How much do you know about Guadeloupe? Yep, it’s a biiiit beyond the usual remit of us at Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia, but it certainly rivals our region in beautiful beaches and fascinating history. When friend of T+L, Dr. Holly Hatcher-Frazier, decided to travel for a girls’ trip to Guadeloupe, we asked her to be our guide.
GUADELOUPE IS A DOZEN-ISLAND archipelago in the southern Caribbean that is a French overseas région. Christopher Columbus visited the two main islands (now known as Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre) in 1493 and consecrated them in the name of Our Lady of Guadalupe. But the tough local Caribs staved off Spanish troops and settlers for a couple of generations before the Europeans were able to establish a toehold on the coast.
French traders took over the Spanish settlement, and by the middle of the 1600s had developed a colony and institutionalized slavery there for coffee, sugar and other plantations. The next two centuries saw the French intermittently battling the British for supremacy over the islands, the enslaved people seeking their freedom, and the locals who naturally wanted them out. These days, the vast majority of the population is Creole and Roman Catholic, though they maintain deep folk culture traditions.
With white- and black-sand beaches, mangrove forests and waterfalls, volcanic peaks, beautiful blue seas, rich culture, and delicious food like conch all being bountiful, my mother, sister, daughter and I thought it would be a great place for a girls’ trip. Here’s our travel guide to Guadeloupe:
Why we decided to go Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe is an absolutely stunning country. The natural beauty is breathtaking and worth exploring either on a tour or renting a car on your own. The mix of cultures was another huge selling point for us and we were excited to experience it. Dry season is December to April, and we went on the tail end of that sublimely sunny period.
Favourite beaches in Guadeloupe
The beaches were gorgeous. The sand was like powder and it did not get hot. The crystal clear waters were calm and refreshing. Some of my favorite beaches were Plage de la Caravelle and Place de Sainte-Anne. We loved going to Malendure Beach: It was fun to see a black-sand beach where you can snorkel and see amazing coral as well as an array of colorful fish. T+L Tip: Malendure Beach has the best coconut ice cream.
Shop at Marché de Sainte-Anne
Shopping at the market was an adventure. We decided to walk to the market and stopped to get fresh juices along the way. The passion fruit juice was especially refreshing. Once at the market, we walked around to look at fresh produce and sample a variety of rums and spices. We found some pretty jewelry and textiles, as well. The vendors were friendly and we used Google translate to communicate when we were stumped!
Boat trip to Les Saintes
Les Saintes was a great day trip. The ferry ride was an adventure by itself. Be warned: if you sit outside on the ferry you will get very wet. It is said that this island is known for their elite fishermen, and I can say that the seafood we tasted there was extremely fresh. Fort Napoleon is an interesting historic site that houses a museum while also offering outstanding views of the turquoise waters from the top.
Must visit in Guadeloupe: Memorial ACTe Museum
The Memorial ACTe museum was remarkable. This is not your average museum. It showcases the fascinating history and vibrant culture of Guadeloupe using a combination of visual art, music, artifacts and digital media. The collection is quite large and has a focus on the history of slavery in Guadeloupe. I was surprised to learn that slavery was once abolished and then reinstated several years after its abolition.