What I Spent: Four Days in Guadeloupe

  • 01 of 07

    Upfront Costs

    France, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, Cul de Sac, Pinel Island, table in the water
    ••• SOBERKA Richard/hemis.fr/Getty Images

    The upfront costs of vacations are predictable. It’s the little things—airport snacks, cocktails before dinner, tipping a tour guide—that can throw even the most well-planned vacation budget off track. In this new series, we’ll look at the spending patterns of real travelers in popular destinations, so you can estimate what you’ll actually spend.  (Thanks for the inspiration, Refinery29!)

    For this installment, a couple heads to Guadeloupe for creole food, stunning beaches and a lot of hiking in the rainforest.

    Flight: JFK - PTP, $499 for two flights on Norwegian. I originally had no intention of going to Guadeloupe, a Caribbean island in the French Antilles, but a great deal popped up during a stressful week and I decided to take the plunge!

    Accommodation: $791 through HomeAway.com

    Car Rental: $320, a premium we had to pay for an automatic. Note to self: Learn how to drive manual.

    Size of Group:

    *Note: Prices have been converted from Euro to USD

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  • 02 of 07

    Wednesday

    ••• Ashley Knierim

    11 a.m. We worked from home so we could head out early for our 3pm flight. Traffic to JFK is nonexistent, so we get to our parking lot in record time. Score!

    11:30 a.m. We pre-booked (but did not pre-pay for) a space with a local lot that we’d used before. Charles, the owner, doesn't have a website, but his Yelp reviews were stellar enough that we didn’t care. We drop the car off, pay and hitch a ride to Terminal One. Cost: $76 for the entire 5 nights

    1 p.m. Since we get to the airport embarrassingly early, we check in and make it through security with two hours to spare. Unfortunately, JFK doesn’t have free WiFi (boo!) and I’m a little too cheap to pay for just a couple of hours. Instead, I whip out my book and grab a coffee and pastry at Starbucks (since Norwegian Air is notorious about making customers pay for food onboard). Cost: $7.75

    2:45 p.m. Boarding goes smoothly, and we’re pleasantly surprised by the plane. It’s clean, spacious—and best of all, we have a whole row to...MORE ourselves. Score again!

    7:00 p.m. We land in Guadeloupe at 7 p.m. AST, an hour behind New York. The warm, thick Caribbean air is a welcome reprieve from the chilly Brooklyn wind. We had primo seats, so we’re among the first ones off the plane and able to speed through customs. We still hustle over to our car rental booth because they close up shop at 8 p.m.

    7:45 p.m. Our car rental is already paid for, so we grab the keys, check for dents (a must!) and off we go.

    10 p.m. We finally arrive at our cottage. We’re staying in a town called Mare Gaillard, very close to the popular resort town of Le Gosier on Grande-Terre, one of the two main islands that make up Guadeloupe. The cottage, Villa Carpe Diem, is beautiful. And with a private pool and a hammock, I decide I’d be happy dying here.

    10:30 p.m. We’re famished, so we head out to search for food. The only thing we can find open is a pizza restaurant called L’Americano Cafe, and despite it’s cringeworthy name, it’s actually quite good. We both order simple sausage-and-cheese pizzas and a beer. Before coming, we’d heard Guadeloupe is pricy, so we’re pleasantly surprised to find that dinner doesn’t cost us an arm and a leg. Cost: $37.76   

    11:45 p.m. Exhaustion is creeping over us, and I pass out as soon as I tuck in beneath our bed’s gauzy mosquito net.

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  • 03 of 07

    Thursday

    ••• Ashley Knierim

    8:30 a.m. We wake up to our incredibly kind host delivering us a tray of baked goods. The house was already supplied with coffee, juice, water and a lovely assortment of island fruits, but who can say no to croissants? Cost: Free!

    10 a.m. After a morning lounging in the hammock and eating French baguettes, we decide to check out the neighboring town of Sainte-Anne, known for its beaches and streets flooded with stalls offering spices and fruits. We have a kayak tour tonight, so we figure a day of eating and lounging on the beach is best.

    11:25 a.m. The streets of Sainte-Anne are bustling with vendors, and we decide to grab some fresh melon juice to take to the beach. Cost: $2.25

    1:45 p.m. After a few hours of lounging on the beach, my skin is begging for shelter (gotta love that Caribbean sun!) and we decide to head back to the cottage for a nap. We didn’t sleep well the night before, and figure a rest before going ocean kayaking is probably a good idea.

    3:30 p.m. Kayaking is about 40...MORE minutes north, also on the Grande-Terre side of Guadeloupe. We napped a little too long and find ourselves hustling out the door to make it to the docking location.

