The largest French West Indian island, Guadeloupe encompasses
a massive 1704 square kilometres, the majority of which
is taken up by its two adjoining mainland islands, Basse-Terre
and Grande-Terre, whose outline resembles a greenbacked
butterfly in flight. Its two "wings" have
entirely different personas and equally misrepresentative
names: the western Basse-Terre , or "low-land",
is anything but, given its central core is dominated
by mountain ranges, including the Lesser Antilles' highest
peak, La Soufrière . These surround the island's
bountiful rainforest and descend to meet twinkling black-sand
beaches like Plage Malendure that extend to protected
underwater dive sites abounding with aqualife.
The eastern "wing", the furled Grande-Terre
, or "large-land", is slightly smaller than
Basse-Terre, utterly flat by contrast, and predominantly
rural. Most of the action happens along its southern
coast, where one white-sand beach after another seems
to merge endlessly along the coast, with the stunning
Plage Caravelle forming the centrepiece. Its outer reaches
are pounded by the savage Atlantic Ocean to produce
jagged limestone outcroppings like the windswept Pointe-des-Châteaux
, and the exquisite Lagon de la Porte d'Enfer natural
Guadeloupe's offshore islands are equally diverse. Marie-Galante
, with its rural landscape of sugarcane, hearkens back
to a Guadeloupe of thirty years ago, while La Désirade
, the most desolate of the lot, is quite possibly the
Caribbean's least developed island. The most visited-offshore
isle, tiny Terre-de-Haut , is the prettiest of all,
with quaint architecture and fabulous bays and beaches.
* Transatlantic Flights: Air
Airlines, KLM (only to Saint Martin)
serve Guadeloupe at the moment.
* Caribbean Flights: Air
Caraïbes, Air Antilles Express and
connect the islands of Guadeloupe and the Caribbean.
Ferries to the Saintes, Marie Galante, Désirade,
Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia depart from the Maritime
Station in Pointe-à-Pitre.
Ferries to Marie-Galante and Désirade also depart
Ferries to the Saintes also leave from Trois-Rivières.
Regularly scheduled trips between St Maarten/St Martin,
Saba and St Barth from Marigot and Gustavia
restrictions for French citizens with an ID-card or
a valid passport.
Tourists from the EU, the USA, Canada, Switzerland and
Norway need a valid passport for stays up to 3 months.
The official language is French. Most people speak
creole. In big tourist centers and at the northern islands
(Saint-Martin, Saint-Bartholomew), they also speak English.
Guadeloupe Pole Caraïbes Airport is 6km (4mi) north
of Pointe-à-Pitre. There are car rental agencies
and a taxi stand at the airport. An airport bus runs
about twice an hour to Pointe-à-Pitre on weekdays.
Guadeloupe has a good public bus system that operates
from early morning to early evening, with fairly frequent
service on main routes. On Sunday, service is much lighter
and there are no buses on most secondary routes. Taxis
are plentiful but expensive. There are taxi stands at
the airport, in Pointe-à-Pitre and in Basse-Terre.
Larger hotels commonly have taxis assigned to them and
the drivers wait in the lobby.
Renting a car is a good way to get around Grande-Terre
and Basse-Terre. Several agencies have offices at the
airport and in major resort areas. Drive on the right;
your home driver's license is valid. Renting a motorcycle
can be fun on Terre-de-Haut and Marie-Galante, since
there are few autos on the road. If you want to travel
at a slower pace on Marie-Galante or La Désirade,
try renting a scooter or a bicycle. There are buses
on Marie-Galante every day but Sunday.
Getting between Guadeloupe and its associated islands
is easiest by ferry. There's service between Pointe-à-Pitre
and Les Saintes, Saint-François, Trois-Rivières
and Marie-Galante. There are also ferry routes between
Saint-François and Marie-Galante and La Désirade.
Flying between the islands is faster but not necessarily
more convenient. Air Guadeloupe has daily flights between
Pointe-à-Pitre and Marie-Galante, La Désirade
The best time to visit is November-May, when day temperatures
are in the 70s-80s F/23-32 C and nights are in the 60s-70s
F/15-27 C. June-October is hurricane season, but except
in the rare instance when a hurricane does occur, the
weather in June and July can be dry and delightful.
