This lesser trod Caribbean archipelago is inexpensive and easy to reach by air with lots to see, do and explore. Follow our Guadeloupe Islands Itinerary to get top tips on the best island hopping adventures.
Located in the Eastern Caribbean between Dominica and Antigua, the Guadeloupe Islands are an archipelago of stunning natural beauty and abundant French Caribbean flavor. An overseas department of France, French and Creole are spoken and the islands are somewhat less discovered than their Caribbean counterparts.
Below is the itinerary we enjoyed while filming. We recommend you peruse it and take some or all of the elements and incorporate them into your island hopping adventure to uncover the Guadeloupe Islands’ food, culture and outdoor activities, including Guadeloupe’s largest city, the Guadeloupe National Park with its active volcano, and gardens, spas and stunning beaches.
Of course, the Guadeloupe Islands are home to beautiful beaches, so if you just want to lounge by the water, we understand, but maybe pick one… just one adventure!
Beach Escape to 5 Beautiful Caribbean Beaches by TravelswithDarley
DAY 1 Grand Terre
Arrive and relax! You’re now on Caribbean time. Get settled into your accommodations.
Options on the islands include villas, bungalows and hotels. We stayed throughout our trip at La Creole Beach Hotel & Spa, so based any mentioned driving times below on that location. This hotel and spa is located on a small, private beach, is in a good location for exploring Grande Terre and the other islands and has a plentiful buffet breakfast and dinner. We also visited the oldest hotel on the Guadeloupe Islands, L’Auberge de la Vieille Tour in Gosier, located close to Pointe-a-Pitre. Built on a former sugarcane plantation in the 1950’s, it’s known for having one of the best rum collections in Guadeloupe and pretty colonial architecture and views. It’s also a great pick for a place to stay.
Another option for one night or more is on Basse Terre, Guadeloupe’s green island. Tendacayou EcoLodge & Spa is a treehouse oasis. It’s off the beaten path, funky and reminiscent of a spa on Bali or another exotic locale. Guests stay in cottages or bungalows set high in the hills with stunning views.
For more options visit Guadeloupe-Islands.com.
DAY 2 Basse Terr
Drive about 1.5 hours to hike La Soufriere Volcano, an active UNESCO volcano. On the way, you’ll pass over a small bridge from Grand Terre to another island, Basse Terre. Basse Terre is Guadeloupe’s green island with the majority of its interior being covered by dense tropical forest and exterior rimmed by exotic black, pink and caramel sand beaches. It’s a haven for adventure seekers.
You can hike up Soufriere Volcano on your own or hook up with a local guide. We hiked with Laurence Barret, who’s been leading travelers into the rainforest here for over 20 years. Her company is Vert Intense and she speaks English. She also offers canyoneering and mountain biking.
Volcano Hike in the Caribbean by TravelswithDarley
The above will take most of your day, but if you have time, stop on the way back down in Basse Terre, the capital of the Guadleoupe Islands. Tour Fort Delgres, the largest fort in the Guadeloupe Islands and a National Historic Monument. It was at Fort Delgres that in the early 1800’s two of Guadeloupe’s leaders, including Louis Delgres, set off an explosion that took the lives of French troops and themselves in an effort to protest the reinstitution of slavery. While we were there, we saw a stunning rainbow over the nearby mountains, making for a memorable visit.
Grab a quick dinner or filling snack by stopping for a bokit at one of the food trucks by the water. Bokits are a culinary institution on the Guadeloupe Islands. What makes these large sandwiches unique is the bread, which is made with basic flour, water and salt, but instead of baking in an oven, it’s fried. Bokits are thought to have been developed in the 1800s as a quick and inexpensive homemade meal and today everybody eats them. A bokit can be filled with just about anything ranging from chicken to seafood to ham and cheese and for just a few Euros, you’ve got more than a meal.
DAY 3 Les Saintes
It’s less than a one hour drive to Trois Rivieres to take the Ferry to Terre de Haut on the island of Les Saintes. Les Saintes has been dubbed the Capri of the Caribbean. It takes about a half hour to reach by ferry from Trois-Rivieres, but if you tend towards seasickness, be prepared. The seas were relatively calm on my trip, but they can be rough.
It’s all worth it when you reach the calm waters of Les Saintes Bay, which has been listed by UNESCO as one of the most beautiful bays in the world. Right off the ferry, you’re in the bustling village of Terre de Haut on the island of Terre de Haut, the largest island in the Les Saintes archipelago. You may notice people selling the Tourment D’amour, a kind of the spongy cake filled with coconut jam and lots of spices. The exact recipe is a local secret. We suggest buying and trying one of these local sweet treats.
