Guadeloupe – The Island of Awe

I am sure when most people first see the name of this caribbean destination the eyes squint, there is a quizzical look on the face and the question that comes to mind is – “Where’s that?”  Well, that’s why I am here for you.  To introduce you to an island you may have never thought existed.  La Guadeloupe is located in the eastern caribbean region and its nearest neighboring islands are Martinique, Dominica and St. Lucia.  The island is composed of Basse Terre (think mountains, waterfalls, and country side) and Grand Terre (think city, suburban, and urban areas complete with nightlife, arts and craft markets and museums).  Perhaps one of the things that visitors should be aware of prior to visiting is the fact that Guadeloupe is an insular region of France (i.e. french territory) and therefore the primary language is french.

Now that you have the basics covered, what is really important to know?  From the east cost, Guadeloupe is roughly 4.5 hours from the mid-Atlantic east coast and direct flights are available (this means more rum to bring back, but I digress).  High season for the country starts in November and runs until March.  As such, it is highly (did I say HIGHLY) recommended that car rental reservations be made well in advance.  Trust me, I have first hand knowledge of this.  This is not a location where you can just walk into a rental agency, wave your credit card, and say that you want a car for the weekend.  If you are staying in the more developed areas, you definitely need a vehicle.  Taxis are pretty expensive, so be forewarned.

Where to stay?  There are a ton of options; however, I chose to stay in Le Gosier which is centrally located and not far from the beach.  Le Gosier is located approximately 20 minutes or so from the capital Pointe-a-Pitre and area where is the airport is located.  Every budget type can be accommodated in Le Gosier, from thrifty airbnb to higher end hotels, so there is no problem finding lodging to suit your needs.  There is a visitors center in Le Gosier that can provide you with a wealth of information about La Guadeloupe and they also have free wifi available for use, just ask for the code.

What to eat?  Actually, it is more like “what not to eat”.  As with any other caribbean destination, you have lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and fish.  But, there is also a creole influence with respect to the food which takes things up a notch.  The food is very well seasoned and the portions are ample enough so that you can take home leftovers (especially important if you are traveling on a budget).  I can pretty much guarantee that whatever you are in the mood for, you can find it in Guadeloupe.

What to do?  It is almost standard protocol to visit the beach as the caribbean is known for having some of the best beaches in the world.  However, there is more to Guadeloupe than the beach.  Visitors to the island can find a lot of things to do that will give them a feel for the culture.  Two of the highlights of my trip were visiting a waterfall in Basse Terre and visiting Memorial ACTe.  It should be known that there is a lot of walking to get to the waterfall, but when you finally reach it, it is a gorgeous sight.  Remember to pack your bug spray.  The Memorial ACTe is perhaps one of the most well put together museums dedicated to telling the history of slavery in Guadeloupe and the caribbean.  Please note that the information presented in this museum is not a regurgitation of the water-downed history lessons you learn in school.  It is factual, in your face, well researched history.  Be prepared to be amazed and to also have your emotions stirred.

What to know before you visit?

  1. As mentioned earlier, Guadeloupe is a french territory and therefore the euro rules the land.  Therefore, it is important that you research exchange rates prior to your trip and understand how far your money will stretch.
  2. Although Guadeloupe is a french speaking territory, people are very cordial and patient with those who are non-french speaking individuals.
  3. Most of the hotels offer european plans.  Therefore, don’t expect to find a lot of places where free breakfast is included.
  4. With respect to lodging in some hotels, note that the rooms are very basic (not in a bad way) and you will have a bed, bathroom and tv.
  5. If you decide to stay in an airbnb, be sure to confirm the exact location of the rental.  Some people list their properties are very “creative” with the descriptions.  Their definition of “beach nearby” may be 5 miles away.  Research, research, research!
  6. If you choose to rent a vehicle, please realize that most rentals are standard shift vehicles.  If you are lucky enough to acquire an automatic, please know that you are going to pay appropriately 30-50% more for the rental.  As I stated earlier, book your rental months in advance if you will be visiting during high season.
  7. The local drink is Ti Punch.  If you are not a drinker, you might want to just stick with a coke or something else.  The drink doesn’t seem like much, but it can literary make someone’s head do a 180… but it is good!
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