Hi there traveler!
So you’re interested in a Guadeloupe Island vacation?
I can’t say I blame you. It’s a beautiful Caribbean destination. And kind of an untapped one at that.
It’s definitely a lesser visited island than your typical Bahamas or Jamaica. So if you’re looking for an island vacation a little off the beaten path, Guadeloupe is one to consider.
And it has SO MUCH to offer. A Guadeloupe island vacation will offer you more experiential travel than what you see at a typical all-inclusive resort destination.
It’s an ecotourism paradise. About 77% of the island is classified as a Natural Reserve. (In 1992 it was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve).
Guadeloupe is a territory of France, and French is the first language spoken here. But don’t worry, the tourist areas also accommodate for English.
U.S. residents need a valid passport to enter, and at the time of writing this no visa is required.
So! Let’s talk about all the cool stuff you can do here!
Like many Caribbean islands, Guadeloupe has BEAUTIFUL beaches!
First of all, Guadeloupe is an archipelago made of six inhabited islands. On the various islands, you’ll find beaches of all different colors.
Grande-Terre, La Desirade, and Marie-Galante all have gorgeous white-sand beaches. Some say Marie-Galante has the most beautiful white-sand beach in all of the Caribbean. (Definitely worth checking out and seeing for yourself!)
Basse-Terre is bordered by a variety of beaches, both pebbled and sandy. Here you’ll find brown, black, and pink sandy beaches.
The island of Terre de Bas is known for the golden sands of Grande-Anse Beach.
The volcano, La Soufriere, is in the Guadeloupe National Park on the island of Basse-Terre. The park is made up of 66 square miles of tropical rainforest. And the volcano is right in the heart of that.
There are many marked hiking trails. Including some that are disabled-accessible.
This park offers a rich ecosystem with outstanding views.
The volcano itself is the highest mountain peak in the Lesser Antilles (just over 4800 ft).
Make sure you’re dressed appropriately! Check the weather and wear good walking shoes, sunscreen, and bug spray. Plan for this to be a half or full day activity.
Bokit is a local burger-type sandwich.
The bun (or some have described it as a dumpling) is deep fried. Once it has been cooked, it’s split open and stuffed with various meats or fish (along with cheese and other goodies).
The variations are endless, and every cook makes them a little different.
You’ll find these at food trucks and restaurants alike. They are a true local favorite and a must-try to get the full Guadeloupe culinary experience.
Guadeloupe’s French-Creole cuisine is a blend of French, African, Indian, and Indigenous culinary heritages.
You’ll notice similarities with the Creole cuisine of Louisiana, but it’s not the same thing by any means.
Being on an island, expect the freshest seafood. The food is truly farm and sea-to-table.
Get ready for boulangeries selling croissants next to fresh fruit stalls and a variety of spices sold at the market places.
Marie-Galante is known as the island for foodies. But you’ll find streets lined with bistros on every island as well.
The islands of Guadeloupe have an excellent ferry system. It’s really efficient and reliable, so there’s no excuse not to island hop.
The outer islands are a 20-45 minute ferry ride to the main islands and it operates daily. You can buy the tickets online or at the ticket counters.
Each island is known for different things.
Grande-Terre is for culture enthusiasts, and has great waters for surfing. It’s got white sand beaches and beautiful lagoons as well as many hotels and restaurants.
Basse-Terre is for avid hikers. It’s home to Guadeloupe National Park which includes the rainforest, beautiful waterfalls, and the volcano La Soufriere.
La Desirade is great for snorkeling. It’s a geological natural reserve, with long coral reefs. (And if you love swimming and snorkeling, you know that’s the place to be!)
Les Saintes is perfect for honeymooners who want to enjoy a private, unspoiled island.
And Marie-Galante is great for foodies and those looking to sample some authentic rum (or rhum as the locals spell it).
There is SO much to do on the Guadeloupe islands!
La Desirade has great waters for snorkeling and swimming. Enjoy surfing at Grande Terre.
Book an aquatic hike with Coeur Des Iles. On this tour, you’ll be equipped with a wetsuit and helmet and taken through the great plain river in Pointe Noire. You and your companions will walk along the river, swim, enjoy jumps and natural slides.
Coeur Des Iles also offers a sea tour (among many other activities). On this tour, a guide will take you through three ecosystems: a mangrove, lagoon, and coral reef. They also provide lunch and a free visit to their aquarium.
