You know Aruba, the Bahamas, St. Thomas, and St. John. Turks & Caicos, St. Lucia, and the Dominican. But do you recall…one of the most beautiful Caribbean islands of all?
Okay, I’ll stop so you don’t have that song in your head, but I think Rudolph is a good metaphor for Guadeloupe in that it’s very underrated and would probably save Christmas if given the chance.
Guadeloupe is shaped like a butterfly in the French Antilles. The west wing, Basse-Terre, is more natural, untouched, and is home to the Parc National. The east wing, Grande-Terre, is more populated with towns and sugarcane fields. There are smaller islands to visit off of these two if you have more time than my family did.
The islands provide many opportunities to check off bucket list experiences – and can inspire you to add more to your existing bucket list (which I assume everyone has in Notes on his or her iPhone). Here’s what I recommend:
(1) Fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing
Our first hotel was Langley Resort Fort Royal, near the town of Deshaies, on the island of Basse-Terre. I wrote a whole post about our hotel stay here, but to sum it up, it was one of my family’s favorite places we’d ever stayed together. There were two stretches of semi-private beaches right in front of the hotel, and our bungalows were just steps from the ocean. I grew up at the beach, but I’d still never slept so close that I could hear the waves crashing at night. There were a few restaurants, live music, and water sports rentals, so you could spend all your time at the hotel if you wanted to, but do get out and explore.
(2) Snorkel with turtles
Sometimes I panic a little when I snorkel, but when we rented snorkels and masks on a beach across from Pigeon Island, I got the breathing down pretty easily. We only saw 1% of the 200 sea turtles said to be in that particular area, but we totally stalked them for quite some time and were the only humans out there for a while.
(3) Hike to the ends of the earth
Pointe des Châteaux is the easternmost point of Grande-Terre and, dare I say, the most stunning. The waves crashing in and out of these little coves and rock formations is quite dramatic and creates many different shades of blues. We picked the middle of a really hot day to hike to the top, so we were dripping with sunscreen and sweat, but the view was worth the climb, as it typically is.
(4) Swim under a waterfall
The water was colder than I wanted it to be and the rocks were more slippery (bringing back memories of when I fell in a stream while hiking in Hawaii), but it was pretty refreshing to swim in the pools around and under Cascade aux Ecrevisses. There’s a short hike to the waterfalls from the parking lot but the screams and laughter of others playing in the waters will guide the way.
(5) Order a meal in French
At Le Poisson Rouge (aka the Red Fish), one of the coolest restaurants I’ve ever been to, there were no English menus or servers who spoke English working that night. My French is spotty, and I hadn’t learned the vocabulary necessary to know what was on the chalkboard menu. We figured out at least one word of each dish by comparing the words with the Spanish we know and by acting out animals with our waiter. It was like we were on a game show. While better French skills would have helped, all you really need to do to order is act like an octopus.
(6) Try a bokit sandwich
It seems that every culture has its own version of meat inside a bread pocket and Guadeloupe’s is the bokit. We got ours off a food stall after snorkeling near Pigeon Island. For being so simple, these bokits were darn good. Mine was ham and cheese and really hit the spot. This lunch was the cheapest meal we had all trip by far, at 3 euro a pop.
(7) Climb an active volcano
Climbing a volcano, specifically La Grande Soufrière within Parc National, is an activity that we did not fit into our few days but if I were to return, I’d definitely make time for it. The last time it erupted was 1976, but it’s heavily monitored so they won’t let you on it if there’s potentially a problem. For more information on this activity, read this blogpost on Rachel’s Ruminations.
Which of these activities would you like to cross off your bucket list?
My family and I were guests the first night at Langley Resort Fort Royal, but opinions are always my own.