    4 p.m. Here’s hoping Guadeloupe doesn’t have speed cameras, because we make it to the address in record time. We park and rush over to the small group already forming. The owner of Yalode Kayak Company hails from a town near Bordeaux, France and found his home here on the water in Guadeloupe. We pay the fee for two, toss our phones and keys in a sealed bucket and climb in. Cost: $74.45

    7 p.m. Paddling through mangrove trees is a lot more difficult than I ever imagined. I narrowly avoid a few whacks in the head and we get stuck in the brambles a few too many times, but we make it out alive! The wind is stronger than usual, so kayaking on the open water tosses us around a bit too much, and our bucket filled with our belongings falls into the water. No worries, though—the instructor told us it was waterproof, so we just pull it back into the kayak and watch the sun go down while we sit in the middle of the ocean.

    8 p.m. A couple of very strong rums later (courtesy of our guide), we kayak back to the dock. Unfortunately, when we open the buckets we get an unpleasant surprise: Both of our iPhones are floating in a pool of ocean water. Looks like those buckets weren’t waterproof after all, and we can immediately tell that we’ve sacrificed our phones to the Atlantic. Getting home without directions is going to be fun. Cost: $1,500 or the cost of two new iPhones  

    9 p.m. Back at the cottage we’re preoccupied with Googling “how to dry out an iPhone,” so we just eat some cheese and meat from a local grocery store. A rum-based cocktail and a glass of wine (thankfully supplied by our host) is much-needed. Cost: $25.70

    11 p.m. While our waterlogged phones rest silently in a bowl of rice, we head to bed and hope tomorrow is a little better. 

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  • 04 of 07

    Friday

    ••• Ashley Knierim

    9 a.m. It’s a new day, and while we’re still reeling from the loss of our phones, I find that I actually have a work phone with me, which saves the day. We decide to lounge in our private pool for a few hours before we head out.

    12 p.m. Guadeloupe is shaped like a butterfly, with each “wing” offering a much different experience. We decide to drive over to Basse-Terre, the western island of Guadeloupe. Basse-Terre is home to Guadeloupe National Park, a beautiful rainforest featuring waterfalls, hikes, a zoo and hot springs.

    1 p.m. Before we hit the rainforest, we check out some of the beaches in the northern part of Basse-Terre. We’d read that the town of Deshaies offered beautiful beaches and a quaint setting, so we head there first. We grab lunch at an outdoor restaurants called Le Madras. I get a stuffed crab salad and my boyfriend orders salad with Creole sausage. Full disclosure: Neither of us speak French, which makes ordering food difficult, but both dishes are great. Cost: $32.65

    ...MOREp.m. We drive to a few beaches in the area, including Plage de Grande-Anse. It’s great for Instagrams, but not so great to swim in due to the extreme tide.  

    3:30 p.m. Cascade aux Ecrevisses, a popular waterfall, is just a short hike from a parking lot right off the main road. Given the stressful night we had Thursday, we decide that this is about as much hiking as we’re willing to do today. My boyfriend climbs into the pool of water, but since it’s incredibly cold I decide to stick to my role of photographer. Cost: Free

    5 p.m. One important fact about Guadeloupe is that the traffic can be pretty terrible at times. We take a sluggish drive back to Grande-Terre and decide to stop at a night market that’s going on in Le Gosier.

    6 p.m. After we find parking, a short rainstorm forces us under the awning of a local food truck in the night market. We order some accras, a type of Caribbean fritter, and decide right then and there that fried bread plus shrimp equals heaven. Cost: $4.15 for 8 pieces

    7 p.m. Before we head back, we grab a drink on the beach at a small outdoor bar called Casa Datcha. I order a mojito, my boyfriend orders a beer. The mojito wins. Cost: $12.00

    8:30 p.m. Tonight we have reservations at a top-rated restaurant near our cottage, Koté Sud. I order a shrimp ravioli dish and my boyfriend orders the lobster prix fixe so we can share the appetizer and dessert (pro saving tip!). Add a bottle of rosé, and the bill comes out to $75.00. Not bad for an entire lobster and a wine buzz. Cost: $75.00

    10 p.m. That half-bottle is catching up with me, so I pass out after downing a few tablets of Advil. 

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  • 05 of 07

    Saturday

    ••• Ashley Knierim

    8 a.m. I wake up early to enjoy the hammock before we head out for the day. Note to self: I really need to buy a hammock one day.

    9 a.m. We wake up early to drive 20 minutes to Pointe-à-Pitre. Pointe-à-Pitre is the capital of Guadeloupe and boasts the country’s largest outdoor market. We browse the shops and pick up some creole spices to take home. I also splurge on a couple of bracelets.  Cost: $4 for the spices, $26 for two brass bracelets

    11 a.m. We decide to drive back out to Basse-Terre, since we didn’t really get our rainforest fix yesterday. Our first stop is Phare du Vieux-Fort, a lighthouse that offers great views of the ocean and nearby cliffs. We spot a family diving into the water far below, and my boyfriend decides that now is a great time to test out our new GoPro by jumping off the cliff after them.

