Twenty minutes from the port city of Les Cayes, is one of the Caribbean’s best kept secrets: Abaka Bay Resort, on the enchanting island of Ile a Vache.

By Ralph Clermont
Photographed by Garth Aikens

It takes three and a half hours to leave Port –Au- Prince and it’s maddening contradictions behind. In the capital city, people squat on the sidewalks, selling and shouting. Street children elbow each other in the dirt and intense heat to gawk inside our 4 x 4s and sell us dous makos; others hawk plastic pouches of water out of burlap sacks perched on their heads like oversized turbans. Men in faded clothes sell paintings, cell phone chargers and tubes of car oil. Taptaps overflow with madansara and their huge baskets of vegetables and fruits, their poultry and goats. Cars drive exactly in the middle of the road, honking fiercely to scare of people, dogs and pigs.

As we drive south, we are in need of an oasis. We look in amazement as the land finally sweeps and snakes through the majestic mountains of les Cayes, leading up to the magical moment when sea and mountains converge into a breathtaking panorama that remind us of Haiti’s unparalleled natural beauty. We draw in the mingled scents of salt air and white oleander, sunlight and palms. 

Abaka Bay’s owner Fernand Sajous is a laid back guy. His ferry shuttles between the mainland and the island. As we dash through the crystal blue sea, we think about James Bond approaching the mysterious Island of Dr. No. Nothing could have prepared us for what lies ahead. Nestled in the lush mountains of Anse du Four, overlooking the sea, are the secret hideaways of Abaka Bay, “where Time stands still.”

We found our haven.

Fernand’s wife, Dinah, greets us with rum cocktails. She reveals an outgoing and vivacious personality that instantly puts everyone at ease. We let out a collective “wow” and marvel at the stunning locale. The place is an absolute paradise. On this small Island (10 miles long and 5 miles wide), we walk through the coconut palms and take in the freshness of the air and the scent of tropical foliage. Breathtaking caves, imposing mountains and spectacular waterfalls are all part of the surroundings. We’re away from the chaos, as if we’ve traveled back in time to a simpler world. With no cars on the island, it’s a real treat. 

Originally, Abaka Bay was envisioned as a private place where Fernand and Dinah would entertain friends and family members. Later, the concept evolved into a small hotel that now features 24 rooms and will soon expand to 40. “We want to hold onto the quaint vibe and personal charm that the place is known for,” Fernand says. “This is a truly exotic experience, similar to Mustique or Turks and Caicos. It’s very different from the thousands arriving from cruise ships at Labadie.” Dinah ads. “This place is a sanctuary for discerning travelers, lovers, adventures in search of a more intimate experience, less commercial. People come here to escape, which is why we have no TV’s or phones in the rooms.”

In such an intimate setting, one feels like a private island owner. No doubt the formula has proven successful. The place has become a favorite hideaway for honeymooners, European diplomats and the Haitian Diaspora looking for the best that Haiti has to offer or a place to feel proud of. Lovers and adventure seekers would not want to miss taking a short excursion to their private piece of paradise, “Ile des Amoureux” or Lover’s Island – a little sand bar literally in the middle of the ocean.
Alas, the real world awaits and nothing lasts forever. After three blissful days of frolicking on the beach, eating local food and enjoying wonderful company, we head back to Port-au-Prince, and from there to Miami or New York. We’ll forever remember Abaca Bay. We leave you with some of the stunning images of this slice of paradise