When I got the invitation to join a group of bloggers on a media visit to the French Caribbean, it had been more than two years since my last tropical vacation. So, obviously, it didn't take me long to say yes! But, I’ll be honest with you - I didn't know much at all about Guadeloupe. None of my friends had gone there, I hadn't seen any photos on Instagram or read any articles in magazines. I was excited just to trade cold and windy Boston for a few days of tropical sunshine.
Guadeloupe is an overseas department of France. Technically, it's part of the European Union, and the Euro is the official currency. Still unfamiliar to many in the U.S., Guadeloupe has long been a popular destination for French tourists. Luckily for all of us in the Northeast, Norwegian Air has recently launched several direct flights from Providence, RI, and New York to Point-a-Pitre. The prices start from $59 one-way. Endless summer is just a 4-hour flight away, and with the affordable prices Norwegian Air is offering, there’s really no good excuse not to explore Guadeloupe! It's a wonderful place that has it all - mountains, beaches, tropical forests, small villages and wonderful cuisine.
If you're looking for recommendations, I'm sharing some of my favorite things to do and see in Guadeloupe below.
LA POINTE DES CHATEAUX
Pointes des Châteaux is a peninsula at the eastern point of Grande Terre in Guadeloupe, a place where the Atlantic Ocean collides with the Caribbean Sea. Rock formations, strong winds, and crashing waves make it a popular tourist destination. There's a 10-meter tall cross at the very top of Pointes des Châteaux. You can hike up there for some really amazing views!
They call Pointe-à-Pitre the New Orleans of the Caribbean. It’s the largest city in Guadeloupe and is located at the point where Basse-Terre meets Grande-Terre (the two wings that make up the island’s famous butterfly shape). The city is vibrant and colorful and has an incredible architectural heritage with many well-preserved historical buildings. Take a stroll through the city to discover some street art masterpieces, several interesting museums, lots of shops, markets, and restaurants.
There are a number of open-air markets that sell spices, local foods, baskets, straw hats, home-made rum punch, creole dolls and other handmade items. One of the main markets, the one I visited, is located at Place de la Victoire in Pointe-a-Pitre. Full of character, this market is the perfect place to find some authentic souvenirs to bring home with you.
THE MEMORIAL ACTE
The Memorial ACTe, also known as the Caribbean Center for the Expression and Memory of the Slave Trade and Slavery, opened in 2015 in a place that used to be the Darboussier sugar factory and rum distillery. It is the largest memorial of its kind in the world. This exhibition takes you through the history of colonization and slavery. It was a very emotional experience, and I highly recommend setting aside at least 2.5 hours of your time to visit.
THE HOUSE OF COCOA
If you love chocolate as much as I do and want to learn more about it, you should check out the "Maison du Cacao". It's a fairly small attraction located in a place where cacao was once produced. When you enter the Cocoa House you will see a beautiful garden with different species of cacao trees and displays explaining the culture and history of cacao. In the end, you join a tour where you'll get to learn all about the production steps and different products made from cocoa. You’ll even get to try out cacao beans, cacao paste and butter, and hot chocolate. It's heaven for cocoa lovers!
CASCADE AUX ECREVISSES WATERFALL
Cascade aux Écrevisses is a beautiful waterfall located right along the main road through the Parc National de la Guadeloupe. It's very accessible - just a 2-minute walk from the parking lot. Bring your swimsuits! The water is clean and refreshing, and you can swim up right to the falls. Keep in mind that this is a very popular attraction, so you will see other people there. It’s best to come later in the afternoon when it's not too crowded.
Les Saintes consists of nine islands situated 15 kilometers off the southern coast of Guadeloupe, two of which are inhabited - Grand Anse and Terre-de-Haut. Out of all our days in Guadeloupe, the one we spent visiting Terre-de-Haut was my favorite! When you arrive at the port you will see many cafes and restaurants serving delicious, local seafood next to the stunning shoreline. Take a stroll along Rue Jean Calot and discover lots of cute shops and colorful buildings.
Fort Napoleon is located 114 meters above sea level in Les Saintes. It was originally called Fort Louis before it was destroyed in a battle with British forces in 1809. In 1867 the fort was restored and renamed after Napoleon III. Much later, the fort was turned into a museum. Outside is Jardin Exotique du Fort Napoleon, a botanical garden with succulent plants that offers a spectacular view of Les Saintes bay, one of the most beautiful bays in the world according to UNESCO.
PLAGE DE POMPIERRE
This is one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen – clear warm water, white sand, tall palm trees, and goats roaming around with chickens. I made a goat fiend here who tried to steal all my food. I don't remember the last time I laughed so hard!
I'm not that adventurous when it comes to food, so I wasn't sure if I would like the food in Guadeloupe. But I was brave, and I tried it all. While there were things I didn't like, there were also things I loved so much that I can’t wait to learn how to cook them myself! I'm talking about cod fritters, bokit, Ti' Punch, coconut ice cream and lots of fresh seafood. Just the thought of these things makes my mouth water! I was also fortunate enough to not only eat out at restaurants but also visit local people's houses and try out homemade creole cuisine. This was an unforgettable and very delicious experience.
I wrote a separate blog post about the hotel we were staying in. You can find it HERE.
I fell in love with the culture, food, natural beauty, and people there. Guadeloupe is a hidden gem of the Caribbean, and you should absolutely add it to your bucket list!
I visited Guadeloupe with Norwegian Air and Guadeloupe Island Tourist Board, however, I have only included things that I personally enjoyed on the trip. All opinions are 100% my own.