Basse-Terre in Guadeloupe, Carribbean (Guadeloupe Islands Tourism Board)

What to do in Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe (population roughly 400,000) is not one island, but the largest archipelago of the Lesser Antilles. The main island of Guadeloupe is called the Butterfly Island due to its shape: it's comprised of two islets separated by a narrow seawater channel known as the Rivière Salée. Rich rainforest carpets its mountainous interior and stunning beaches line its coasts. Grande-Terre is the eastern part of the island, which is relatively dry and flat and is home to the economical capital of Pointe-à-Pitre. The town is full of colonial buildings and spice and flower markets, but most travelers simply head here for the reasonable prices on French luxury goods. Basse-Terre, the western part of the island, is ruggedly mountainous—its 74,100-acre Parc Naturel de Guadeloupe has excellent hiking trails and is capped by the active volcano La Soufrière, which at 4,736 feet is the tallest peak in the Lesser Antilles. Although technically active, the vent can be climbed by tourists. The political capital of Guadeloupe is the town of Basse-Terre (a bit confusing, as it is located on the part of the island with the same name), founded in 1643 and peppered with botanical gardens.

The island territory is what you would expect from French Caribbean: great food, gorgeous beaches, and a sophisticated infrastructure. Escape the main island of Guadeloupe by hopping on a ferry to its rural offshore islands, the largest and most cosmopolitan being Terre-de-Haut. More English is spoken here thanks to the international sailing scene, and it's the only outer island with overnight accommodations. On the whole, Guadeloupe's resorts are smaller and more intimate than other Caribbean destinations, making the island that much more individual. Other islands in Guadeloupe include La Désirade, one of the least developed islands in the Caribbean, and Marie Galante, with its windmills and remains of former sugar plantations. The isles of Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy, once part of Guadeloupe, have been their own territories since 2003.

Scuba divers flock to Guadeloupe more than any other French Caribbean island, especially to La Réserve Cousteau with its excellent dive sites around Pigeon Island. Other pursuits are deep-sea fishing for marlin and wahoo and surfing on Guadeloupe's great breaks, which number over 30 and host many competitions. For simple beach bumming, most of the best spots lie between Gosier and St. François on Grande-Terre, as well as the hotel beaches at Gosier, which are protected by stone jetties. Two others worth seeking out are Point Tarare, the only nude beach on the island, and La Grande Anse Beach, which some say is the best in the French Caribbean.

Compare Rates to Guadeloupe