Your list of travel requests keeps getting longer and longer. You’re a Francophile, who craves rich food and richer wine. You love stunning scenery, especially views that include gorgeous beaches. Plus there’s an outdoorsy side of you–a bonus that helps make it seem like you don’t enjoy all that food and wine. But it’s getting harder and harder to find new vacation destinations that fit all of your demands. Enter Guadeloupe.
The islands of Guadeloupe changed hands many times. The Spanish, the French, the British, and even the Swedes–during the Napoleonic Wars–claimed Butterfly Island after Christopher Columbus landed here. Today, the Caribbean islands are undeniably French.
The two main islands, Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre, are as different as night and day, despite being narrowly separated by Salt River. Grande-Terre is dry, flat, and ringed by white-sand beaches. Basse-Terre is lush, green, hilly, and volcanic. And then there’s Les Saintes, an archipelago of nine offshore islands. It seems like there’s plenty to explore.
Begin on Basse-Terre. Parc national de la Guadeloupe is one of France’s largest national parks. And it’s a good place to hike off those morning croissants. Hike through dense White Mahogany and rosewood trees. A Guadeloupe Woodpecker hammers away in the distance. Move up through the moist forest. Two mongooses scurry off the trail in front of you. Continue through the Jatobá forest. The cloud cover gets thicker as you climb higher. But you’ll hopefully still be rewarded with views of the volcano, La Grande Soufrière, the cause of that faint sulfur smell. Les Saintes and Marie-Galante are in the distance. Make your way to Carbet Falls, a series of three waterfalls along the Carbet River. Stop at Little Paradise Hot Springs after admiring the falls. You’ll only have to share it with three frigatebirds.
Since you’re already soaked, it’s time to head to the water. Jacques Cousteau’s Underwater Reserve surrounds Pigeon Island. The water is shallow and perfect for snorkeling. See schools of Sergeant Majors, green humphead parrotfish, and tortoises. Dive below the surface to check out the finger and brain coral. And be careful not to touch the prickly sea urchins.
By now you’ve earned some beach time. In northern Basse-Terre, you’ll find Grand Anse, one of Guadeloupe’s longest stretches of golden sand. Sea grapes and coconut palms connect the lush hills with the exposed bay. Someone is playing zouk music farther down the beach. After a strenuous morning, you’ve earned this piece of paradise. If only someone would deliver your seafood dinner and a bottle of chilled champagne.