Guadeloupe holidays

Experience Guadeloupe

Best Places to Visit

Grande-Terre, home to touristy beaches and the bulk of the cities, is the main island for Guadeloupe holidays. Though not the capital, Pointe-à-Pitre is the main city, residing mostly in the south-west but also spanning into neighbouring Basse-Terre Island. Grande-Terre offers many tourist activities, from canyoning, boating and rappelling tours to water sports like scuba diving and snorkelling. Nature enthusiasts can also enjoy wildlife tours and off-road excursions will take visitors into the lesser-travelled areas.

Gosier is quite close to Pointe-à-Pitre and is noted for its semi-busy beaches and reasonable nightlife, while a bit farther east is the busy beach of Sainte-Anne. Most tourists tend to base themselves here or in Gosier, with quality beachfront hotels and a slew of bars, restaurants and tourist facilities available.

Farther east again is the resort area of Sainte-François, home to La Pointe des Chateaux and a golf course. Other worthwhile places on Grande-Terre include stunning Anse Bertrand, a beach in the north with cliffs and walks nearby, and Morne à l'Eau in the centre, known for its cemetery.

Basse-Terre Island is dominated by the Soufriere volcano and is surrounded by quiet beaches. This island has the best driving, with the main route encircling the mountain and with a quote cutting right through to the west coast from Pointe-à-Pitre. At the bottom of La Grande Soufrière, mountain visitors will find the Carbet Falls, three stunning waterfalls. The first and third waterfalls are hard to reach but the second is easily accessible.

The Guadeloupe capital, Basse-Terre, has many old Franco-style buildings and architecture, many of which are worth visiting on a day out in the capital. With plenty of historical landmarks in this region, it’s a good go-to spot for fans of history.

The other main islands in the chain are Marie-Galante, also quite large, Les Saintes and Terre-de-Haut (south), noted for their beautiful bays. Marie-Galante is virtually round and is home to some beautiful architecture including preserved windmills and the 18th century Château Murat. There is also the rugged, less appealing La Désirade (north): composed of Terre de Haut and Terre de Bas, one of the most beautiful bays.

If you have the time, to the north near Anguilla is Saint-Barthélemy (St Barts), which is noted for its colourful harbour front capital of Gustavia. More a package tour island, it is popular for weddings and often attracts celebrities from all over the world, thanks to its idyllic setting and luxury, private accommodation options.

Top Landmarks

Many of the top landmarks are in the capital, Basse-Terre, and Pointe-à-Pitre, the main base and economic centre. Basse-Terre is home to the 19th century Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, ancient forts including Fort St-Charles and the incredible Fort Louis Delgres (from 1640), and Place du Champ d'Arband for pleasant city people-watching.

Not far from the capital is Etang As de Pigue on Soufriere volcano, home to a crater lake and stunning hiking scenery. The Galion Waterfalls are a popular hiking destination in this area and can be accessed from Bains Jaunes. The 130-foot falls are reached via a trek through the rainforest and are most refreshing.

There's also the Botanical Park on Basse-Terre at altitude, which is home to brightly coloured wildflowers, an aviary with lorikeets, fish ponds and perfectly manicured gardens. In the south are ancient rock carvings at Trois Rivières and in the north of the island, the Rum Museum at Sainte-Rose.

Place de la Victoire is the heart of the city of Pointe-à-Pitre, which was home to a busy guillotine during days of the French Revolution. Popular museums in town include the Schoelcher Museum and the Museum St John Perse, which resides in a colonial house.

La Pointe des Chateaux is a stunning, natural landmark of stacks at the end of the long peninsula in the east of Grand-Terre. Views are impressive. Further north, meanwhile, is Sainte-Marie, a quiet bay which is home to an Indian community and Hindu temple.

Entertainment

Most of Guadeloupe is quiet at night and though there are many bars and clubs, it's not a party destination per se. However, discos and dancing are popular here, as well as local events incorporating the homemade beguine dance with Creole costumes. Rum punch cocktails are the local tipple.

The main tourist centre for Guadeloupe holidays is Le Gosier, which consequently has the best nightlife. It is just south-east of the main town of Pointe-à-Pitre on Grande-Terre and is loaded with lively restaurants, bars and clubs while most hotels also offer bars and entertainment. Nearby Sainte-Anne is also good.

Lollapalooza is one of the top spots for night-time fun in Gosier, featuring Latin sounds and dancing. Le Cheyenne is another famous club while Zenith at Bas-du-Fort (nearer to town) is popular with locals.

