Travel Spotlight

Guadeloupe: Ten to Know

This is an exciting time for the Guadeloupe Islands and there is much good to come. Direct flights from the Northeast arrive in combination with the opening of Memorial ACTe (Temporarily closed) in Pointe-a-Pitre, a world-class museum dedicated to the memory and history of the slave trade, the best hotels are undergoing renovations and the island is looking to better cater to the luxury travel market. Here are ten things to know when considering a trip.

During peak season, you can fly direct…

For the first time in 20 years, Norwegian Airlines is offering direct flights from the Northeast (Boston, New York City and Baltimore) to Guadeloupe’s Pointe-á-Pitre International Airport. JFK will have flights on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from December until the end of April. These new flights are part of an initiative to increase tourism to the island.

While there is plenty to keep you busy on Guadeloupe, if you want to combine it with another Caribbean island, add on a few nights in Martinique, two islands south of Guadeloupe, where Norwegian Airlines is also offering direct flights to and from the Northeast.

It is called the Guadeloupe Islands for a reason.

Shaped like a butterfly, Guadeloupe has two main islands, Grande Terre and Basse Terre, which are close enough to be connected by a bridge.

Generally speaking, Grande Terre island is flat and sun-drenched, and its southern coast is dotted with white- and gold-sand beaches beginning with St. Francois toward the far end and followed by Sainte Anne. Up next are the beaches of Gosier, which is the closest beach area to Pointe-a-Pitre, the largest city of Guadeloupe and home to the island’s international airport. This island is best for those who want beach and relaxation. Days can be spent beach-hopping, taking part in water activities, playing tennis and golf and visiting local markets and sites. Grande Terre is where the best hotels and restaurants and an international golf course are located.

Basse Terre is home to Guadeloupe National Park, a tropical rainforest, and the active Soufriere volcano, which last erupted in 1976. While you can still hit the black-, golden- and white-sand beaches, this island attracts outdoorsy types because of the activities it offers: hiking, canyoning, scuba diving, biking, surfing and more.

The other islands located off the coast of the mainland are Marie Galante, a sleepy, flat island known for its wooden windmills, La Désirade and Iles des Saintes (pictured above), a string of small islands known for their French seaside village feel, all of which are easily accessible by ferry or private boat and perfect for a day trip.

Guadeloupe is a little bit of France in the Caribbean.

Guadeloupe is a French overseas territory in the southern Caribbean and it is France. The locals speak French and many of them grew up between France and Guadeloupe (or Martinique, another French territory). At the very least, most Guadeloupeans have family in France and uphold the French culture, as evidenced by the abundance of boulangeries, all hawking warm, delicious baguettes and pastries.

.. and the food is French Creole. The French Creole food—a fusion of African, European, Indian and Caribbean influences—is colorful, spicy and tasty. There is a lot of fresh seafood (fish, crab, conch) and many versions of curry. One popular dish is a whole fried or grilled fish with rice, plantains and spicy vegetables. Most restaurants serve a selection of French Creole food, while others offer a more diverse French-inspired menu. Regardless, the cuisine is all flavorful, authentic and served in laid-back settings, so don’t expect a scene like in St. Barth’s.

To maximize your time, renting a car is necessary.

Whether you plan on spending your days lazily beach hopping or tackling every outdoor activity Guadeloupe has to offer, you will need a rental car. While there are taxis for hire, they become expensive after a while. The island’s infrastructure is strong, the roads well-paved and well-marked, and you drive on the right side of the road, so navigating on your own is easy.

Guadeloupe is paradise for adventurous beach lovers.

The islands are home to a wide variety of beautiful white-, gold- and black-sand beaches, but if you want to see all three, you have to be willing to move around and explore both Grande Terre and Basse Terre. Part of what makes the beaches so nice is that they are undeveloped (do not expect to find chairs or beach service). Instead, come prepared with towels and a picnic lunch. Some beaches are lined with beach shacks serving traditional local food.