The rainy season, September-November, is called hivernage.
Guadeloupe is more cloudy and rainy than most Caribbean
islands at that time, and the humidity is unbelievably
Guadeloupe is a French Department, therefore the health
care system is excellent. Unlike most tropical regions,
there are almost no communicable diseases or those transmitted
by parasites. There are no poisonous or dangerous animals,
except as noted below.
Some good advices:
screen with a high SPF is highly recommended. The
region is located between the Tropic of Cancer and
the Equator !
stay under the Manchineel tree (similar to an apple
tree). It has caustic and mildly poisonous sap. Don't
touch the leaves or eat the fruits. The juices burn
the skin. The main island of the Guadeloupe archipelago
is cleared of most of these trees, but there are still
plenty of them on the Saintes and on Saint-Barth -
very often marked with warning signs.
fish, especially around the northern islands eat poisoned
seaweed which can lead to severe food poisoning in
humans. Therefore, if you catch a fish, show it to
a native (or a cat).
black sea-urchin with its very long and dangerous
spines is poisonous. However, you can eat the white
in some rivers is dangerous because of Bilharziosis
(a parasitic disease). Normally there are warning
of the Scolopendra (millepede with a shell). Its sting
is similar to that of a scorpion.
aware of stray dogs at the beaches, because they can
transmit worms. Wear your sandals to the beach and
use a mat.
mosquitos transmit the Dengue virus, similar to a
severe flu; use mosquito repellent and sleep under
mosquito nets or in rooms with air conditioning.
but not least, practice safe sex. Be aware that sexually
transmitted diseases, (primarily Aids) are more common
in Guadeloupe than in any other French Department.
The currency is the Euro. Most banks and bank machines
accept most international credit cards. Credit cards
are welcomed almost everywhere, the best known is Visa.
Traveller Cheques are widely accepted. Bring some cash
for small expenses !
Light and casual clothes are suitable days and evenings,
suits and ties are not necessary. For those attending
mass at church, smart casual attire is necessary. Don't
wear swim suits in the city; it is considered bad manners.
Don't forget rain protection, sweaters and waterproof
hiking shoes for hiking trips in the rain forest.
You can drink tapwater, don't drink water of rivers
and small streams (Bilharziose). There are local and
imported bottled waters (Matouba, Capes, Didier).
Voltage is 220, 50 Hz, European standard wall plugs.
Transformers and adaptors are necessary for American
- The country code for Guadeloupe is 590.
- Calls from Overseas: internal code + country code
590 followed by the 9 digits of the telephone number
(++590-5 90 21 04 32 (fixed set) or ++590-6 90 41 09
23 (mobile phone)).
- Within the department of Guadeloupe (including the
main island Guadeloupe, the Saintes, Marie-Galante,
Désirade, Saint-Martin, Saint-Bartholomew), from
France or another French Overseas Department, only the
10 digit phone number is necessary (05 90 21 04 32 (fixed
set) or 06 90 41 09 23 (mobile phone)).
- Oversea calls: international dial code 00.
Calling cards or credit cards are needed for most of
the local phone booths, only a few accept coins. You
can get calling cards at the post offices.
Valid health pass necessary. There is no rabies on the
island. Caution: only a few lodgings accept pets. You
should consult a veterinarian to obtain a special preventive
deworming treatment for dogs !
Local time on Guadeloupe is GMT - 4 year-round.
That is: a time difference of 5 hours in winter and
6 hours in summer with central Europe.
Time difference with the US Eastcoast: 1 hour during
winter time (no time difference in summer).
Sunrise between 5.00 and 6.00 am, sunset between 6.00
and 6.30 pm.
Service and tax are included in the prices, but tips
are always welcome.
