It took next to nothing for me to find an excuse to visit Guadeloupe (I mean, it’s a Caribbean island, right?). It’s where they film the BBC mystery series Death in Paradise (extremely formulaic show but I love it, whatever). Plus, a friend of mine had visited years before, and it’s French and I love baked goods. So, I thought I’d check it out.
For a high-level overview of Guadeloupe, check out my post First Impressions: Guadeloupe in the Caribbean.
Day 1: Arrive & Chill
Off the bat, landing at Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport you can tell Guadeloupe is a paradise. You arrive flying in over beautiful beaches and jungle forests broken up by meandering rivers. Instant romance. The airport is hands-down the nicest I’ve been to in the Caribbean (hello, air conditioning and EU subsidies). I rented a car (very easy) and headed to by AirBnB on the northern coast of Basse-Terre, near Deshaies. Gorgeous. Day 1 was all about settling in and visiting the closest beach, the broad meandering Plage de Clugny.
Day 2: Basse-Terre
The most well-planned day of the journey. I headed west to snorkel Plage de Grande Anse, Plage Leroux, and Plage de Malendure, with plans to check out de Deshaies Botanical Garden and Zoo de Guadeloupe with a pit stop for lunch in between. Snorkeling is okay in Guadeloupe - turtle-centric and not a ton of coral, but not sure if this is natural or the result of bleaching. Guadeloupe is home to Reserve Cousteau, Jacques Cousteau's underwater reserve located between Malendure beach and Pigeon Island - lots of turtles and worth a visit. I’ll elaborate on snorkeling in another post.
The Botanical Gardens and Zoo are amazing, and brought me down to mid-island where I crossed over with the hopes of visiting the waterfall Cascade aux Ecrevisses (on the northernly side of the aforementioned volcanic island). But it was a Sunday and the area was totally packed, so I proceeded across and down the eastern coast of the island through the former plantation towns of Goyave and Capesterre Belle Eau.
At this point I was tempted to cross back over and go to one of the many secretive glorious waterfalls in the center-south of the volcanic peak, but it was starting to get late. So I went down to complete circumnavigation by driving through Trois Riveres, Vieux Fort, and Basse-Terre before heading back north. And, as it turns out, the southern coast of the island is one of the most beautiful, enchanting places I’ve encountered in the world. Hidden black sand beaches, colorful homes built up the side of the mountain and nestled into a lush jungle. The volcano descends down directly into the ocean - the south shore must be one of the geologically newest parts of the island, which imbues it with a wildness and energy and is drenched in magic. Fresh, pure, clean water also pours out of the mountain. I was swept away.
Following this, I drove back up through Basse-Terre, the administrative capital of the island. It’s home to a lot of history and a gorgeous boardwalk, I wish I could have spent more time there but it was sundown. So I headed back up the coast and back home, past the beaches where I started.
Day 3: Grande-Terre
I go hard, apparently, so after driving around Basse-Terre I got up early to head on over to Grande-Terre and the famed southern coast with its beautiful beaches. I also needed a croissant, and they like to congregate around Guadeloupe’s largest city of Pointe-a-Pitre and the southern coast’s Sainte-Anne and Sainte-Francoise. Little did I know that a lot of stuff on Grande-Terre stays open Sunday for the tourist crowd and is closed Monday. Oops.
What was open, though, was Sainte-Anne Market, a large assortment of booths and stalls selling local and local-vibe products and food. The offerings range from Guadeloupe sarongs and accessories to spices, fruit, and more. It’s all very colorful and beautiful and set right on the beach - it’s so cool to see Caribbean cloth baskets full of local spice mixes laid out with the ocean horizon right behind. Awesome visual.
So I bought a bunch of fruit and spices, spent a little time on the beach, and made my way further east. I really wanted to grab some French baked goods at Boulangerie Aleonard, on the coast of Sainte-Francoise, but they were CLOSED BECAUSE IT WAS MONDAY.
So instead, I explored the beach of Anse de Rochers. A hidden gem, the beach is right behind a private development, but is still accessible to the public - all beaches are on Guadeloupe. Just park at the entrance to Route N4 and walk along the side of the development where there’s a clear path. You’ll hit the shore in about three minutes, but it’s rocky, so turn left and head east for about five more minutes. You’ll find a beautiful, mostly empty beach with a little restaurant, Restaurant Ti’coco. Beautiful white sand, and a very interesting tidal situation with the currents coming in around the island.
From there, I went north along the eastern coast through Moule and Gros Cap. As mentioned before, Grande-Terre is a farming island and the vibe is informed by this - there are lots of trucks carrying sugar cane and other commodities lumbering around. This lightens up a bit as you go further north and Gros Cap is quieter with some gorgeous lookouts. As the side of the island that is open to Atlantic currents, however, there are many coastal cliffs and the beaches are more for looking than for swimming.
From here, I swung back around and down through the comparatively busy Pointe-a-Pitre and back home.
Day 4: Chill & Depart
I was exhausted day 4, and my fight to Barbados was cancelled. More oops. So I loafed around the gorgeous AirBnB, reading and writing until late afternoon. I was tempted to go back down to the southern coast of Basse-Terre, where the magic was, but have learned that burning myself out halfway through a trip does no one any good. Plus, I had to leave something for next time. Name a better way to spend a last day on a glorious island than relaxing and reflecting and I’ll give it a try. Until then, loaf on.