Family Vacations to Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe features mountains, rainforest, waterfalls, and beaches (Photodisc)

Guadeloupe Highlights

Guadeloupe, the French Caribbean's butterfly-shaped archipelago, consists of two main islands. Grande-Terre to the east contains the major resort area and the popular city Pointe-a-Pitre; Basse-Terre, to the west, has mountainous terrain with primeval rainforest, towering waterfalls, and a 4,813-foot active volcano, La Soufriere. Other islands in the chain include Marie-Galante to the southeast, La Désirade to the east, and Saintes Islands—Terre d'en Haut and Terre d'en Bas—to the south. A bridge over the Rivière Salée joins the two main islands. Most visitors arrive in Pointe-a-Pitre, a busy city with a French provincial feel and a selection of outdoor markets. Unlike many Caribbean islands famous for either beaches or lush, mountainous rainforests, Guadeloupe has both, drawing hikers and divers to its rich natural treasures.

Two of Basse-Terre's best beaches are La Grande-Anse, a wide stretch of palm-lined soft sands, and Malendure, on the calm Caribbean, the departure point for the Cousteau Underwater Reserve. Glass-bottom boats head out to Ilet Pigeon and the amazingly crystal clear waters of the reserve, which Jacques Cousteau called one of the world's ten best dive areas. Popular with snorkelers too, the reserve teems with coral and schools of tropical fish. From December through March, board a boat in search of the whales that frequent these waters.

The Parc National (National Park of Guadeloupe), another of Basse-Terre's treasures, spreads over almost a fifth of Guadeloupe's terrain, with a lush rainforest and the volcano La Soufriere. The 300 kilometers of hiking trails, called traces, range from easy to challenging, and several lead to waterfalls. A quarter-mile walk stretches from the Corossol River picnic area to the Chute de L'Ecrevisse, with a cool, refreshing swimming hole. Near Chutes du Carbet, the highest waterfall in the Caribbean, lies the reward for hikers who can handle challenging trails. A three-hour moderately difficult hike leads to the crater of a volcano. If the clouds part, the views are worth every step.

Wander through a succession of rich tropical landscapes and habitats in Basse-Terre's Jardin Botanique de Deshaies (Botanical Garden), a visual treat consisting of more than 1,000 species of plants—bougainvillea, hibiscus, baobab, breadfruit trees, and more. See the carp ponds, the pink flamingos, and the "parrot village," where the boldly-colored birds squawk, preen, and willingly pose for photos.

Grande-Terre's Guadeloupe Aquarium ranks fourth in France and is one of the largest aquariums in the West Indies. Exhibits of fish and live coral highlight the extraordinary biodiversity of the Caribbean.

Spend the day sailing or snorkeling the turquoise waters of Guadeloupe. Tip Top Cruises departs from Grande-Terre's Bas-du-Fort for day outings to Guadeloupe's smaller islands. Snorkels, flippers, and lunch are included.

Tip: It is forbidden to take pieces of coral or to touch or bother a sea turtle.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 8 Apr 2008 | Last Updated: 8 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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