Our 9 Travel Tips for Labadee, Haiti - Don't get caught off guard in this popular cruise ship port.

Labadee, Haiti - have you been? It's a private beach area for the #cruise line Royal Caribbean. We went for the first time a few years ago and just can't wait to get back again. Labadee isn't for lightweights, especially when it comes to shopping. Here's our 9 very best tips for visiting this popular cruise port.

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Dadtography is traveling again - this time we head to Labadee, Haiti for our top family travel tips when visiting Labadee.

Labadee is a private port / resort leased by the cruise line Royal Caribbean International from the island nation. Many cruise lines have private islands in the Caribbean, and this is effectively similar, but is not its own stand-alone island apart from the main island of Haiti.

I was able to visit Labadee on a Royal Caribbean cruise this year aboard the Liberty of the Seas ship, sailing out of Port Canaveral, Florida. Cruising is one of my family's favorite way to travel, and for good reason! Prior to this cruise, we had never been to Labadee before, and definitely learned a lot from our visit. Below are a few tips for first-time visitors to the Caribbean island paradise.

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Labadee Tip #1 - Decide First or Wing It

As mentioned, Labadee functions similar to a private island for Royal Caribbean. It's a private beach, shopping area and attraction destination, with little to no access to the rest of the island of Haiti. If you ask Royal Caribbean, there are a ton of things to do on the private resort. Their website boasts a whole list of attractions, from shopping to food, adventure activities (such as the zip line) and, of course the beach.

Labadee, Haiti Zip Line

We went into this port of call without a definitive plan. We opted not to book any of the excursions; instead, we wanted to make the day one of relaxation on the beach with a little souvenir shopping sprinkled in for good measure. This approach totally worked for us. The beach wasn't so crowded and we were able to find a great spot under a nice shade tree with relative ease.

On the flip side, you can also approach your visit to Labadee fully booked out with excursions. We watched the zip-liners for the better part of a day, and I have to say it looks like a pretty good time!

The bottom line is that you don't have to treat this port of call like a "real" stop if you don't want to. Relax, wing it and enjoy a quiet day if you'd like. There are often more stops on the itinerary that deserve more planning and attention.

Labadee Tip #2 - Bring Cash (But Keep it Safe)

As mentioned, we really only had two goals with this stop on our cruise:

  • Relax on the beach
  • Shop for souvenirs

I can report "mission accomplished" however, we learned quite a lot from our experience in the open-air market just beyond the beaches of Labadee. The first thing we learned is that cash is king. The artisans of Labadee have a lot of items for sale, so if you're looking to pick up a painting or hand-carved treasure to bring home, be sure to bring cash.

It also should be noted that there have been a few "incidents" in the past at Labadee, and as is always best practice when traveling, be sure to keep your funds safe and hidden from view.

We went into this port of call without a definitive plan. We opted not to book any of the excursions; instead, we wanted to make the day one of relaxation on the beach with a little souvenir shopping sprinkled in for good measure. This approach totally worked for us. The beach wasn't so crowded and we were able to find a great spot under a nice shade tree with relative ease.

On the flip side, you can also approach your visit to Labadee fully booked out with excursions. We watched the zip-liners for the better part of a day, and I have to say it looks like a pretty good time!

The bottom line is that you don't have to treat this port of call like a "real" stop if you don't want to. Relax, wing it and enjoy a quiet day if you'd like. There are often more stops on the itinerary that deserve more planning and attention.

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Labadee Tip #3 - Prices are Negotiable (...Sometimes)

There are two primary areas where goods are sold in Labadee - in the market building just beyond the beach. This is a building with (presumably) officially sanctioned and vetted vendors. It's a relatively small building with only a few vendors. Prices generally seemed to be higher in the market building, but the shop-keepers were far less aggressive in their sales tactics.

Cruise Pier Performers at Labadee, Haiti

The "real" deals are to be had in the open-air market beyond the building. The vendors in the open-air market are still credentialed by the cruise line (I assume, based on their badges), however, it should be noted that their sales tactics are extremely high-pressure. We had nearly every vendor trying to approach us to enter their booth / shop, placing items in our hand, offering the best deals, etc.

Prices are negotiable, and naturally the artists and vendors are trying to get top dollar for their items, but be extremely cautious when being approached by vendors. They will try to force their items upon you and they will start high their pricing, so don't be afraid to talk them down.

Labadee Tip #4 - Stick to Your Budget

To be honest, there are a lot of pretty cool items for sale, especially in the open-air market in Labadee. From hand-carved statues of all shapes and sizes to large and small paintings, t-shirts, hats, carved turtles made of stone and more. There's just about something for everyone here.

Of course, that can be a pitfall as well. We purchased a few items and had to stop to make sure we had money left for future ports. We realized in that first stop at Labadee that we needed to set a per-port budget and stick to it and that proved to be very helpful to us the rest of the trip!

Labadee, Haiti - A Local Vendor
Waves Crashing - On the Beach in Labadee, Haiti

Labadee Tip #5 - Don't Be Afraid to Say No

I mentioned above that the vendors in Labadee can be extremely aggressive (I can't really 0ver-emphasize that point). I do understand they likely make the majority of their family's income through sales in their booths and shops. More than a few were willing to share the story of family members working hard to produce the statues, paintings and other items for sale there.

Don't be afraid to say "no" to vendors, though. Sure, I would have bought one of everything if I could and I was totally moved by a few of the (I believe genuine) stories I heard from the artisans. However, I couldn't buy one of everything and I had to say "no", to help ensure I'd be able to return to the island someday! 🙂

Labadee Tip #6 - Try the Zip Line

Disclaimer: neither my wife or I were able to try out the zip line on this trip, but it looked like a blast. We sat on the beach and watched family after family sail down the line from the top of the hill right in front of us, to the stop station on the beach. If I make it back to Labadee, I will definitely be giving the zip line a try!

[bctt tweet="Have you tried the #ZipLine on #Labadee? If you haven't, put it on your list! @royalcaribbean"]

Labadee Tip #7 - Save Money and Make it a Beach Day

The beaches on Labadee are really top-notch, I have to say. I am a Floridian and I have seen some pretty good beaches in my time. Labadee competes with the best of them. The sand was decent - a few areas had rocks and jagged areas, but they're pretty clearly marked. The water was clear and extremely blue and the views are just so relaxing and natural.

As with any vacation, you can spend money just about everywhere but my advice to you is to save your money in Labadee, hit the beach and eat on the boat (before or after your time on the island).

Labadee Tip #8 - Wear Sunscreen

It's the Caribbean, after all. My wife and I went in the summer and it was HOT and extremely sunny. We were sure to re-apply sunscreen on a regular basis even though we were under a tree for the better part of the day. There's nothing worse than getting a sunburn at the beginning or end of your trip. Avoid this at all costs and "always wear sunscreen".

Labadee, Haiti - Rhum Punch

Labadee Tip #9 - Try the Rhum Punch (If You're 21+)

When in Labadee...do as the locals do. Rum or in this case "rhum" is just about everywhere. If you're going to make it a beach day and you have a craving for refreshment, there is a bar not far off "Barefoot Beach". The drinks are cold, the sun will be hot. What's better than a tropical drink on a tropical island? I can't think of much!

Have you been to Labadee, Haiti? How was your experience in this popular cruise port? Share your thoughts below!

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