A laid-back alternative to St. Barts, the islands of Guadeloupe have Gallic touches as well as uncrowded beaches and rain forests for spectacular hikes. Cruise ships dock in Pointe-à-Pitre, the capital and largest city. Its central location makes it a fine base for exploring, especially since the two main islands are close enough to be connected by a bridge.
What We Love
La Soufrière: This mildly active volcano is a beautiful, doable hike that can be done in about two hours. Stop at the mineral-rich Yellow Baths and cool off in the waterfalls at Le Bassin Bleu.
Les Saintes: The French influence is stronger (as seen in the food) on these islands, a 20-minute ferry ride from the main islands. Les Saintes Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Best Known For
Colorful Beaches: The black-sand Plage de Bananier is popular with boogie boarders, the chalk-white Plage Vieux Port and Plage de la Feuillère are all but uninhabited, and the golden sand of Plage de Grande Anse stretches around a long crescent.
Small-Screen Fame: The islands are every bit as gorgeous in person as on the BBC/PBS drama “Death in Guadeloupe.” The series was filmed in Deshaies, a laid-back beach town on the western coast.
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Who It's Best For
Nature Lovers: The archipelago is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve thanks to the rain forests and a vibrant underwater world (the Cousteau Reserve is a draw for divers).
Street Food Fans: Bokit is the beloved local sandwich — soft, flaky deep-fried flour filled with meats (from ham to conch to merguez), sauces, and vegetables. Grab one from a food truck when you disembark in Pointe-à-Pitre.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Parlez-Vous Français?: If you don’t speak French, join an excursion, hire an English-speaking guide, or download a good translation app.
Priced Accordingly: Since Guadeloupe is a department of France (like a state), it operates in Euros — and import fees drive up prices.
Ann Abel is a Brooklyn-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Departures.