Activities in Jacmel
The municipality of Jacmel in southwest Haiti is known for many things. Here visitors can enjoy beautiful beaches, browse the numerous arts and crafts boutiques, study the French colonial architecture, and party the night away at several bars and nightclubs.
But there is one attraction that visitors would be amiss to skip. A gem that is in fact one of the main motivations for some travelers making Jacmel their destination. Yes, we are talking about Bassin Bleu. Check out all the fantastic reviews on TripAdvisor!
"The meandering road will take you through several small villages and diverse landscapes, at times intriguing, spectacular, or inspiring."
Getting There is Half the Fun
Hidden in the hills about 30 minutes from downtown Jacmel, Bassin Bleu is a series of blue water basins along the Petite Rivière de Jacmel. We would argue that a great part of what makes a visit to Bassin Bleu fun and exciting is the journey itself. The meandering road will take you through several small villages and diverse landscapes, at times intriguing, spectacular, or inspiring. Let's start our journey of a 3-course meal.
Starting from downtown Jacmel you first need to cross Rivière de la Cosse, a wide river also known as Grande Rivière de Jacmel. Since this is a nearly dry river, outside of the rainy season, you will likely cross the river bed itself, marking the start of the exciting journey. Visitors often marvel at the diverse use of the river by locals, from being used as a car wash, to a laundromat, to even a field to grow plantains and other crops! And yet, during the rainy season, the rainwater can at times overflow the river banks.
Crossing Grande Rivière de Jacmel
Past the river, your ride will take you through a few small villages, offering a brief glimpse of daily life outside the main cities. Keep your eyes trained on either side of the road, and you will spot countless plantain fields, small schools, and beautifully painted churches and small family homes.
School children walking on the road to Bassin Bleu
Soon you will reach the base of the hills, and midway through the climb you will be treated with a splendid view of the city of Jacmel sprawled below. This would be a good Kodak moment, to use an old catch phrase, or for a great selfie.
The City and Bay of Jacmel
Further up on the road, the peaceful view of the rolling hills in the distance provides more photo opportunities and a chance to experience a soul-nurturing moment. Granted, this may be something best left for the return trip, after the excitement of the basins.
The Main Course
A few miles ahead you will reach village Bassin Bleu and a small reception office, indicating you've arrived at your destination (almost). After paying a small contribution your will be greeted by eager guides offering their services in exchange for tips. (We suggest carrying small change, such as bills of 100 gourdes, for the tips.)
"This trek is a treat for naturalists and hikers alike."
But before you can reach the refreshing waters of the basins and dive in, there's a 15-minute walk waiting for you, with enough twists and turns to challenge the most decorated Boy Scout. And that's where the guides come in. (Note: You do not have to be in great physical shape for this trek).
Now on foot, this part of the journey offers an opportunity to enjoy a more physical, personal and rewarding experience, that engages all your senses. The rich and serene landscape ahead is home to various exotic trees, such as cacao, many with labels indicating their species. This trek is a treat for naturalists and hikers alike.
Bamboo trees at Bassin Bleu
Depending on the season, the walk may take you past fields of various crops grown by local farmers. From the ever present plantains to neat rows of various beans and peas, the fields are scattered where ever adequate conditions present themselves.
Off to the right of the footpath, are the entrances to the ominous looking, but safe caves, inviting the more adventurous explorers. A little further a small stream dotted by large rocks, is where you will encounter local residents attending to laundry as small kids play in the water. No need to be shy— a smile and a warm "bonjour" will easily break the ice.
Finally, the first of the signs bearing the names of the 3 water basins will indicate that you have arrived at your destination. Bassin Yes is first. Seemingly preferred by locals, this 15-foot (4.6 m) deep pool features a small water cascade and lush vegetation all around.
Bassin Yes at Bassin Bleu
A little more walking will lead you to the second pool, Bassin Palmiste. The water at this pool has such a vivid aqua green tint that one would be forgiven for believing it was created in a mad scientist's lab. It is about 57 feet (17.4 m) deep.
"...for many, the ultimate thrill will be the scaling of the waterfall and the exhilarating dive into the refreshing water of the deep end."
After going up a few steps and climbing down a short rock face, with the help of your guide and a rope, you will reach the most popular and best-known basin. Bassin Clair is characterized by a large boulder in the middle of deep turquoise waters, and a 32-foot (10 m) tall cascade at the far end.
With this basin at 75-feet (22.8 m) deep, non-swimmers should probably keep to the shallow end, before the boulder. But for many, the ultimate thrill will be the scaling of the waterfall and the exhilarating dive into the refreshing water of the deep end. For daring thrill seekers, the different heights from which one can dive provide even more adrenalin rush for repeated dives. One note of caution—exercise care while climbing the cascade, as the rock face will be slippery.
Bassin Clair, often referred as Bassin Bleu
An Adventure for All
There are few things to know in preparation for this excursion. There are no dressing rooms at the site so we suggest wearing your swimming apparel under your regular clothes. We also recommend wearing comfortable shoes and bringing towels and drinking water.
For the swimmers, the divers, the adventurers, the hikers, the naturalists, the photographers, or those who just love a fun time, a trip to Bassin Bleu is truly an adventure not to be missed. So make sure you leave room on your itinerary for this half day adventure.
Additional photographs to wet your appetite