Pointe-à-Pitre has some bars near its main square, but is not a patch on Gosier (neither is capital city Basse-Terre), although just across the water from Pointe-à-Pitre in Baie-Mahault are a few decent pubs and clubs. Les Abymes, near to Pointe-à-Pitre also has a few pumping clubs at the weekend.

Pointe-à-Pitre itself is better for more discerning entertainment, being home to the Centre des Arts, which has a good line-up of concerts and theatrical performances throughout the year. For a show and meal, the Caribbean-centric Eden Palm Theatre is popular.

The other islands are typically very quiet and have their entertainment mostly based on the hotels. Think dance troupes and local musicians.

Dining Out

All resorts and towns have a combination of cheap, local eating and expensive local and international eating. There are many swanky, waterfront eateries, and lots of these restaurants reside in hotels. The cuisine is a mix of French, Caribbean and African, mainly consisting of spicy seafood dishes.

The main town of Pointe-à-Pitre and nearby Gosier and Sainte-Anne have the pick of the eating on Grand-Terre while capital city Basse-Terre has the best eating on Basse-Terre Island. In the main resorts of Gosier and Sainte-Anne, where most Guadeloupe holidays are spent, some of the best eating is in the hotels, such as the Sofitel.

There are lots of independent places with more sensible prices though eating in general in Guadeloupe is not cheap. Be aware that high-end dining here typically means formal dress. A 15 per cent tip is usually included at the classier places.

For budget eating, lolo street vendors are your best option along with boulangerie bakeries for snacks French-style. Creole fusion is best had in the Jarry district of Pointe-à-Pitre.

Popular items to taste: colombo (chicken curry), spicy sausage (boudin Creole), calaloo soup, Creole fish stew and accras fritters. A lime-bitter syrup concoction is served as local punch everywhere while French wines are equally ubiquitous.

Beach

Grande-Terre has the best beaches, the busiest of which is Sainte-Anne, while nearby Sainte-François is also good, along with Le Moule farther north. Though Gosier is the main resort town, it doesn't have the best sands. Also, many Guadeloupe beaches are taken up by large hotels and are open to guests only. Beaches are typically white, protected and good for swimming, while Basse-Terre has black/grey volcanic sand beaches. Topless bathing is accepted.

Romance

There are beaches on all islands but if you're after seclusion, look to the beautiful bays of Terre-de-Haut to the south and nearby Les Saintes. Couples often get married in St Barts (Saint-Barthélemy), farther north. The island of Basse-Terre has miles of lush hiking trails (many incorporating waterfalls, like Cascade aux Ecrevisses) and myriad, rocky bays facing the Caribbean Sea. Lazy boat trips along the Atlantic coast of Grand-Terre can also be had.

Family

Guadeloupe holidays for families are best enjoyed in Gosier, which has the best hotels together with nearby Sainte-Anne. Kids will also be happy touring the Soufriere volcano of Basse-Terre and taking in the huge Galion Waterfalls. Glass-bottomed boats run from many resorts along Basse-Terre as well as from the island of Petite-Terre, while Marie-Galante Island (accessible by ferry from Pointe-à-Pitre) is home to Underwater World, a sublime marine sanctuary.

Adventure

Guadeloupe has some of the best snorkelling and diving-Jacques Cousteau certainly liked it-with trips to dive sites and glass-bottomed boat tours available from many of the islands. La Soufriere plays host to Guadeloupe National Park and has dozens of miles of trails. It is still active but hasn't blown its top for decades. Rum tasting at the Museum at Bellevue, Sainte-Rose, should be on everyone's itinerary.

Need to know

Language

The native language of Guadeloupe is Creole Patois (a mix of French, Spanish, English, Portuguese, Carib and African) and virtually everyone on the island speaks it, although French is the official language and most people speak it. English is not widely spoken or understood though people connected with the tourist industry will know basic English. An attempt to speak in French will be appreciated by the locals, so bringing a phrasebook can be handy. You will hear more French than Creole in the countryside on Guadeloupe holidays.

Currency

Despite being in the Caribbean, Guadeloupe uses the euro due to it being a territory of France. Easily obtained before the departure journey, euros can be used everywhere in Guadeloupe, while US dollars may be accepted at some shops and restaurants in Point-à-Pitre. Major credit cards and travellers' cheques are also widely accepted, the latter of which is best changed at banks. There are exchange bureaux in the town and at the airport, while ATMs dispense euros. Having cash and a credit card as a back-up is recommended.

