Newly-renovated hotel is at the top of its class in Haiti’s capital
Haiti’s tourism boom is not just about gleaming new buildings with international brands that are new to the market. Those are critical new pieces to the puzzle for sure. But the story of Haiti’s resurgence as a premeire Caribbean travel destination is also found within the walls of longtime establishments that were already well-known and reliable options for traveler long before it was popular.
The Kinam Hotel— situated in the desirable center of Pétion-Ville across from the landmark Place Saint-Pierre— is one of the finest examples of how new construction and technology is blending with traditional Haitian culture and hospitality to appeal to a new generation of traveler. The Kinam recently underwent a multi-million dollar expansion project that added a new and improved wing to its property. The results — documented here on this page— put the new and improved Kinam at the top of its class in Haiti’s capital.
The Reporter visited the Kinam recently for a one-night visit as part of a multi-day tour that coincided with the inaugural launch of direct service between Boston-Port-au-Prince via JetBlue airlines. The Kinam is within about 15 minutes driving distance from the airport and — critically— offers a free door-to-door shuttle service, a key link for travelers who might otherwise find it frustrating to secure ground transport. It’s an amenity that some other hotels in the city lack, but it’s only the opening salvo in a barrage of finer touches that makes the Kinam a top choice for business and leisure travelers. (If you are driving yourself, the Kinam also features a secure 80-car covered garage that is adjacent to the hotel. In any event, the hotel has full concierge service that can arrange for transport, excursions and offer excellent referrals to nearby attractions.
The Kinam has been owned and operated by the same family for three generations. It originated as a nine-room hotel in 1900— but underwent its first major expansion in decades later, transforming into a gingerbread-style boutique hotel in 1985. The latest, modern update has retained the gingerbread wing— offering “vintage” rooms that are still very much in demand by many tourists.
But the majority of the rooms are now housed in the modern wing, that features a mix of room configurations, including oversized suites that can accommodate families with kitchens— a huge asset for diaspora and other travelers visiting with children. Many feature balconies overlooking Place Saint-Pierre and all of them — even the more moderate-sized rooms— are spacious, comfortable and climate-controlled (an asset in Port-au-Prince’s 90 degree summer days.) All 85 rooms in the new wing (which opened last year to rave reviews) equipped with ironing-boards, refigerators, safes, and Ipod docks.
The seven-floor modern wingwhich opened last year after a $26 million investment— is accented with a blend of Haitian artwork and fabrics that are exclusively fabricated in Haïti with all interior decoration done by Haitian artists and decorators. The lobby of the new Kinam is a signature piece of design, with a three story granite wall fountain that brings to mind the natural wonders of Haitian waterfalls with a contemporary flair.
“The new Kinam is a “melting pot” concept of ideas from different architects, decorators, interior designers that, as a team, have brought you this amazing hotel,” explains Christian Fombrun, the hotel’s director of food and beverage.
“Our idea was to showcase the diversity and richness of Haitian culture and talent,” explained Nathalie Antoine, the owner and general manager.
The blend of Haitian customs with international flavors is carried through in the cuisine at the Kinam as well. The hotel’s most spectacular restaurant is the third floor Le Rond-Point, which offers indoor and patrio seating that looks out over the park across the street. The sleek and modern feel to the restaurant is reflected in its menu, but not its prices. As with the hotel rooms — which include complimentary breakfast in its room packages this summer(!)— the value for the quality of food prepared at the Kinam makes it a very attractive option for travelers to Port-au-Prince.
The Reporter sampled a dinner menu that included variations on Haitian classics, including a magnificent pasta djon-djon (mushroom) dish modeled on the traditional diri djon-djon (mushroom rice.) A second restaurant that overlooks the outdoor pool in the adjacent gingerbread wing is another great option— and includes a full array of Haitian meals, from griot and cabrit to bannan pezi and pikliz. There is also an excellent ground-level cafe that serves Haitian-grown coffes and chocolates, along with a mix of baked goods.
Other notable modern amenities include free Wi-fi, tri-lingual conceierge service, two bars—including Tipsy, which offers a lively happy hour and football matches on big screen TVs— and an in-house gym, another amenity that is hard to find at other hotels in the country at present. And, since the Kinam shares a common owner with Pétion-Ville’s otjer standout hotel, Karibe (more on that property in a future edition), the Buteau Hospitality Group. As such, Kinam guests can arrange for spa services at Karibe’s excellent Botanik Spa.
Critically, the Kinam has its own array of shopping options right on property that really add to its luster, especially for busy travelers who might otherwise find it tough to get to some of Pétion-Ville’s other shops. The Kinam houses a Kenneth Cole store with clothing for men and women; it also has a fine eyewear store and two outstanding artisan galleries with a wide array of gift options, all of them crafted by Haitian artisans. The prices range from a few dollars American for keychains and other tin-work to thousands for fine art that gives to Galerie Marassa a museum feel.
All of these design features in the new and improved Kinam are the handiwork of the hotel’s extraordinary owner, Nathalie Antoine, who along with her husband Michel, has executed a work of wonder in Haiti’s tourism niche. She has managed to incorporate the fine flourishes of a modern hotel— one that might easily be at home in Miami— without upending the fine traditional elements of classic Haiti that many Americans, including many in the diaspora, still long for in their experience.
The Kinam Hotel is offering a special summertime room package that includes free breakfast, airport shuttle, wi-fi and first-class accommodations starting at just $80 per night. For more information, see their website hotelkinam.com