Visit of Fort Napoleon to take in views of Les Saintes Bay. You can hike from town up to the fort, but we recommend hiring a taxi, as it’s a bit of a climb. Some people also rent motorbikes during their time on the island.
Enjoy a leisurely lunch at Au Bon Vivre with Chef Vincent Malbec mixes products from his home area Southwestern France with fresh Caribbean fare, making for colorful and fragrant culinary creations. The setting is laid back and island cool in the courtyard, making you want to relax and feast on one of the multi-course meals for which Au Bon Vivre is so well known. On our visit, we enjoyed fish tartare with coconut milk and lemon, smoked marlin from the Guadeloupe Islands with basil pesto and mascarpone cheese on French bread crostini and shrimp profiteroles topped with escargot butter. Divine! We recommend not rushing this lunch, as it’s truly a relaxing feast.
A trip to Les Saintes wouldn’t be complete without stopping by one of its beaches. Not far from downtown, about a 15 minute walk or a shorter motor scooter ride, is one of the most popular– Pompierre Beach. Called one of the best in Guadeloupe and quintessential Caribbean, white sand is shaded by tall coconut trees sprinkled across this moon-shaped calm lagoon.
Later in the day, take a ferry back to Trois Rivieres or perhaps stay the night on the island.
Before or after your trip to Les Saintes, visit the Archaeological Gardens of Engraved Rocks, a botanical garden and historic monument in Trois Rivieres with petroglyphs dating back to the fourth century. Left on volcanic rocks, these were created by the Arawak Indians, the first recorded inhabitants of the Guadeloupe Islands.
Le Rivage (Bananier, Basse-Terre 97130, Guadeloupe), a laid back, open air restaurant right on black sand Bananier Beach with fresh seafood and a cool vibe. Watch the surfers as you feast on deep-fried cod fritters, a local specialty.
DAY 4 St Francois, Pointe des Châteaux
Check out the boats, shops and restaurants at the St Francois Marina. Right nearby, there’s an 18-hole golf course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr, for golf enthusiasts.
Dine by the water at local restaurant in Saint Francois or hop over to La Cocoteraie Hotel, which has quintessential Caribbean views and classic Caribbean fare.
Take a magnificent coastal hike at Pointe des Chateaux, which boasts some of the most dramatic coastline in the Guadeloupe Islands. In the 1960’s an order of friars in the Catholic Church chose this site as a place of worship, and you can’t miss the peak, because it’s marked by a giant cross. The perfect place to appreciate Caribbean nature and our earth in all its splendor.
DAY 5 Marie Galante
Take a ferry from Pointe a Pitre to the island of Marie Galante, an island rich in agri-tourism and another spot with captivating beaches. The island of Marie Galante is shaped like a pancake and it’s lined with these beautiful white sand beaches. The more than 60 square mile island has a little more than 12,000 residents and 10 beaches where clear water abounds.
We suggest arriving and popping into a café for a coffee and then hiring a taxi to take you to Murat Plantation. Once the largest sugarcane plantation on the islands, Murat Plantation had over 200 slaves in the 19th century, a history you can learn about at its museum. Marie Galante is where sugarcane farms, rum distilleries and historic plantations abound. Marie Galante is called “the Island of a Hundred Windmills” after the over 100 mills used to process sugarcane in the 1800’s, many of which still remain, including at Murat Plantation.
You have to tour a distillery while on the island, which is said by many to produce some of the best rum in the world. One of the tops is Distillerie Bielle (Section Bielle, Grand-Bourg), but call ahead to confirm the hours.
Eat fresh seafood right by the ocean at Le Touloulou on Marie Galante and enjoy its private beach.
Take a stoll along Massacre beach, one of the prettiest beaches on the island, but with a dramatic past.
Ferry back to Pointe a Pitre.
Back on Grande Terre, it’s time to taste more of the rum that’s so popular on the islands. Visit the oldest hotel on the Guadeloupe Islands, L’Auberge de la Vieille Tour in Gosier, located close to Pointe-a-Pitre. Built on a former sugarcane plantation in the 1950’s, it’s known for having one of the best rum collections in Guadeloupe. Order rum and a cocktail called Ti’ Punch, a local specialty.
Caribbean Botanical Gardens with the Ultimate… by TravelswithDarley
DAY 6 Deshaies
Take the scenic drive to Deshaies via the Route de la Traversee through the Parc National de la Guadeloupe, Guadeloupe National Park. Stop by the “House of the Forest” and try the short hike to “Cascade aux Ecrevisses,” a beautiful waterfall amid the jungle. This is a lush part of the Guadeloupe Islands and there are a variety of hikes for all levels.