Guadeloupe has many fine beaches, some of which are
of the clothing-optional variety. There are white-sand
beaches in the resort towns of Gosier, Sainte-Anne and
Saint-François. On the northern side of the peninsula
leading to Pointe des Châteaux are a couple of
remote beaches: Anse à la Gourde, a gorgeous
sweep of white coral sands, and Anse Tarare, an adjacent
nudist beach. While most of Grande-Terre's eastern coast
has rough surf, there's a swimmable beach at Le Moule
and a little protected cove at Porte d'Enfer. On the
western side of Grande-Terre, Port-Louis is the most
popular swimming spot, with a broad sandy beach that
attracts weekend crowds. On Basse-Terre, the best beaches
are along the northern side of the island just north
of Deshaies: Grande Anse beach, with its expansive golden
sands, and Plage de Tillet, a secluded clothing-optional
Diving & Snorkeling
Guadeloupe has over 150 miles of coastline, and although
not all of it offers good diving, the extent of the
coastline means that there are a number of nice diving
Basse Terre has the most diving and the largest number
of operators. Pigeon Island is the site of the Cousteau
Marine Park. Despite its popularity as a dive destination,
the marine life is in good condition. All the sites
are buoyed and this has obviously contributed greatly
to the preservation of the reefs. There are also 2 wrecks
near Pigeon Island.
Grand Cul de Sac Marin is the area on the north side
between the two sides of Guadeloupe. Several miles of
reef have developed in these sheltered waters and much
of the area has been declared a marine park but access
The surf season lasts from October until May, but the
other months can offer ideal conditions too. The waves
break on coral, lava or rock reefs. In winter they'll
be of 1,5m to 2,5m. The Trade Winds, blowing nearly
the whole year, are more intense in spring/summer, where
you'll meet swell of 1m to 2m. The small height difference
between the tides allows surfing the same spot all day
long. During hurricane season (September and October),
experienced surfers will enjoy the exceptional swell
following or preceeding hurricanes arising in the Caribbean!
Guadeloupe has good surfing from October to May at Le
Moule, Port-Louis and Anse Bertrand, and from June through
August at Sainte-Anne, Saint-François and Petit-Havre.
Windsurfing is centered near the resorts on the southern
side of Grande-Terre and on the island of Terre-de-Haut.
You can hike many short trails on Guadeloupe that take
in waterfalls, primordial rainforest and botanical gardens.
Serious hikers head for longer, more rigorous trails
in the Parc National de la Guadeloupe, including one
to the volcanic summit of La Soufrière and another
to the base of Chutes du Carbet, the Eastern Caribbean's
Gourmet restaurants: French cuisine with local specialities
Traditional creole restaurants: exotic decoration, typical
creole cuisine with local specialities
Local restaurants: simple decoration and family cooking
Lolos: small shops with some tables and daily specials
Parc National de la Guadeloupe
At the heart of Basse-Terre, this national park makes
for a great drive and/or hike through orchid-filled
rainforests and fern-covered hillsides. The large forest
reserve is bisected by the Route de la Traversée,
a lovely mountain drive that passes thick bamboo stands,
enormous mahogany and gum trees, heliconia and ginger.
Maison de la Forêt, in the middle of the park
at the very centre of Basse-Terre, has an exhibit centre
with (French-only) displays on the forest. A short trail
starts at the centre, crosses a swing bridge over the
Bas-David River, and proceeds through a verdant jungle
of gommier trees, tall ferns and squawking tropical
birds. Cascade aux Ecrevisses, a jungle waterfall in
the centre of the park, is worth a visit, as is the
modest zoo at the western edge of the park
Bustling Pointe-à-Pitre is a mix of old and new:
largely commercial in appearance, it's peppered with
colonial architecture and West Indian flavor. The city
began as a fish market at the edge of the harbor in
1654, and is now is Guadeloupe's largest city as well
as its economic centre.
Pointe-à-Pitre is a small town, and though it
may see a lot of traffic, it's not exactly over-endowed
with tourist traps. There are a couple of small museums,
but other than that its most interesting sight is the
hullabaloo of the busy harbourside market.
This former fishing village has boomed into the country's
second-largest resort area, not always with a high degree
of sensitivity. While the western side of town is still
largely provincial in character, the eastern side has
been given over to tourism development. The deep U-shaped,
yacht-filled marina is lined with restaurants, luxury
hotels, car rental agencies and boutiques. If a round
of golf and sunbathing by the pool are the highlight
of your overseas trips, then Saint-François is
probably the place for you. Either way, it's the major
jumping-off point for trips to the smaller islands of
Terre-de-Haut, Marie-Galante and La Désirade.