Guadeloupe is like visiting a diet France in the Caribbean. It doesn’t have a strong Caribbean culture vibe – it leans more European in feel. The beaches are nice but whether it was the hiking to waterfalls or going to the beach, nothing really grabbed me as being amazing. This is a perfect spot to go if you or your traveling cohort are a little more high maintenance and require more in the way of order and infrastructure but want a little bit of the Caribbean.
Perhaps you may know how Aruba, from a culture standpoint, doesn’t feel very Caribbean. Guadeloupe is not that extreme, but not by much. So what exactly is Guadeloupe? I’d say it’s a half-Caribbean, half-European island where you can find great French cheeses, nicely baked breads, some French attitude and some nice beaches with a little colour on the edges. The locals were pretty affable.
Best Time to Visit Guadeloupe
Short Answer: December to April for the best weather. January and February are great times.
Longer Answer: November to May, where November might have some additional rain. Once you get outside of the December to April timeframe, you should find cheaper rates and less tourists. You should avoid September and October due to the heavy rains.
Miscellaneous Travel Tips for Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe uses the euro as its currency and pricing is similar to Europe
Guadeloupe consists of two major islands, Basse Terre on the west (mountainous, rainforest, waterfalls, more typical Caribbean feel, banana plantations, etc) and Grande Terre (flat, more European, sugar plantations, etc) on the east.
For hiking on Basse Terre, see http://rando.guadeloupe-parcnational.fr/fr/
There are three islands off of Guadeloupe, Les Saintes (most popular), La Desirade (quietest) and Marie Galante (biggest).
All three have good beaches. Marie Galante is flatest and has three rum distilleries. Les Saintes and La Desirade can be explored via bicycle, foot or scooter.
For ferry service to Les Saintes, you can leave from either Pointe a Pitre or Trois-Rivieres (there are ferries from other locations as well according to 2009 posts). The schedule from Pointe a Pitre is served by Express-des-Îles and Val Ferry. From Trois Rivieres, see the schedule at (http://www.troisrivieres971.com/odttr/site/fr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=39&Itemid=69)
Scooters are available on Guadeloupe. You can also get around with the bus system during the weekdays. At night and weekends you are more limited and a rental of some sort seems wise.
Rental cars (most are manual transmission) are some international brands at the airport like Avis, Budget, Hertz, Sixt and Europcar. For cheaper, you can get off-airport companies as well who are more keen to drop off and pick up at various points on Guadeloupe which might be helpful (often for a fee). Check out Omerloc, Antilles Bail Cars and Car Creole.
For the on-airport rental companies, they have short hours and thus when picking up, you might have a limited selection. When dropping off before or after hours, the companies provide a dropbox. Park in P1 Parking Lot and drop the keys in the slot. Some charge extra for this (e.g. Avis charges 10€)
A snack/food that is popular in Guadeloupe is called a Bokit, which is a creole-style sandwich. It has a crispy pitalike bread and is filled with your choice of meat. It is quite economical (3-5€). Kassav is a creole snack made from cassava root with a sweet or savory filling. Colombo is a curry-style meat dish served with rice.
Night market available in Gosier on Friday nights. A smaller night market runs on Tuesdays in St. Francois.
For most French countries including Guadeloupe, it is helpful to greet them hello and goodbye when entering stores and such. Bonjour and au revoir. It seems to go a long way.
Guadeloupe traffic can be heavy on the weekdays so plan for that if coming or going to the airport.
Year-round surfing in Guadeloupe: Bananier Beach for beginners (sand break); Le Helleux for beginners and long-boarders; Le Spot Damencourt and Anse Salabouelle (a la Bouelle) for short-boarders/advanced.
Head out to the island of La Desirade (boat leaves from Saint Francois). Great snorkeling off coast.
Beaches in Guadeloupe
A sampling of beaches to try on Guadeloupe (main islands): Anse Tarare is a nude-optional beach with snorkeling not far from shore (southeast, east most point). Park near Ponte de Chateaux, not the signs for Anse Tarare.
La Grande Anse, located on the north west corner of Basse Terre (just north of Deshaies, 30 min walk, 5 minute drive), offers Guadeloupe’s largest beach with palm trees and nice scenes but reportedly gets full especially on weekends. North by another 5 minutes is Plage de la Perle. The waves can be very powerful. South of Plage de Grande Anse is Plage de Petite Anse which has more topless sunbathing and is much smaller.
A nice Grande Terre beach is Bois Jolan Beach. Shallow and calm waters (unlike many beaches in Guadeloupe) due to the protection of a barrier reef, it also has many spots of shade. Tranquil and natural. (3km east of Sainte Anne). Could be busy on weekends. (North by a short drive is the Rhums Damoiseau rum distillery).
Beaches in Gosier are less natural but they light the water for night swimming. Nearby food trucks are available at night for food. During the day you can also go to Ilet du Gosier which is a small island just off the beach.
A good Guadeloupe beach listing can be found at http://www.guadalupaonline.com/guadeloupe/beaches_guadeloupe.htm