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The French Caribbean
Between crystal clear beaches, a rich and vibrant rainforest and unique French-Creole cuisine, Guadeloupe offers a striking alternative to its better-known Caribbean neighbors.
A department of France located in the eastern Caribbean Sea, Guadeloupe was once nearly inaccessible for Americans. But in 2015, Norwegian Airlines added direct flights from three U.S. cities, causing tourism in the area to boom. Centering on the two butterfly-shaped main islands of Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre (but also including several other, smaller islands), Guadeloupe offers a diverse terrain and appeals to both the lazy-beach-days traveler as well as the adventure-seeker. Whether you’ve been to Guadeloupe in the past or you’re a first-time visitor, here are the best things to do while you’re there.Continue to 2 of 10 below.
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Sip Piña Coladas on a Pristine Beach
The two interlocking islands of Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre comprise the bulk of Guadeloupe. If you’re looking for calm, clean water, Grande-Terre is the place to be. Two popular resort towns of Sainte-Anne and Le Gosier offer clean sandy beaches with gentle tides and space to stretch out. The coast of Le Gosier also features a handful of small bars and cafes situated directly on the sand (Casa Datcha is a popular spot and sometimes features live music), giving you the opportunity to shift between minty, rum-based drinks and dips in the warm water.Continue to 3 of 10 below.
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Drive Through Guadeloupe National Park
Though Guadeloupe is only a 3-hour flight from New York City, its rainforest will make you feel as though you’re on the other side of the world. While there are ample opportunities to get out and tromp around in the country's namesake park (located on Basse-Terre), there’s also a highway (D23, known as Route de la Traversee) that cuts through some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. Since a rental car is a necessity on the island, this drive is a great way to see the heart of the country when you’re short on time.Continue to 4 of 10 below.
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Kayak Through a Mangrove Forrest
Mangrove trees grow in saltwater and are remarkable for their exposed root system and shaded, maze-like waterways. You can find paths of mangroves along Guadeloupe’s coastlines, and one of the best ways to get up-close and personal is to take a kayak through the winding paths. One company, Yalode, takes visitors straight through the mangroves — though less experienced kayakers should note that sea kayaking can be a lot more difficult than river kayaking. Reward yourself with platter upon platter of delicious seafood after burning all of those calories.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Eat as Much French Creole Food as You Can
Guadeloupe is gaining recognition for its cuisine. A medley of French, African and Asian influences, the island's menu takes advantage of local specialties like tropical fruit and Caribbean lobster, along with intricate French cooking techniques learned from its colonizers. When hunger hits at lunch, grab a bokit — a calorie-laden, deep-fried sandwich filled with meat, cheese and spicy sauce. One popular spot on Grande-Terre, Les Delices Saintannais, offers eight to ten daily options. For dinner, variety abounds, but you can’t visit the island without ordering a grilled lobster plate. Head to Colombo in Saint Francois and expect to indulge in fish fritters, plantains and perfectly grilled lobster.Continue to 6 of 10 below.
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Explore the Island's Daily Markets
If souvenirs are your jam, avoid the tourist shops and make your way to one of Guadeloupe’s colorful markets. Pointe-à-Pitre, the largest city, boasts a massive one and offers visitors a chance to sample an array of tropical fruits, like starfruit, and fresh-baked breads and pastries. Expect a barrage of haggling and “hey, you!” as you walk past the stalls and get lost in the cacophony of island commerce. Sainte-Anne and Le Gosier also offer smaller but equally delicious markets. Take home a basket of spices to cook like a true Guadalupian.Continue to 7 of 10 below.
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There’s more to Pointe-à-Pitre than the bustling market alone, but few tourists venture away from the pier and into the heart of the city. Pointe-à-Pitre has a reputation for being gritty, but it’s a can’t-miss destination for those that want to truly experience local life. A mix of derelict buildings, striking French-colonial structures and colorful murals, the city’s streets offer visitors a glimpse into Guadeloupe’s rich history. An hour is enough to take in the sights and capture a few photos for your Instagram feed.Continue to 8 of 10 below.
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Bathe in a Hot Spring
La Grande Soufrière, a huge (and active) volcano on Basse-Terre gives birth to the many hot springs scattered throughout Guadeloupe National Park. Les bains jaunes, in the southern part of the park, is one of the most popular, but you’ll forget about the crowds once you sink into the bath-temperature water and gaze at the tropical flora all around. Other baths include Le Bain des Amours and the hot springs of Dolé, both of which offer a smaller but less crowded retreats.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Visit the Îles des Saintes
The Îles des Saintes are an eight-island archipelago scattered across Guadeloupe’s southern coast. If your trip is longer than five days, a couple days on one of these remote, romantic islands is a must. Terre-de-Haut is the largest of them and offers the most to do. Ditch the rental car (vehicles aren’t allowed!) and board an hour-long ferry from Basse-Terre. On the island, most visitors get around by scooter or bike and spend the day winding through the small village streets or snorkeling off Pain de Sucre beach. Take in dinner at Ti-bo Doudou, one of the island’s most popular restaurants.Continue to 10 of 10 below.
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Hike Around Pointe des Châteaux
You may never tire of beautiful beaches and rainforest hikes, but for a change of scenery, drive east toward Saint-François to take in the stunning, jagged peninsula known as Pointe des Châteaux. A short, easy hike leads you to one of the best views on the island—on a cloudless day you can see the distant islands of la Desirade, Marie-Galante and Terre-de-Bas. The beach below, les Grandes Salines, is too dangerous to swim in, but stands as one of the most visually stunning beaches on the island. Before you leave grab a bokit or some accras—delicious fish or vegetable fritters—at the small cafe at the base of the hill.