Guadeloupe Holiday Planning Guide
Experience a lively mixture of French and Afro-Caribbean cultures on your Guadeloupe vacation. The archipelago consists of two main islands connected by bridges spanning a mangrove swamp, and a number of smaller islands to the south. The island of Grande Terre is mostly flat and arid, offering numerous scenic beaches and lively small towns, while Basse Terre features verdant jungles and mountainous terrain, crowned by a tall volcano. On a tour of Guadeloupe, you can enjoy a variety of beach activities, partake in hiking through a national park, and bask in the vibrant atmosphere of charming towns and villages.
Places to Visit in Guadeloupe
Regions of GuadeloupeBasse-Terre
: Guadeloupe's western half stretches over an area of 847 sq km (327 sq mi) of banana and coffee plantations and peaceful villages lying at the foot of an active volcano. Grande-Terre Island
: Separated by the Salt River from Basse-Terre, the island's name misleads tourists into thinking it is the larger half, but its surface area actually only takes up 586 sq km (226.sq mi) of a limestone plateau dotted with farms and resorts perfect for your Guadeloupe vacation. Marie-Galante
: A mix of rural landscapes and serene coastal spots on this island thrills tourists who decide to include it on their Guadalupe itinerary. La Desirade
: Wild white-sand beaches and calm atmosphere of this island--housing only 1,700 residents--make it the perfect getaway from the stresses of modern life.
Cities in GuadeloupeSaint Francois
: Full of luxury resorts, this modern town excites visitors with its exquisite restaurants, international boutiques, and seaside activities, such as swimming and diving in the surrounding reefs. Le Gosier
: A hotspot for Guadeloupe tourism, one of the most populated cities of the island nation lies on the south side of Grande-Terre, thrilling visitors with its fine-dining options, shops, historical spots, and museums. Deshaies
: Combining the urban with the traditional, this town allows you to include the best of both worlds on your Guadalupe trip and see the island's natural beauty clashing with commercial modern life. Sainte-Anne
: The southern city of the archipelago shows the vivid culture of the island nation through its historical sites--it also boasts vast sandy beaches.Sainte Rose
: Sainte Rose, a coastal town surrounded by lush nature and rich marine life, remains the perfect option for either an adventurous or calm Guadeloupe holiday.
Popular Guadeloupe Tourist AttractionsJardin Botanique de Deshaies
: Wander the trails of Jardin Botanique de Deshaies to absorb the unique beauty of over 1,000 species of exotic plants, ranging from lilies to avocado trees providing a leafy home for tropical birds. Pointe des Chateaux
: Only a short hike up a steep stairway, Pointe des Chateaux offers a panoramic view of the Atlantic shoreline. Parc des Mamelles, le Zoo de Guadeloupe
: Located in the middle of a rainforest, this zoo shelters iguanas, raccoons, parrots, spider monkeys, and even jaguars. St. Anne Beach
: This beach is the perfect spot for a day full of swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling off a white sandy shore surrounded by a large coral reef and backed by many beach bars. Plage des Raisins Clairs
: Protected by a coral reef, this peaceful lagoon remains ideal for swimming and diving, as well as relaxing under the palm-tree shade.Aquarium de la Guadeloupe
: This Guadeloupe attraction showcases the rich marine life of the archipelago, including corals, colorful fish, and even eels and sharks. Cascade aux Ecrevisses
: Located in the heart of the rainforest, Cascade aux Ecrevisses pours down into a natural body of crystal clear, cool water where visitors can swim or just cool off from the hike up to the site.Plage de Bois Jolan
: Stretching as far as the eye can see, the secluded beach provides visitors with a calm spot suitable for families with small children and people who want to enjoy the calm blue waters of the ocean.
Planning a Guadeloupe Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Guadeloupe with Kids
The sandy beaches and sunny weather of the island nation provide all the ingredients for a perfect family vacation in Guadeloupe that both the parents and children can enjoy.
Choosing one of the two major islands, Basse-Terre
or Grande-Terre Island
, as a base and traveling around the shore can provide a fun and enriching experience for the whole family.
Bigger cities, Saint Francois
included, remain the best option for families with small children, since most resorts there offer daycare services and plenty of kid-oriented attractions. Le Gosier
, another good option, appeals to visitors of all ages with its beaches and lively urban areas.
Things to Do in Guadeloupe with Kids
Places like St. Anne Beach
and Plage des Raisins Clairs
have the perfect conditions for a family vacation in Guadeloupe. At both beaches, you can safely snorkel the reefs which stop dangerous currents from reaching the shore. Plage de La Caravelle
offers similar swimming and snorkeling conditions, with tall palms trees providing shade from the scorching sun.
If you want to combine learning with relaxing, head out to <Aquarium de la Guadeloupe
or La Maison du Cacao
. The first attraction offers a look at the area's marine life, while the second concentrates on the history of the country's cocoa cultivation.
You can also include some of the natural formations and parks on your Guadeloupe itinerary.Guadeloupe National Park
represents a UNESCO-protected biosphere with numerous waterfalls, forests, and mangroves housing over 800 different tree species and countless animals.
If hiking isn't the thing for your family, visit Parc des Mamelles, le Zoo de Guadeloupe
and come face to face with the local wildlife in a more manageable environment.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Guadeloupe
Most resorts in Guadeloupe offer babysitting services along with activities especially designed to maximize fun for children.
Because many families take a trip to Guadeloupe, child-friendly restaurants often provide a kid-friendly menu or a bargain deal for a kiddy meal. Most pharmacies and stores stock international brands of baby food, diapers, and formula, but bringing your own to the secluded islands is advisable.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Guadeloupe
Cuisine of Guadeloupe
Heavily influenced by the country's Creole heritage, the cuisine of Guadeloupe uses a mix of traditional spices. Local cooking is also inspired and shaped by French culinary traditions, not surprising given the country's links to France.
