gorgeous from afar, we were able to find a little slice of paradise for ourselves. You’ll read about that next.


  1. […] only complaint was the lack of any vendors, which deprived us of one of our favorite things about Labadie village a couple years prior (so close, but yet so incredibly far away, on the north coast of the country, […]

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