In June last year, we spent a week in Guadeloupe, the French Caribbean island; so far I have not written about it, mostly because instead of exploring tirelessly as we normally do, we spent a week chilling out with friends, surfing, kite-surfing, and drinking rum. Well mostly.
But as grey and wet winter is going on in London, I find myself longing for that very special place where we had the chance to stay, the magical tree house of Tendacayou. For an almost grown up little girl who reads too many child books, it felt like a dream, like time had stopped. It’s a happy place I still invoke from time to time, when days are particularly gloomy.
Imagine a large comfortable and luxurious house, nested in a mango tree, with a view on the bay, and fully fitted with a suspended bed, a jacuzzi, a Japanese bath tub, and hammocks… When I grow up I want a hammock in my house.
One week isn’t enough to visit this paradise butterfly shaped island, but after 2 years of spamming with amazing surfing videos, my favourite Normands expats couple convinced me that it was still enough for a good taster…and took the bet that they would eventually make me go back. (I am pretty sure they will win that one!!)
When to go?
December to March tends to be the busiest tourist season, and for a good reason: escaping Europe’s doom and gloom weather for white sand beaches is quite appealing. European summer school holiday (July / August) is also rather busy with lots of kids studying on the French mainland going back home, even if those may be rather rainy months.
We picked June for personal reasons but going off-peak was to be the best decision: yes some restaurants and hotels were closed but that also meant we had a lot of space to ourselves.
So it isn’t quite one island…
Grande Terre – East Island, on the Atlantic side, is where the best surf spots are. We spent a fair bit of time in the really sweet environment of St Francois and Ste Anne (with its crystal clear blue water)
At the far East of the island, the Pointe des Chateaux also offers some stunning landscape, and sunsets.
Basse Terre – the West part of the island is a lot wilder, and adventures seekers will spend most of their time hiking in the rainforest, up the active the volcano of La Soufriere and skipping down waterfalls. There are also fabulous diving / snorkelling spots are on the west coast.
Les Saintes & Marie-Galante are a postcard-perfect Caribbean beach paradise however it takes time to get there; so we had to do a timing trade-off to do at some point and opted for Les Saintes where we spent a fun day exploring on a scooter.
Adventure holiday, family friendly…
there is so much to do, we couldn’t quite get decided… here’s a top short list that friends drafted the “perfect itinerary”, so this is the one I will share. In reality, kite surfing was soooo good that we ended up spending a little more time than initially planned in the south west of the butterfly island to enjoy.
– hiking the volcano of La Soufriere is an all time favourite of the island. Just remember to start the hike early in the day as night falls early and fast near the equator line.
– snorkelling and / or diving. The Cousteau National Marine park on the Pigeon Island (west of Basse Terre) is a preserved site.
– explore the various islands, or even sail it! One of my friend went sailing for a few days on a small 6 people sailing cruise, it’s a unique way to discover the islands …if only I wasn’t so sea-sick
– kayaking in the mangrove and discovering its very peculiar ecosystem
– eat & drink…that’s probably one of the best reason to go to Guadeloupe: I signTi Kaz La on the Island of Terre de Haut, La Table du Petit Parc, Le Rocher de Malendure in Bouillante…I’ve pinned a couple of places on the maps but there are many many more. A true foodie destination.
And then I have to say one word of kite surfing there, as there is one of the best beginner spot, ever: imagine learning kite surf in a protected warm lagoon, about 1 to 1.5m shallow (meaning you can almost always walk back), no waves and an unreal blue colour. Seriously, does that not sound like kite surfing heaven?
Did you know…?
- Although being located 6,700km from Paris, Guadeloupe is fully part of France, and it has been pretty much since the 17th century when French colon invaded the island. As such, it’s using the €uro currency obviously!! Ok the island is fully French, but check your visa, it’s not part of the Schengen space!! Confusing, isn’t it?
- Guadeloupe counts about 450 thousands inhabitants, mostly Catholics, but you will also find some Hindu communities. The religious influence has also taken its mark on the local cuisine that uses a lot of curry. The “Colombo de poulet” (marinated chicken) has become one of my staple as an easy and really yummy dinner option.
- Christopher Columbus “discovered” the island in 1493 and baptised it “Guadalupe” as a reference to “Santa Maria de Guadalupe”, the Spanish monastery. While at the time, the island was inhabited by the local Karib, who referred to the land as “karukera” or “island of beautiful waters”….
- Guadeloupe, as well as many other Caribbean islands, bear a heavy past of slavery commerce from the 16th until the 19th century (slavery was only finally abolished in 1848); during that period, the island was run by French colons who geared the agriculture toward cane & banana production. Nowadays, some of the best Rum is still produced there, using traditional techniques. We visited the distillery Reimonenq (north of Basse-Terre) as it has a little museum, but I’m told that the island of Marie Galante has 3 distilleries to enjoy…one more reason to get back there? The most enthusiastic can even plan their trip around the “Route du Rhum”
- What do I read on the beach? Le Coeur a Rire et a Pleurer by Maryse Condé, translated in English to Tales from the Heart: True Stories from My Childhood
That’s it for me, I’ll leave you in the (handsome) hands of model and DJ Willy Monfret, to show you “his Islands”.
http://www.guadeloupe-karukeravisit.fr/ (has an English version)