(c) Photos by Jessie and Francois Adrien
CAYES, formerly Aux Cayes (Haitian Creole: Okay), is a town and seaport in southwestern Haiti, with a population of approximately 45,904 people (1995 estimate). Estimates from 2008 place the population at close to 70,000 people. Due to its isolation from the political turmoil of the capital, Port-au-Prince, it is one of Haiti's major ports, with export trade concentrating on mostly coffee and sugarcane and being the world's largest supplier of vetiver at 250 tons annually, a necessary ingredient of perfume and fragrance manufacturing. Minor exports include bananas and timber.
The first European settlement in southwestern Hispaniola was the town of Salvatierra de la Sabana, founded by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar in 1540. This settlement was abandoned in 1540, and the area was uninhabited until the French colonial administration founded the town of Aux Cayes ("On the cayes"), so named due to its proximity to Île à Vache. The town was destroyed twice by hurricane in 1781 and 1788.
On 24 December 1818, Simón Bolívar came to Les Cayes in search of support for his movement against the Spanish colonial government in South America.
PORT-SALUT is a coastal town in the Sud Department of Haiti and the hometown of Haiti's deposed president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide who was born there in 1953. Port-Salut is a popular destination for local Haitians as well as tourists to a certain degree seeking relaxation and tranquility due to the beautiful beaches that the town is surrounded by. The area has yet to be discovered on a mainstream tourist level. With proper management and investment, Port-Salut could become a major tourist destination in Haiti[original research?], a country whose tourism industry, full of potential, has been struggling for decades.
In order to reach Les Cayes, Haiti's third largest city, enjoy the coastal drive down RN2. In Aquin, there are lovely rivers and one can see a tiny island, which has a ruins of an English fort. A good time to visit Les Cayes is in August, during The Fête de Notre Dame. Locals dance, eat and drink till the early morning hours. A daily ferry crosses to Ile-â-Vache, where one can see Indian remains and enjoy good beaches.
From the village of Dubreuil, take the one day excursion and visit Fortresse des Platons, the impressive ruins of the fortress Dessalines had built in 1804. Enjoy the hill resort at Camp Perrin and rent horses to reach Saut Mathurine, Haiti's biggest waterfall. Continuing up the steep climb, one enters Macaya National Park. At 2,347m, it is home to Haiti's last virgin cloud forest, lush flora and endangered fauna. There are basic camping facilities at Plaine Durand. Only the adventurous should attempt to climb Pic Macaya.
A 90min. drive from Les Cayes, a visit to Port Salut is a must. One of the most beautiful wild beaches in Haiti, the white sand juts into the water, creating tiny islands. There is also a little waterfall outside of the city where one can swim.