Next, visit the Botanical Gardens in Deshaies to see some of the Caribbean’s colorful flora and wildlife. With over 200 varieties of local plants, you’re guaranteed to see something you’ve never seen before at these Botanical Gardens. Pathways wind through 15 different garden areas featuring over 1000 species from around the world and breathtaking views of the sea. Lively lorikeets, flamingos, colorful flowers and tropical fish abound.
We recommend eating at the restaurant at the Botanical Garden, where there are panoramic views of the ocean and excellent French Creole Cuisine.
Head into Deshaies, a quiet little fishing village that’s really been put on the map by this hit BBC show that’s also global called “Death in Paradise.” It’s actually filmed here in Deshais and fans of the show may know Deshais as Saint Marie. Meander around town to see some of the filming sites, including the police station, before heading to Grande Anse Beach, one of the largest beaches on the islands.
Hit TV Show Death In Paradise Filming Locations… by TravelswithDarley
After the beach, head to Tendacayou Spa, which many travelers have compared to locations in Bali. The spa and lodge was built by a husband and wife team who dreamt of a treehouse getaway and combined their passion and skills in art and carpentry to form this rainforest oasis, built with local materials to blend in with the environment. Guests can take a wellness escape here, staying in bungalows and taking in ocean views, while they undergo a variety of treatments. Though many people come for massages and meditation, we dare you to try the fish pedicure. Not everyone can do it and if you do try it, be prepared to be tickled.
Fish Pedicure in the Caribbean by TravelswithDarley
DAY 7 Cousteau Reserve, Chocolate and Coffee
Go snorkeling or diving at the Cousteau Reserve in Bouillante off the Pigeon Islands. The famous underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau called the Pigeon Islands, off the coast of Basse Terre, one of the world’s top dive areas and encouraged their conservation. It’s after Mr. Cousteau that the area is nicknamed. We went out with CIP Centre International de Plongee.
Dine at Chez Sylvie, a cute Creole restaurant with a good rum selection, on Malendure Beach, one of the islands’ black sand beaches.
Refuel with chocolate and coffee, making a stop at the House of Cocoa (La Maison du Cacao located at Great Plain, Pointe-Noire 97 116, Guadeloupe) in Pointe-Noire. Cocoa’s been grown in the Pointe Noire area of the Caribbean since the 17th century. If you’ve never seen where chocolate comes from, you might be surprised. This chocolate shop and farm will show you how chocolate is made from farm to table. Unique chocolate includes chocolate made with manioc, a root eaten in the Guadeloupe Islands and Africa, hot chili chocolate and more.
Next, drive into the heart of Basse Terre and up winding roads to higher elevations to visit of La Grivelière is the oldest coffee plantation in the Guadeloupe Islands and located in in Vieux Habitants. This plantation is self-sustaining, and they have their own medicinal garden. They grow their own fruits and vegetables, and of course, coffee.
Caribbean Coffee, Chocolate and Rum Tasting Tour by TravelswithDarley
DAY 8 Pointe a Pitre
Spend today exploring Pointe-a-Pitre, often called the New Orleans of the Caribbean. Saturday is market day, so if you travel over the weekend you’ll have a lively experience checking out the local fruits, spices, vegetables, fresh fish and crafts sold at the market (Le Marche de la Darse) by the harbor along La Darse, the inner harbor road. Don’t be surprised if you come across live music, called Gwo-Ka, and artist Joel Nankin, featured in the below video.
Akademiduka in Pointe-à-Pitre offers Gwo Ka dance classes throughout the week. If you’ve tried fitness dance classes like Zumba, you might like Gwo Ka. Listed by UNESCO as a symbol of Guadeloupean intangible heritage, Gwo Ka combines Guadeloupean Creole songs, dancing and rhythms played on Ka drums. It’s a method of expression that dates back to the 18th century and was originally developed by the islands’ slaves. I tried a class and, though I couldn’t quite keep up, really enjoyed it.
Tour this Popular Caribbean Cruise Ship Port City by TravelswithDarley
Notes: There are direct flights to the Guadeloupe Islands from Miami on American Airlines. Norwegian is also offering incredibly inexpensive flights from Boston, NYC and Washington, DC starting December 2015.
Driving around the Guadeloupe Islands is easy. There is good signage, even when in French, and the roads are well-paved. If you drive to La Griveliere just take it slow, as these are more winding mountain roads.
Some of the above websites are in French, FYI!