It’s true…WE LOVE GUADELOUPE!
We spent over a month+ in the butterfly-shaped 630 square-mile island duo, and it did not disappoint us. With its lush rainforest, volcanic peaks, and all the delicious food and wine you could possibly want. Guadeloupe blends some of the most appealing aspects of France within the islands. It was easy to fall in LOVE with the culture and quaintness of the French Caribbean!
Baie de deshaies
Framed by green hills and said to be the deepest bay of all the Caribbean coast. Thanks to its semi-sheltered bay, the village is a popular stop with cruisers since its the perfect jumping-off point to all the surrounding islands. It’s a charming yet sleepy little town with colorful cafés, boutiques, and bakeries that line the tiny streets. It has the perfect combination of traditional small fishing village but with good eating and drinking.
However, the anchorage is a tricky one. Our time here was a frustrating mix of calms and strong gusts. We were advised to avoid the northern side because its shallow and rocky. As well as putting out a lot of chain because the wind funnels through ferociously. Even with this pre warning, we still dragged (OUR FIRST TIME EVER) and had to reset our anchor in the dark and while raining. Not our fondest memory, but we locked in good with the second attempt and road out the 40 knots for several (sleepless) nights without budging. Others were not so fortunate as we watched boats drag, collide into one another, and eventually leave the anchorage because the winds were too much to endure while re-anchoring. If your lucky there are free-to-use mooring balls, but the local boats take them up. On our second trip to Deshaies we arrived early enough to snag one!! Made a huge difference.
Customs/Check in – Deshaies is a port of entry (and exit) and you clear in/out via computer in Le Pélican (leave the dinghy dock and turn right).
Le Madras – The food was very good, friendly staff (Fabienne is the nicest and will happily chat with you in French or a little bit of English), and the setting can’t be beat. We came here twice and both times we got the crème brûlée for dessert.
Tip: The French typically eat dinner between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. If you realize you’re hungry at 3pm, restaurants aren’t an option. Traditional French meals are long and don’t really offer “quick bite” options. Customers come in around 7:00 and stay until 9:00 and then the restaurant closes. That means, if the restaurant is full, there is no “waiting till a table opens”. Reservations are advised so they can know how much food to have on hand.
Rental car – We booked with Ecovolt-rent. According to google maps its “office” is directly located in Deshaies. Not really though, theres no physical office to be found. However, it was very easy, convenient, and affordable ($20 euro a day). There was a 3-day minimum for the rental, which was fine for how much island driving/exploring we wanted to do. The rep dropped off the car to us and we signed the paper work with him. Then dropped off in the same location. Make sure you can drive a manual, no automatics.
Le saut des trois cornes (Loop of the 3 horns) – An adventurous hike guaranteed! We really enjoyed this one. Its about 1 to 1.5 hours (3 hours total). The trail head throws you directly into the forest. Yellow traces on the trees will help you to get to the waterfall. The trail begins easy because it descends first, but the return is harder because of the rise. Beware of the slippery terrain and roots. Good shoes are a must!
Botanical gardens – So much beauty! Jardin Botanique stretches over 7 acres with a path winding around ponds, waterfalls, birds, and flora. You can easily spend several hours here. 30 min walk, mostly uphill.
Airbnb – Before the 40 knot winds, we treated ourselves to a few nights off the boat. We found the cutest place just north of the anchorage around Plage de Tillet ($68 a night!). Beautiful terrace, full kitchen, laundry, and hot showers. It was heaven!
Fishing port, geared towards sugar production. It’s a large square with nearby markets and bakery. The church is quite nice and the graveyard on its rear overlooks the harbor.
With our Dacia Logan rental we ventured over to the northern coast to check out the highly recommended Reimonenq Distillery Estate – The Museum of Rum! It’s a self guided tour, and theres an air conditioned theater where you can watch a 10 minute video on the history. THEN, you can get your rum tasting cups. It’s an unlimited pour your own tasting!
On the second floor is an exhibition explaining the manufacture, but also models of boats, butterflies and insects. The most interesting display was the sand. Giant glass cases of sand bottles from all the beaches in Guadeloupe. It was fun looking for all the ones we’d been to.
After rum tasting, we found this amazing roadside restaurant that was one of the best meals we had. Gwada Couscous, is the kind of place you find by accident but its a quaint little brown building with a yellow awning. It has an inside/outside patio and no one spoke a word of English. Perfect…because I’d been learning French for a while and I pulled together all the French words I knew to get us through this meal – Une table pour deux s’il vous plait!
Carrefour Express – If you remember from our time in St. Martin, we love the Super U and Carrefour markets. As you get further down the island chain, they become a little smaller hence the ‘Express’. But they still offer a great selection. We made a few trips with the car to pick up our favorite meats, cheeses, wines, and crackers.
Guadeloupe National park
The extreme lushness of the rainforest is mind-blowing. Some areas are cool and slightly foggy while others are warm and jungle like. Highway D23 is also called the Route de la Traversee. This road cuts straight across the island through the park and is a great way to cut over to the Caribbean side more quickly. The road takes about 25-30 minutes to cross. The park is enormous, making up most of the island.
