Last month I took advantage of Norwegian’s insanely cheap fares from Boston to book a quick getaway to Guadeloupe with a friend. Given that I know some readers have already booked trips since seeing the last post, I figured I’d do a short write-up. As we were only there for three nights due to both budgetary and time reasons,A this is not intended to be a comprehensive overview of everything on the island, but rather a run-down of a few highlights as well as key tips.
Guadeloupe has some of the best diving in the Caribbean, including Îlets Pigeon (Pigeon Island, pictured above), famous for the Jacques Cousteau underwater reserve. Unfortunately my underwater camera couldn’t handle the depths I was diving at, but I can say firsthand that the fish were great (especially if you like parrotfish), and the coral was even more beautiful. There is even a great little bust of Cousteau himself at the bottom.
If you’re looking to get certified (or already are) with PADI (the most widely recognized SCUBA organization), then I highly recommend coordinating with Atlantis Formation, which offers three dives per day at 50 euros each (including equipment rentals). They even give you free (alcoholic) punch when you’re done, and we got to enjoy a local marching band:
Eat street food
Make sure to check out at least one night market. There is one in Le Gosier city center every Friday, and other cities also tend to have weekly ones on other nights.
A popular local snack are accras, deep-fried balls of local fish (similar to a hush puppy):
Even after (correctly) translating “boket” to “bucket” using my Haitian-Creole translator, I still wasn’t sure what this was, but I ordered it anyway. Turns out “bucket” is like a pita pocket sandwich, where the bread acts as a literal bucket for the filling! Try to go somewhere where they are making the bread fresh to order.
Of course, this is France, so you shouldn’t leave without having at least one crepe:
There is another vendor there who is a bit of a local legend for her version of a crepe that uses cassava instead of the traditional flour-based batter:
Another vendor at the night market was selling the best coconut ice cream of my life, fresh from his old-fashioned ice cream maker:
There will be vendors selling freshly cracked coconut water all along the street, and these are definitely worth stopping for. You can get a giant waterbottle’s worth for just 4 euros, which will be extremely refreshing.
Go to botanical gardens
The Jardin Botanique de Guadeloupe is famous for a wide variety of plants from not just the Caribbean, but all around the world:
They also have a great selection of (somewhat) exotic animals:
Check out a waterfall
Getting to Chutes de Carbet (Carbet Falls) is a fun little drive into the heart of the island’s national park. From the parking lot, it’s about a 25 minute walk to the view of the main waterfall; ambitious hikers can trek several more hours to get to the top. We arrived after sunset however which provided for less than optimal photo conditions, though I did get this shot from the parking lot:
Stay at a fun hostel
In particular, the E. Gwada (Creole slang for Guadeloupe) hostel in Le Gosier has been popular among budget travelers for quite a while, and with good reason. The prices can’t be beat ($56/night for a private room with two beds), the staff is friendly, it attracts a (mostly) fun group of fellow travelers to socialize with, the WiFi is fast enough, and the bar isn’t hesitant to give out free drinks.
Sample French/Creole restaurants
The restaurants here tend to mostly be French with a Creole influence. As this is a Caribbean island, seafood also figures heavily into the cuisine, so make sure try to fish when you have the chance. They also do a local take on chicken curry, which is quite delicious and spicy, but doesn’t look nearly as appealing on camera:
Also, the French really really like pizza, but have interesting toppings for it like honey and goat cheese. We arrived very late to our hostel the first night and this was the only place nearby that was open:
Relax in hot springs
If you see “Bains Chauds” (hot springs), pull over and follow the signs. While the water may not be super hot depending on the tide, it’s definitely a great way to relax by the ocean:
Eat at a boulangerie
While it may feel like the Caribbean, you still are in France after all, which means the pastries are second to none. Nothing like a nice pain au chocolat as a road trip snack:
Drive stick shift
You’ll save quite a lot of money on car rentals if you know how to drive stick shift going in (or take the time to learn in advance). It’s a lot more fun winding around the many scenic curves of the main highways that outline the island when you’re in control if your car’s gears. Just don’t make the same mistake I did and get a car with an underpowered engine that will give you trouble getting up hills:
Guadeloupe is an overseas territory of France, and while (like most of the Caribbean) most people working in tourism can speak enough English to get by, you’ll be able to have far more in-depth conversations with locals if you know a little bit of French. As most guests here are coming from mainland France, the island is a little less bilingual than others. While the Google Translate app will help immensely, it still might help to learn French to assist with pronunciations. As it is also a free offline download, the Haitian-Creole translator will also be useful for those limited times when there are signs in Creole rather than French. Also, even the most mundane things sound fancier in French:
Bonus: We didn’t get to check it out, but Pointe des Chateaux, at the very eastern end of the island came highly recommended.
Have more questions? Have your own experience to share? Feel free to e-mail me or post in the comments below.