    12:30 p.m. Before we head into the rainforest, we decide to grab some bokit sandwiches from a nearby food truck. Bokit is a Guadeloupe staple involving massive quantities of...MORE meat or seafood stuffed between two pieces of fried bread. Needless to say, it’s incredibly bad for you—and, not surprisingly, incredibly delicious. Cost: $4.50 for two bokits

    2 p.m. Having calmed our hunger pangs, we finally drive into the rainforest. Without cell phone data, getting around is not easy—but that also means that we end up driving through roads we otherwise wouldn’t have seen! They’re windy and often narrow, and spiral to such incredible heights that looking over your shoulder could give you vertigo. But the views are amazing.

    3:30 p.m. A few (okay, many) wrong turns later, we end up at a hot spring called Les Bains Jaunes (yellow baths), at the base of La Soufrière, a massive active volcano. The hike up the volcano summit takes a few hours and is fairly difficult, so we decide that a dip in the springs and a truncated hike through the rainforest is enough for us. The water is naturally warm and, although the sides are covered with algae, it’s very spa-like (save for a few loud children). Cost: Free! Can’t get that in NYC

    5 p.m. I always wish I could be someone who can “just enjoy the moment,” but in reality I’m always chasing down a great photo. During our drive home I make it a mission to get a killer shot of the banana trees scattered across the hills. The scenery is amazing — a mix of gray storm clouds and bright banana leaves. We sneak into a private banana farm (sorry!) and I snap some photos before anyone catches me.

    7 p.m. Dinner tonight is at Le Te Maki, a creole restaurant in Le Gosier with a casual hipster vibe. I order a guava daiquiri to start. My boyfriend gets Ti’ Punch, another Guadeloupean staple involving cane syrup, lime juice, and rum—mostly just rum, it turns out. We both order spicy, meat-based stews for our mains. They’re excellent. Cost: $61.85

    10 p.m. It’s time to crash, so we head back to the apartment and hit the mosquito net (no bites so far—thanks, Deet) after a quick dip in the pool. 

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  • 06 of 07

    Sunday

    ••• Ashley Knierim

    10:30 a.m. We’ve gotten our fill of rainforests, so today we decide to explore more of Grande-Terre, which is beachier than Basse-Terre and slightly more developed. To start, we head to Pointe des Châteaux, an incredible scenic overlook on the eastern coast. My Instagram is happy.

    11:45 a.m. It’s a little early for lunch, but there’s a bokit stand at the base of the cliff that smells delicious, and the short (but steep) hike has my stomach growling. One is enough for us to split—it’s even more gigantic than yesterday’s, with perfect crispy-soft fried bread. Cost: $3.50

    12:15 p.m. We explore the area a little more and stumble upon another beach, Anse a la Gourde. It’s nearly private, with a few beachgoers scattered here and there. Unfortunately, the tide is too rough to swim, so we head out.

    2 p.m. While sipping cocktails on the beach in Le Gosier a couple days ago, we noticed a small island about a mile out. TripAdvisor informs us that it’s called Ilet du Gosier and it’s open to the...MORE public, so we decide to take a small boat out to explore. Cost: $10.82 for two tickets, round trip

    2:15 p.m. Ilet du Gosier is not quite what we expected. It’s basically a small party island surrounded by docked boats blasting music and young couples dancing in the ocean. We manage to find a quiet spot away from the main beach and go for a swim before heading back to the mainland.

    4 p.m. We’re not quite ready to go back to the cottage, so we return to Sainte-Anne to check out the street market we saw the first day. We stumble upon a man making fresh coconut sorbet, which turns out to be the best sorbet on the entire planet. Incredibly creamy and fresh, it’s so good that right after we finish it I go back and buy another. Cost: $4.50 (for both)

    5 p.m. Since it’s our last night, we head back to the cottage to get in some quality hammock and pool time.  

    7 p.m. Dinner tonight is at a restaurant called Le Lucullus in Sainte-Anne. We read that it has some of the best creole food on the island, but it can get busy during peak hours. We score a table with only an hour wait. To kill time, we walk around the nearby beach.

    8:10 p.m. Back at Le Lucullus, we order piña coladas to start and decide to split a creole platter for dinner. The platter includes basically every Guadeloupe staple, from fresh lobster to accras to stuffed conch. It’s a great way to sample all of the creole food we hadn’t had a chance to try yet. Delicious (and cheap!).  Cost: $45

    10 p.m. Our flight leaves early in the morning, so we head to bed even if it means our trip is over.

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  • 07 of 07

    Monday

    ••• Ashley Knierim

    5 a.m. We swing by a gas station to fill up before dropping the car off. Cost: $57.50

    5:40 a.m. We drop our car off at Jumbo Car near the airport and head to the gate. Despite losing our phones to the Atlantic, we leave Guadeloupe with a heavy hearts and the hope to come back one day.

     

    Totals

    Food & Drinks: $316.61

    Entertainment: $74.45

    Miscellaneous: $106 (+$1,500 for lost iPhones!)

    Transportation: $68.32 (+$320 pre-paid car rental)