Tortuga (French: Île de la Tortue) is an island just north of Haiti.
The island was named "tortuga" (Spanish for turtle) by Christopher Columbus, who discovered it during one of his voyages. It soon after became a haven for pirates. It fell outside the jurisdiction of the East India Trade Company and Royal Navy, so anarchy and unruliness became the norm. It was featured in the modern-day film, Pirates of the Caribbean.
You won't have problems finding English-speaking people here. Communication is very easy on the island compared to the rest of the country.
There are boats from nearby Port-de-Paix to Basse-Terre, a coastal fishing port on the island. Transport is then possible to the nearby local capital via a little dinghy that brings you to a set of moored sailboats that set sail to the island when full. Foreigners (identified as anyone with white skin) pay more for passage.
If you want to visit the island on a day trip, go as early as possible.
Public transport is done by motorbikes. The prices can be a bit funny. Lots of negotiating might be required. You might see one car but there are no taxis. To get to the other side of the island is too steep for motorbikes, so you can go with them to a certain point, and then walk from there. There are no more motorbikes after the last sailboat arrival, or after dark.
The island has pristine beaches, which you will probably have all to yourself. Along with this, there are a few public buildings including churches and a school.
You can find shacks. There might be a proper restaurant in one of the hotels up on the hill.
Not much of a nightlife on Tortuga: the island basically closes down between sunset and sunrise.
The few bars on the island feature local and imported beer as well as hard liquor, but the stock is very limited. If they don't have what you're looking for, you can ask them to get it for you from the mainland. Most of the time you will end up paying in advance and then waiting a few hours till the next boat leaves and comes back.
There are about three hotels, powered by generators which may or may not have fuel at any given time. Don't expect your room to have a ceiling fan, a working air conditioner, or even running water.
There is no electricity on the island. The little stores have solar panels (one normally), so at the bar there might be music and one light bulb lit up. However, cell phone reception (with data!) is available. Just don't expect to be able to charge your battery.
Unfortunately, the island has not departed from its old pirate days. It is still known as a hotspot for smuggling to America, and a number of drug lords live in huge mansions overlooking the ocean.
- Haiti mainland