A little bit of France in the West Indies, boasting the same boulangeries and Francophones, all steeped in Caribbean Creole culture. Sometimes called the “butterfly island”, Guadeloupe is actually made up of a handful of smaller islands rather than one large landmass. The two main islands in the archipelago are beachy GrandTerre ideal for long, lazy days spent in sun, sand, and sea and to the West, BasseTerre dense with jungles, mountains, and waterfalls, if adventure is more your style, meaning that Guadeloupe offers the best of both worlds as far as exotic tropical vacations go in a way that many other islands don’t.
WHEN TO GO
Tourism is highest during Guadeloupe’s carnival season, which runs from January 6th to March 9th with festivals every Sunday. In the off season,
accommodation costs can drop by up to 40%, so it’s well worth the money to plan your visit accordingly. As in much of the Caribbean, Guadeloupe’s annual hurricane season lasts from June to November every year. Being wet and tropical, mosquitos are a problem all year ‘round, so don’t skimp on the DEET regardless of when you decide to visit.
HOW TO PACK
• If you’re planning on maximizing beachtime, you’re pretty safe with island vacation staples of shorts, sandals, and a lightweight linen or cotton top.
• Pack accordingly for adventure if you’re hoping to hike the jungle or climb La Soufrière, a light waterproof jacket, light layers or a good sweatshirt, and hiking boots are your best bet, as it does tend to get chilly up on the mountain.
WHAT TO KNOW
• Transportation. Taxis may be in abundance, but the cost of cab fare adds up quickly, and the bus system may be difficult for foreigners to navigate confidently. Rather, stay low on cost and high on flexibility by renting a car or moped. Guadeloupe’s roads are fairly straightforward, and driving is on the right hand side, so there’s no real reason not to.
- Accommodations: Don’t expect the stereotypical island resort experience. Instead, you’ll find plenty of picturesque lowkey, homegrown bedand- breakfast style lodgings, bungalows, and “gites” (old fashioned French style vacation cottages).
• The Language: Despite being surrounded by a handful of other English-
speaking Caribbean islands, Guadeloupe is still very much culturally (and linguistically) French. Learn at least a few of the basic French phrases hello, goodbye, thank you, excuse me, how much, do you speak English? just enough to get you by in quick interactions. Score extra points with locals and shopkeepers by taking the initiative and greeting them in their own language. They’ll love you for it.
• The Currency: Don’t bother with credit cards or US Dollars. Guadeloupe, uses the Euro as its unit of currency, and vendors typically only take cash, so buy your Euros before you arrive and leave the plastic at home.
• Get off the mainland: Make the most of the scenic bits of Guadeloupe off the beaten path of the two main islands via a short boat hop over to Marie Galante or La Désirade.
• Stop by the Damoiseau Distillery (Le Moule), or the Musée du Rhum (Sainte Rose) for a tour and free tasting session of some of the best rum in the Caribbean.
• Hike through the National Park to the summit of the active La Soufrière volcano, to take in a panoramic view of all entire archipelago.
• Catch a UNESCO protected traditional Gwo Ka “big drum” session.
• Scuba dive at the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Reserve at Plage de Malendure, Bouillante. Make sure to rub the statue for good luck.
• Catch a wave at the beach on Le Moule.
• Sample some worldfamous bokit a specialty Guadeloupean sandwich made from deep fried bread stuffed with meat, fish, or vegetables at La Petit Creux in Gosier.
• Visit some of the best beaches in the world on the St. Anne coastal strip
• Take a dip in Crayfish Falls, Basse Terre.
• Imbibe the local bev of choice “TiPunch”.
• Explore the jungles of BasseTerre from above via zip line or suspended canopy walkways at the Parc Zoologique et Botanique in the National Park of Guadeloupe.
• Pamper yourself at one of the islands’ many natural volcanic hot springs, sulphur baths, or mud pools; or take a jungle retreat and escape into serenity at the Tendacayou Ecolodge & Spa in Basse Terre.
• Shop for fresh, locally sourced produce at the open air markets in St. Anne or PointàPitre.
• Grand Anse, Deshaies
• Petit Anse, Pointe Noire
• Plage de Vieux Fort, MarieGalante
• Pont à MarieGalante, MarieGalante
• Plage de l’Autre Bord, Le Moule
• Plage de la Caravelle, Sainte Anne
• Plage de la Perle, Deshaies