Was created in 1989, becoming the first French national park in the overseas territories. This park is beautiful!! And has a wide variety of activities from easy strolls to picnic areas, waterfalls, and challenging hikes. The trails and attractions are very well marked and maintained. Some areas charged for entry, $2.50 euro per person. We only scratched-the-surface, but look forward to our next trip to continue our explorations.
Maison de la Forêt – This stop offers both a short 20 minute loop, and a longer 1.5 hour loop. We did the short one, due to time, but both offer great snapshots of trees, vines, flowers and other plants. It feels like being in another world. There’s a beautiful wooden bridge you must cross to follow the trails.
Cascade aux Ecrevisses – This is a really easy (facile in French) waterfall to see, about 5 mins from the parking lot with a flat and comfortable path. Once there, there are a lot of people. Some swimming, others having fun with the rocks. Mostly a lot of picture taking, apparently a hot spot for engagement photos, as it is so beautiful. Especially with all the foliage surrounding us.
Plage de Malendure – Réserve Cousteau
Very crowded dark sand beach off the main highway. As we approached we saw so many people and decided that we had to check it out too. To our surprise there were parking meters here…I’m struggling to think of a time when we saw parking meters in the Bahamas or Caribbean to access a beach. That would be never!
It also serves as a departure area for kayak rentals, boating and diving excursions off of Pigeon Island. The diving here is said to be one of the best sites and is pretty hyped up. We considered coming back to snorkel but it was just too crowded, for us. There’s lots of drink/snacky type places and vendors. So instead, we grabbed a beer and did some people watching. Personally, our conclusion was we’d rather spend the day at another (secluded) beach.
After a full day of island exploring we stopped for dinner at L’Air Marin. Very good meal. Good atmosphere. Small friendly restaurant. Theres no menu, just a few items on a board so we each tried one of the specials. Again, no English spoken but our waitress was very welcoming.
This is where we discovered the Ti punch. Literally meaning “small punch,” comes from the fact that it is usually served in a shot glass. It’s a rum-based mixed drink that is popular in most French speaking islands.
It is served as an apéritif before starting a meal OR most of the local bars/restaurants serve you a small glass with the bottle of rum. As well as a bowl of limes and cane sugar. That way, you can sweeten and prepare your drink according to preference. As a first time Ti-punch drinker, we didn’t know that the white rums are at least 50° proof.
Hahaha! Should have added more sugar 🙂
Capital city and best known for its hiking and diving. After a week and a half in Deshaies, we headed down to the southwest coast of Basse-Terre. Where we reunited with sail friends SV Borealis and made plans to conquer its volcano that towers over the entire island!
Although you can anchor in Basse Terre, the coast here is very exposed so you are subject to rolly and mostly deep water. There is a marina nearby that includes a fuel dock. Along with small markets, bars, shops, laundry, and car rental.
Fort Delgrès – Self guided tour with beautiful views and lots of history. The site is very well maintained and no admission is charged.
Bleu Mer – The service is a bit long, however that’s French culture. But our dishes were fantastic and the presentation was beautiful. Don’t skip on the homemade juices and desserts!
Sinobol (Snowball) – Cooling and refreshing on a hot Caribbean day! Scrapped ice in cup with syrup on the top. Its done by hand with these very large chunks of ice and metal scrapper. You can find these stands at outdoor markets and near beaches.
Canne et Blé – Our favorite bakery in all of Guadeloupe! Excellent sandwiches and baked goods (sweet and savory). Surprisingly the pizza slices were amazing and topped with sun dried tomatoes. The salmon baguette was incredible as well. You must go early!
La Casa Creole – No frills restaurant but good food. Friendly service. We went end of day so I think probably best if you make it early to get it really fresh. Huge portions of rice, veggies, and roasted chicken or ribs.
Pointe Du Vieux Fort (Lighthouse) – Beautiful area where you can lay on the grass under the shade of the coconut trees, admire the view of cliffs, the lighthouse, and maybe even see the island of Le Saintes in the background. There were several people jumping off the rocks by the lighthouse into the sea and snorkeling.
La Grande Soufrière – Also located within the National Park is the tallest peak in the lesser Antilles at 4,813 ft. This active stratovolcano is an important landmark of Guadeloupe’s landscape. The trek up and down is physical with lots of rock climbing. You don’t exactly hike La Soufriere for the views. So we didn’t have any visibility once we reached the top but it was worth the adventure even while being pelted with rain, wind, and fog. The occasional breaks in the weather on our way down allowed us to see spectacular views of the countryside and the Caribbean. >>See video here<<
Don’t forget water, snacks, warm clothing. It’s cold at the top! And your swim suit too, theres a natural warm pool at the base that you can soak in!
Guadeloupe really surprised and captivated us – Yes, we could totally live here! And even though I feel like we’ve shared so much within this post, we only scratched-the-surface of this beautiful and amazing island. We can’t wait to return with or without the boat!
My advise, GO to Guadeloupe, or rather, DON’T GO, so I can keep it for myself 🙂
Next up is Part Two! We leave mainland Guadeloupe to explore Les Saintes, a group of small islands in the archipelago of Guadeloupe. The main island, Terre-de-Haut and Marie-Galante are just as fabulous.
Cheers from the Caribbean!