Christopher Columbus touched down on Guadeloupe in 1493, marking the beginning of a long, complicated history of colonial rule; in 1946, the island officially become a French overseas department. Despite changing hands between France, Britain, Spain, and Sweden over the centuries, it is French and Creole culture that reign supreme here. This is most apparent in the delicious cuisine you will find all over the island. Spicy cod fritters and freshly caught grilled fish abound. The local specialty tourment d’amour is perhaps the most obvious combination of French pastry heritage with tropical flavors—it’s a pastry that is crisp on the outside and filled with gooey coconut or guava on the inside. Magnifique.
Work off all that delicious food with a journey to La Grande Soufrière, one of Guadeloupe’s great treasures. Not only is it the highest point in the Lesser Antilles, which makes for exceptional views on clear days, but it is also an active volcano (the last eruption was in 1977). There are not many other places in the Caribbean where you can get so up close and personal with such a natural wonder. The elevated temperature is apparent—it almost makes the bougainvillea and hibiscus flowers even more fragrant, and if you place your hand on the ground you can feel the volcanic warmth of the earth. Adventure operators like Canopée Guadeloupe and Vert Intense can provide not only guided hikes to the best parts of the mountain, but can also help set up more thrilling activities like canyoning and repelling. Make sure to set aside some time for the famous Yellow Baths, natural hot springs filled with warm sulfurous water that islanders swear has restorative properties.
Schedule all activities during the mornings before the heat gets too strong. After all, there are more than enough beaches here where you can bake in the sun all afternoon long. La Caravelle in Sainte-Anne and Arawak Beach are favorites, as is the secluded black sand surfers’ haven of Plage de Bananier. And if you really want to lean into your Francophile experience, check out the clothing-optional beach at Pointe Tarare.
Once you’ve run out of beaches, which is unlikely to happen, you can engage in a little excursion (“day trip”) to any of Guadeloupe’s outlying islands. Ferry company CTM Deher offers multiple rides between the islands every day from the town of Trois-Rivières. And if you want a vacation from your vacation, spend a night at Les Petits Saints on the island of Marigot (part of the Îsles des Saintes). A classic maison creole, it’s an owner-operated restaurant with just 10 guest rooms upstairs—go in the off-season, May to November, and you’re likely to have the entire place to yourself.
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