If you plan to spend the majority of your time on the beach, stay at least three nights (although beach bums could easily enjoy up to 7).

Guadeloupe is not high-luxury.

Historically, the majority of Guadeloupe’s travelers have stayed in guesthouses and bed and breakfasts, so there are no five-star, and just one four-star, hotels. The nicest hotel option is La Toubana (, located in Sainte Anne on Grande Terre. Its newly renovated suites and villas have gorgeous ocean views, and they are a steal compared to similar options on other Caribbean islands. The service is buttoned up, and once the hotel has finished its renovation of its public spaces, it will be a strong option for those wanting a comfortable base for their stay. Keep in mind that the locals have a French sensibility and are on “island time,” so patience is key as service can be slower than usual. For truly picky travelers, the destination is not quite there yet.

Guadeloupe is all about the experiences – and great for hiking, biking and diving enthusiasts.

Thanks in large part to its diverse geography, Guadeloupe has much to offer the active traveler. Hiking enthusiasts can cover much terrain. Warm up on the trails of Guadeloupe’s National Park, a tropical rainforest with of waterfalls, to prepare for your hike to the top of the active Soufriere volcano.

The island is also a haven for cycling enthusiasts of all levels, who can take advantage of the 600 miles of excellently paved roads. It’s no surprise that the biking terrain seems endless: it is Guadeloupe’s number one sport.

Those interested in scuba diving cannot miss the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Reserve off the west coast of Grande Terre. There are sites for all experience levels and a couple reserved for advanced divers. La Grotte aux Baracudas, a beautiful blue cave, is known for its plentiful barracudas.

Other activities including canyoning, mountain biking and surfing as well as your typical Caribbean activities such as snorkeling, fishing, sailing, kite surfing, windsurfing, kayaking and swimming. There is also a beautiful botanical garden for nature lovers. For those who want to partake in many of these activities, plan to spend at least five nights on the islands.

Guadeloupe’s vibrant culture and history are important, and both should be experienced during your stay.

One of the world’s largest centers dedicated to the memory and history of slave trade, the newly opened Memorial ACTe museum is set on the site of a former sugar factory. The impressive museum tells a story through the ages by intertwining an interactive educational exhibition with contemporary art. While the permanent exhibition tells a world history of slave trade, Guadeloupe’s part is often highlighted, bringing the tragic events even closer to home.

Follow your time at Memorial ACTe with a visit to Point-a-Pitre, the largest city in Guadeloupe at 1.02 square miles. Here you can wander through the colorful food and spice market on the harbor, before walking through the town square, and down the charming streets where colonial homes have been gorgeously renovated or left dilapidated. If you are lucky, you’ll stumble upon a Gwoka music performance in the street, a UNESCO World Heritage-protected tradition since late 2014.

If you have three days or more, be sure to plan for a boat day.

Charter a private boat and take a short cruise to one of the surrounding islands. Les Saintes’ 2-square-mile main island, Terre de Haut, has the most to offer with its picturesque French village, gorgeous white-sand beaches, excellent snorkeling and fort with a small museum and great views. Rent a moped or golf cart and explore the island on your own. Visit Pain de Sucre, a tiny beach that is only accessible by way of a short rocky hike. With views of Sugar Loaf Hill, a 170-foot high basalt slope that dives down into the Bay of Saints, and great snorkeling, it is not to be missed. End the day by indulging in a late lunch in town at Au Bon Vivre (31 rue Jean Calot), where the French chef incorporates French influences into his innovative cuisine.

Marie Galante is a pancake-shaped island that’s best for those craving a taste of traditional Caribbean life. Developed around sugar cane production, the island still has horse-drawn carriages filled with sugar cane. The island is also famous for its 100-plus wooden windmills.

Contact the Indagare Bookings Team for more information and to plan a trip to Guadeloupe.

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