Guadeloupe is the island you never knew you wanted to visit. When approaching the island in the plane, it’s as if it has risen out of a sparkly turquoise ocean, a mirage beach bucolic waiting you to explore. The island is a gorgeous, yet, slightly underdeveloped Caribbean Island (a part of the Lesser Antilles) and is a French “department” that has been largely undiscovered by American tourists. Why? Up until Norwegian Airlines introduced direct flights from the states, Guadeloupe has been a secret holiday getaway for the French.
But let me be honest and break down the brass tax. This island is filled with native Guadeloupeans, and white french folks on holiday. And if you know anything about how the Caribbean was populated during the slave trade, you know what I’m about to say. It’s pretty obvious that there are deeply rooted racial, and class tensions — disparities within Guadeloupe between the brown population (descendants of Africans who were dropped of during the slave trade and worked on sugar cane plantations), and the descendants of french colonists who still have the lion share of the wealth there. Brown Guadeloupeans (they’re Black people if you’re wondering, and they actually call themselves ‘Lé Neg’) started the 2009 French Caribbean General Strikes in response to the continued economic, and racial disparities there, and to express their righteous indignation of the status quo. Workers unionized, then decided to picket at their places of employment, not go to work (and unfortunately for visitors on holiday, most folks work in the tourism industry), march in the streets, and demand higher pay. The island virtually shut down, and they were met with police force. While it still remains to be seen if these strikes did anything to help the upward mobility of the Black population there, it’s still a gorgeous place to visit, and hey, that was almost ten years ago. I had to include this bit of history because well, I made a promise to be a more conscious traveler. But anyway! Let me get to what you came here for.
If you’re looking for an adventure that isn’t too far from the states, with bucolic islands, fresh seafood, and island hopping, this place is for you.
Guadeloupe is divided essentially into two big chunks. There’s Basse-Terre to the west, and Grande-Terre to the east, separated by a narrow straight that’s crossed with bridges. Basse-Terre has a more rustic vibe and indigenous charm, the Guadeloupe National Park is located here. Grande-Terre is more commercialized, with lots of resorts, shopping, restaurants, basically things tourists would constitute as vacation amenities. Pointe-a-Pitre, the capital of Guadeloupe is on Grand-Terre, you can find shops, a concert venue, and the pier there. There are also several Dependencies of Guadeloupe (smaller islands), these gorgeous little buns in the ocean are Marie-Galante, Les Saintes (the one we visited), and La Desirade. You can also visit île de la Petite Terre by chartered boat or ferry.
We got super affordable round trip airfare on Norwegian Airlines out of BWI to Guadeloupe. We landed at Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport, where we proceeded to the rental cars, but I’ll warn you. I’d ONLY rent from Hertz. They had the biggest selection and most knowledgable customer service representatives. The rest of the rental companies, were booty. No cars, oversold, only manual, trust me, stick with Hertz if you can. And you will want a rental car because alas! There isn’t Uber. And I was not paid to say this, lol. Don’t expect long paved roads. When I say this place is slightly underdeveloped I mean it. Chickens and goats roam the roads. But it honestly adds a rustic charm to the experience.
Where to Stay:
I went to Guadeloupe with my dad and sister. We needed a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city, and wanted to do it as a family. We rented a gorgeous home from a Guadeloupe native named Mr. Roland. The home was three stories with all the modern amenities. Our host stocked the refrigerator with food for the week, picked us up from the airport, and even lent us his car for our stay. I think in a place like Guadeloupe, you should only go the AirB&B route if you can speak at least conversational french, and my sister could.
- Go to Sainte Anne beach, haggle with the road side merchants for spices, beautiful art and souvenirs, be sure to stop by La Toubana for drinks and lunch.
- Take a self guided tour around Distillerie Damoiseau in Le Moule. Great rum, beautiful atmosphere.
- Take a ride into Pointe-a-Pitre for shopping, late night concerts and the pier.
- See Pointe des Chateux in St. Francois. Photograph the rocky beach, buy from the very affordably priced street vendors, then stop for lunch at Le Zagaya.
- Ferry to Les Saintes (Iles des Saintes) from Trois Rivieres for the day. As soon as you get off of the ferry, you should literally run to one of the many shops that rent electric cars for the day. You’ll be able to cover more of the island, and it will save your feet. Les Saintes is beautiful and full of hills.
Where to Eat:
- Les Dents de la Mer ($)
- Chez Liline ($)
- La Savane ($$)
- Le Mahine ($$)
- La Playa ($$$$)
- Kote Sud ($$$$)
- La Touna ($$$$)
That’s it for me! This is a great spot to visit with bae, your adult family members, or if you’re adventurous, solo-dolo. As always, let me know if you go!