Presented in partnership with The Guadeloupe Islands Tourist Board.
Did you make a New Year's resolution to visit an exciting new destination?
One that's sunny and beautiful and just under-the-radar enough that you're among the first to discover it?
Sound like you're on your way to The Guadeloupe Islands, which we've already introduced to you as your favorite new Caribbean Islands. The palm-fringed archipelago (made up of five gorgeous inhabited islands) on the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea are all brimming with nature's bounty, incredible French-Creole cuisine, rich culture, and welcoming locals.
Those are reasons enough to go, and here's another big one: When JetBlue launches a seasonal new direct flight from New York's JFK airport in February, it will be easier than ever to get to Guadeloupe.
And when you do, these are the top five things that will guarantee yours is the best. trip. ever.
1. Adrenaline Rush in National Park
If you also resolved to get in touch with nature this year, Guadeloupe will more than fit the bill, as 77 percent of the country is devoted to national park and/or preserved lands. The crown jewel is Le Parc National De Guadeloupe on Basse-Terre island, a 74,000 acre park that is home to the largest rainforest in the Lesser Antilles.
How active do you want to get? In a ranking from take-it-easy to totally-gonzo, you can:
- stroll a manicured path, taking photos of the thousand species of animals who live here,
- ride a jeep safari through the forest along the scenic sixteen miles of Route de la Traversée,
- snorkel in the bay at Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin,
- hike to one of the 40+ waterfalls, each more stunning than the next, especially Chute du Carbet and Cascade aux Ecrevisses,
- jump into the hot pools,
- rappel up and down the mountains,
- climb to the summit of La Soufrière, the volcano known to locals as La Grande Dame.
Hey now! You've earned a few cocktails made with the rum Guadeloupe is famous for.
2. Island Hop to Les Saintes
Christopher Columbus named this archipelago "Los Santos" when he discovered it in 1493 shortly after All Saints' Day. Six centuries later, six of the nine islands that make up Les Saintes remain uninhabited. Now that sounds like an unforgettable day on sailboat charter.
Of the two inhabited islands, Terre-de-Bas is unmissable for the golden sand at Grande-Anse beach.
The main island, Terre-de-Haut, is home to Les Saintes Bay, ranked by UNESCO as one of the world's most beautiful bays. Surrounding the bay are three forts, one of which, Fort Napoleon, is now a museum dedicated to Fort history and to the island's natural environment, as well as a cactus conservatory filled with varieties from around the world.
Pain de Sucre, one of the most beautiful of Guadeloupe's 350 beaches, may be a little hard to reach, but — wow — is it worth the hike.
Looks like you're worked up an appetite. How about lunch at a beachfront restaurant? Head to Ti Kaz’ La, Ti Bo Doudou, or La Pause Créole for a fresh seafood feast. Remember, everything tastes better when your feet are in the sand.
Finish your meal with the local speciality, tourment d’Amour. Tender inside and crunchy outside, the "torment of love" tart is made with coconut, banana, or guava. According to legend, this is what sailors' wives made while waiting for their husbands to return from the sea.
3. Visit Pointe-à-Pitre
Pointe-à-Pitre on Grande-Terre, the New Orleans of the Caribbean, is the cultural center of Guadeloupe. And like NOLA, this town will inspire you to think and to party.
Thinking first: Memorial ACTe, the largest slave museum in the world, opened in 2015 on the site of a former sugar factory and is part of UNESCO’s Slave Route Project. With clear eyes on a tragic past, the institution seeks to preserve and honor difficult and unspoken memories and to bridge the gap to a more tolerant present. (Black history tours are available through local tour companies like Guadeloupe Shuttle.)
The bright yellow Cathedral of Saint Pierre and Saint Paul, known as "the Iron Cathedral,” has an interior notable for its columns, buttresses, and iron reinforcements. (It was built to withstand hurricanes and has done so since 1807.) The church sits alongside Pointe-à-Pitre Market by the harbour and Place de la Victoire. Open daily, this is where farmers sell produce and fish to locals — and where you should stock up on spices to take home.
Time to party. This means music and dancing. The local rhythm and responsive singing style Gwo-Ka has earned a spot on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. (UNESCO has found a lot to love in Guadeloupe...) If you see a crowd forming a circle around drummers playing ka drums, clapping and singing along with a rotating number of soloists, stop and get into it. If you really want to get into it, take a Gwo-Ka dance class at Akadémiduka.
4. Explore Marie-Galante
Columbus struck again, naming this island for Marigalante, the ship he was sailing when he ploughed these waters in 1493. He also brought the sugarcane crop, which in turn led to sugar plantations and a robust trade economy powered by slave labor, which required mills to process the cane. So many that Marie-Galante came to be called "the island of a hundred mills."
Today, the sugar past is put to sweeter uses: Some of the mills are tourist attractions, including two at the eco museum The Habitation Murat, the well preserved Le Mulin Bézard in Capesterre, and the windmill at Bellevue Distillery, which makes award-winning rums. You should absolutely stop for a tasting. (Helpful memo from your friends at home: Souvenirs! Hint, hint.)
And don't miss the picture-perfect beaches. Anse de Mays in Saint Louis, Le Feuillère in Capesterre, Anse Moustique in Saint Louis. Speaking of picturesque, while you're in Saint Louis, make a trip to the sinkhole Le Gueule Grand Gouffre, a natural arch carved into the cliffs by the sea.
5. Eat a Bokit, Then One More
As everyone knows, there's no more perfect food than a sandwich. And Guadeloupe's national entry could lay claim among the world's best.
First of all, it's made with fried dough that expands into a pita-like pouch. It's then stuffed with some variation of fish, seafood, meat, and vegetables and served hot, often from a food truck or a street vendor.
Like any good local specialty, there's no strict recipe. Just endless varieties, and many people who claim their version is the best.
No need to take their word for it: You should decide for yourself by sampling as many as possible. You'll work it off tomorrow.
Ready to Go? Start by Winning a Trip to The Guadeloupe Islands
To celebrate the new JetBlue direct flights from New York's JFK, Guadeloupe Islands are giving away a trip, with two round-trip tickets to Pointe-à-Pitre and seven nights at ClubMed La Caravelle, a newly-renovated, all-inclusive, four-star, beachfront resort.
Presented in partnership with The Guadeloupe Islands Tourist Board.