Coeur Des Iles provides eco-responsible excursions and offers an unforgettable experience for a wide range of guests.
Make sure to experience the Cousteau Reserve. There are many outfitters that offer dive experiences as well as other water adventures, like kayaking and snorkeling.
It’s not just whales, you’ll see dolphins too!
Check out Guadeloupe Discovery Escape.
Discovery Escape is an eco-tourism company that was started in 2005. They offer 2 different types of excursions: whale watching and a tour of the marine cul de sac.
The Grand Cul de Sac Marin is a fully immersive experience in a marine reserve that’s protected and unspoiled. Perfect for families and people of all ages.
Swim with sea turtles and other creatures in the mangroves. AND there’s even a nursery for small lemon sharks!
Another company to check out is the Shelltone Whale Project. Here you’ll find an intimate, eco-friendly excursion. This company is run by researchers, not tourism professionals. So you’ll truly experience an authentic marine biologist outing.
They work in the Agoa Sanctuary and go out every day, allowing for great flexibility in your vacation itinerary.
On the excursion, you’re likely to run into dolphins, humpback whales, sperm whales, pilot whales, and more depending on the time of year.
Guadeloupe, like much of the Caribbean, has a very layered and storied history.
Originally it was inhabited by native indigenous groups of the time (like the Arawaks and Carib Indians). Columbus was the first European to set foot on the island bringing the Spaniards and slaves from Africa. Then the French took it over as a colony.
The French never really let go, and the islands are now a department of France. (Basically there is a local government that reports to the national government in France.)
The Memorial ACTe Museum was built on an old sugar plantation. This museum is dedicated to the history of slavery throughout Guadeloupe. The museum itself is not without its controversy, but it’s a good place to start if you know nothing about the history of the island.
Fort Delgres is a 17th century French fort on Basse-Terre. It’s a self-guided site that’s well maintained and organized.
Visit the Distillerie Bologne. This distillery has been active since the late 1800’s. The distillery offers guided tours of the premises. Afterward stay for a rhum tasting and trip to their gift shop.
Guadeloupe island is home to some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Caribbean.
The National Park rainforest on the island of Basse-Terre is where you’ll find the Carbet Falls. There are 3 cascades to visit here and the hiking times range from 20 mins to about 5 hours.
When you get to the park, you’ll have to pay a small park entrance fee.
From the entrance there are 3 different paths you can take, heading to each waterfall.
Each cascade is different (including the paths to get there): the first cascade is the tallest (about 400ft). The path here is a long, steep trail with a fairly high elevation.
The second cascade is the most popular and easiest one to get to. This fall is about 350ft and the path is well landscaped and maintained. This is the path for hikers of all ages, experience, and abilities.
The third cascade is considered the most difficult to get to. So really experienced hikers should be the only ones considering this one. It’s about 65ft tall but has the greatest water volume of the three.
They’re all worth a look, and you know your ability level best. So get yourself some quality walking shoes and bug spray, and visit the National Park rainforest.
You’ll love it!
This town is located in front of the harbor on Grande-Terre island. And it’s a great stop for your Guadeloupe Island Vacation.
Point-a-Pitre (known as the New Orleans of the Caribbean) is easily covered in half a day. And it’s the most enjoyable in the morning.
You’ll enjoy shopping at the open air markets, experiencing all the fragrant spices and fresh produce the island has to offer.
You’ll also find chic boutiques and jewelry shops here as well.
Guadeloupe’s culture is a mix of many heritages: Amerindian, African, French, and Indian to name a few.
This is evident in all aspects of the island’s culture. From the food to the music and celebrations.
Most of Guadeloupe island residents are Catholic. The islanders celebrate the start of Lent with an extensive Carnival event.
There’s a variety of great music to experience: Gwo-Ka, Zouk, Creole Jazz, Akoustik Kreyol…
You’ll also find a variety of crafts and artwork from local artisans.
There’s really so much to do on a Guadeloupe Island vacation, you can’t go wrong.
This collection of islands is perfect for the nature lover, families, couples, groups, adventurers… the list goes on.
Accommodations range from Airbnb’s to 5 star villas and everything in between.
You can go non-stop your entire time there. Or you can completely veg out and simply soak up the surf and sand the whole time with a cocktail in your hand.