Comprised of five main islands, Guadeloupe is a unique blend of France and the tropics, well-seasoned by African and South Asian culture. Each island has its own unique charms, so a little island-hopping is a must when you visit.
Guadeloupe Basic Travel Information
Religions: Primarily Catholic
Area Code: 590
Tipping: not expected, but appreciated; restaurants and most hotels add 15 percent
Airport Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport
Guadeloupe Activities and Attractions
Guadeloupe's five islands are dotted with old forts and colonial homes, while local markets burst with color and activity; the latter, along with the weekly oxen pulls and cockfights, are a great place to absorb the local culture. Basse-Terre is blessed with lush tropical forests protected in a national park that includes the Le Carbet waterfall. Butterfly watching is among the local passions. Visitors to Marie-Galante can stay with a rural family and soak up the agrarian lifestyle, hike, or kayak up the Vieux-Fort River. The bay on Les Saintes is considered one of the world's most lovely.
Guadeloupe has both Atlantic and Caribbean beaches, some with shimmering white sand, others volcanic black. On Guadeloupe's Grande-Terre island, where coral reefs often create shallow lagoons, Caravelle beach, trimmed with palms, is one of the most beautiful. Dozens of secluded beaches are scattered at the ends of dirt roads across the island. Most visitors to Les Saintes flock to the Grande-Anse beach in Terre-de-Bas. Petite Terre is a tiny flat island rimmed with pristine white beaches, a favorite day-trip spot for beach lunches and scuba diving.
Guadeloupe Hotels and Resorts
M gallery and Club Med operate "name brand" hotels on Guadeloupe, but most properties are small and locally owned. Lodging on Marie-Galante includes a number of guest houses where you get the chance to interact with local families. You'll find some lovely beachfront hotels on Les Saintes, including the Bois Joli and Auberge des Petits Saints. Private villa rentals are another option on Guadeloupe, Marie-Galante, and Les Saintes.
Guadeloupe Restaurants and Cuisine
You'll find great Creole and French cuisine throughout the Guadeloupe islands, which have more than 200 restaurants. Seafood, of course, is a staple of any menu, from spiny lobster to stewed conch. The islands' South Asian influences reflected in curry dishes. Come in August for the annual Fete des Cuisinieres, or Festival of Women Cooks. Lunch is the main meal of the day for locals. On Les Saintes, try to special coconut custard tarts, known as Torrent of Love, sold by the boat dock.
Guadeloupe History and Culture
Discovered and named by Columbus, Guadeloupe has been part of France on and off again since 1635, during its long and sometimes bloody history of slave revolts and colonialism. Today Guadeloupe is an overseas department of France with a population mostly of African origin but also with strong South Asian influences. It is a country of poets (including Nobel Prize winner Saint-John Perse), writers, musicians, sculptors, and painters, and you'll still find island women wearing colorful traditional dresses and head scarves on special occasions.
Guadeloupe Events and Festivals
Carnival season on Guadeloupe runs from the Feast of the Epiphany in January to Easter, peaking in February around Shrove Tuesday. Marie-Galante hosts an annual music festival in May that draws a variety of regional and international acts. The BPE bank sponsors an annual transatlantic race from Marie-Galante to Belle Ile en Mer in May. Towns around the islands hold festivals in honor of their patron saints throughout the year. Cockfights are held from November to April.
Zouk dance music, which was born in Guadeloupe, pounds out from a variety of discos and nightclubs in towns like Gosier, Bas-de-Fort, St. Francois, Le Moule, and Gourbeyre. Zouk club crowds tend to be more locals than visitors. Casinos are located in Gosier and St. Francois, offering blackjack and roulette as well as slots. There also are party boats operating from Gosier and Pointe-a-Pitre, and the Bas du Fort Marina is known for its piano and jazz bars. Evening entertainment options often are centered on hotels, especially on the smaller islands