Seafood remains the primary source of food here, but with farms occupying over a third of the country's surface, fresh fruit and vegetable are served in restaurants in a variety of ways.
The national dish of Guadeloupe, served on all the islands, "porc colombo" sums up how most dishes are made here--it's a stew made with pork and chicken heavily spiced with locally grown spices.
The national drink, ti' punch may remind you of a daiquiri with its sweet taste and rum base.
Most urban restaurants and cafes offer French-style pastries like croissants and macaroons--both make ideal pick-me-ups for visitors sightseeing in Guadeloupe.
Shopping in Guadeloupe
With plenty of international and French brands available in the major cities, retail therapy is always a good option on a holiday in Guadeloupe.
Despite the availability of foreign goods, the best items to purchase as gifts or souvenirs are those made by the locals and sold by flea markets and places like Marche de Basse Terre
, where you can find traditional foods and handicrafts.
Woodcarvings and woven baskets remain popular memorabilia options for adults, while children love the handmade dolls sold by various open-air markets.
Include Reve de Sable - Sandpictures
on your travel itinerary if you want a one-of-a-kind art piece made from sand and pebbles.
Other popular souvenirs to take home from a Guadeloupe vacation are rum and fresh spices--get everything you need to recreate a perfect local dish at David Vanille et Epices
, selling high-quality nutmeg, vanilla, anise, and cinnamon.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Guadeloupe
Interesting Facts About Guadeloupe
means "low land," while Grande-Terre
means large "large land" in French
● Christopher Columbus gave the island nation its name after the Virgin Mary in 1493
● The island carries the nickname "Karukera," which means the "Island of Beautiful Water"
● Basse-Terre boasts an active volcano, called La Soufriere Volcano
● Although bananas, pomegranate, and delicious cocoa are the main agricultural products here, your inner pirate on Guadeloupe vacation will appreciate the country's main export--rum--even more
● Surprisingly, the currency used here is the same as in the European Union--the Euro
Things You Should NOT Do in Guadeloupe
Although locals can handle tap water, tourists should drink only bottled water to avoid stomach issues.
Similarly, the local population is rarely adversely affected by the heat, but for visitors it is best to avoid too much exposure to the Caribbean sun. If you're planning many outdoor activities, wear plenty of sunscreen each time you go out.
To prevent any possibility of a mosquito-transmittable disease during your Guadeloupe vacation, carry and wear insect repellent wherever you go. Avoid swimming in swampy areas or unmarked bodies of water, as those are rarely checked for safety by the local authorities.
Holidays & Festivals in Guadeloupe
The vivid atmosphere of Guadeloupe draws in visitors looking for a blend of playfulness and tradition. The embodiment of the country's festive spirit comes to life one week before Ash Wednesday during the Guadeloupe Carnival, when the island residents wear extravagant, colorful costumes and walk the streets of major cities dancing and singing.
One of the more unique events you can attend during your Guadeloupe holiday is the Easter weekend's La Desirade Goat Festival, a fashion show during which goats wear fancy clothing and food lovers have a chance to try various goat dishes.
In May, the French Surfing Competition welcomes over 200 competitors, while the Guadeloupe International Zouk Festival in July allows local artists to honor their zouk musical heritage.
The film industry has its moment in November, a.k.a the Documentary Film Month. Food enthusiasts on tour of Guadeloupe appreciate Fete des Cuisinieres, a colorful autumn event taking place in e
To truly appreciate the country's Creole traditions, attend the International Creole Day in October and see people celebrate their heritage through concerts, poetry, and performances.
Useful Guadeloupe Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Guadeloupe
Brush up on your French before your Guadeloupe vacation since it is one of the three languages spoken throughout the archipelago, along with French Creole and English.
Typical "bonjour" or "ca va?" will get you a smile and equally polite greeting from the locals in restaurants, bars, and shops. Always say "s'il vous plait" (please) and "pardon" (excuse me) if you want to seem extra polite, but to make friends, introduce yourself by saying "Je m'appelle... comment vous appelez-vous?" meaning "My name is... What's your name?"
Climate of Guadeloupe
The tropical climate of Guadeloupe creates a humid and hot weather, with two distinct seasons. As you prepare for your trip to Guadeloupe, remember that the dry part of the year lasts from January to June, while the wet season (winter) covers July through December.
Trade winds blow even during the coldest months, January and February, when the average temperature drops to 24 C (75 F). The warmest period stretches from June to October, when the temperatures rise up to 27 C (80 F), with September and October being the warmest months.
Hurricanes (tropical cyclones) can occur between June and November. Despite the rain and humid weather inland, the sea remains warm and perfect for swimming all year round.
Transportation in Guadeloupe
Across the two main islands the most common method of transportation for tourists on vacation in Guadeloupe is provided by car rental agencies.
If you decide to drive through the country, bring along a detailed map of the area you plan to explore and pay extra attention in traffic since the winding, narrow streets can test the skills of the most experienced drivers.
Taxis are available in all major cities, but they seldom head out to the more rural destinations. Taxi fares also tend to rise about 40 percent during the peak hours of the day, well as during public holidays and on Sundays.
Tipping in Guadeloupe
During your Guadeloupe vacation, feel free to tip in order to show appreciation for receiving good service from hotel cleaning staff, taxi drivers, bellhops, and others working in the tourist-oriented sectors.
In most hotels, expect to see an additional charge of 10-15 percent automatically added to your bill. Restaurants often follow the same practice, while taxi drivers welcome an additional 10 percent of the fare if you expect them to transport heavy luggage.