Visas

Visitors from the EU - including those from the UK and France - and those from the US, Canada and Australia don't need a visa to enter Guadeloupe. These visitors, among others, can stay for up to three months visa-free, although having a return flight and empty pages in your passport are musts. If you think you need a visa, check with your local French consulate or embassy.

Climate

Guadeloupe has a subtropical climate and is warm year round, with little deviation in average temperatures. The best weather is in the winter (the dry season), which is December to March/April and sees averages of 23°C (74°F). Most people visit at this time when prices are high due to the ideal weather conditions. It rains most in the summer (June to October) when averages are in the upper 20s (°C). Hurricane season is June to November. Prices tend to be cheaper at this time while May and June are good alternatives to avoid the crowds.

Main Airports

Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport, near Point-à-Pitre, is the main airport, with two international terminals and a slew of facilities. There's a direct flight from Paris though most flights go via another Caribbean destination. Secondary airports include St. François, also on Grand-Terre Island, and Marie-Galante Airport, on nearby Marie-Galante Island. There are also local airports on La Désirade and Iles des Saintes. These airports receive local and regional flights on small planes.

Flight Options

Air France flies direct from Paris (8 hours, 30 minutes) as well as from Miami and New York. Corsair and XL Airways serve from Paris, as does Guadeloupe flag carrier Air Caraïbes while Air Transat serves from Montréal-Trudeau. Those from the UK can fly to Paris-Orly or Paris-Charles de Gaulle, from where there are numerous connections daily. Flights from the Caribbean region with local carriers are relatively expensive.

Travel Advice

The best low season discounts for Guadeloupe holidays are typically in October and November when it's hottest, wettest and most prone to hurricanes. An Air Pass for the Lesser Antilles, which includes Guadeloupe, includes unlimited flights for the month with LIAT Airlines, but conditions (such as paying airport taxes) apply.

Other Transport Options

Major cruise liners frequently call at Pointe-à-Pitre, including Cunard, Compagnie des Iles du Ponant, Holland America and Windstar. Also, numerous ships come in from Miami, while ferries run the Martinique-Dominica-Guadeloupe route, such as Star Ferries. Catamaran cruises also run from Pointe-à-Pitre around Guadeloupe and to destinations nearby.

Getting Around

Guadeloupe is made up of several islands though the islands are quite close together so flying is not really necessary. Ferries serve all islands from Pointe-à-Pitre and run between islands, and there is a bus service on all islands, but exploring by car hire is best on the main islands.

Bus

Public buses are okay for short trips on the main islands, but are unreliable and not entirely comfortable. The coastal roads are served while main routes run on loops on Grand-Terre, Basse-Terre and Marie-Galante. Jitney vans also run to and from Pointe-à-Pitre.

Air

Along with the main Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport, Grand-Terre Island has St François Airport, with flights to the smaller islands in the chain. Air Caraïbe and LIAT are local airlines, with the latter offering an Air Pass to cover the other Lesser Antilles islands. Prices are expensive considering the short distances.

Car

A great way to see the three main islands on Guadeloupe holidays is by car. Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport has all major car hire firms, including Avis, Budget and Hertz. Roads are of decent quality, although small routes can be heavily potholed and dangerous in the wet season, while locals tend to drive aggressively. Renters need to be at least 21 years of age and a UK licence is valid for three weeks, with an International Diving Permit needed for longer stays. Driving is on the right hand side. The loop of Basse-Terre Island is especially impressive.

GUADELOUPE`S WEATHER TODAY

Mostly cloudy °C

AVERAGE TEMPERATURE (°C)

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MONTHS

AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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  • 146

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MONTHS

MAP

FACTS

  1. Guadeloupe is highly regarded for its beautiful dive sites, which are said to be some of the best in the world, and are worth visiting on a trip. The island is known as “Karukera” to the Amerindian locals, which translates as “Island of Beautiful Waters”.
  2. As with many of the Caribbean islands, life goes at a slower pace in Guadeloupe, so expect to be given plenty of time to enjoy a meal (or, indeed, receive service).
  3. Guadeloupe has its own music and dance genre – “biguine” - which is performed in traditional colourful Creole dress with drums and chanting.

FACTS

  1. Guadeloupe is highly regarded for its beautiful dive sites, which are said to be some of the best in the world, and are worth visiting on a trip. The island is known as “Karukera” to the Amerindian locals, which translates as “Island of Beautiful Waters”.
  2. As with many of the Caribbean islands, life goes at a slower pace in Guadeloupe, so expect to be given plenty of time to enjoy a meal (or, indeed, receive service).
  3. Guadeloupe has its own music and dance genre – “biguine” - which is performed in traditional colourful Creole dress with drums and chanting.

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