Want a low cost Caribbean vacation? Check out Guadeloupe!

WHAT?!?!  You’ve never heard of Guadeloupe?!?  No worries, neither did I until I booked tickets.

My good friend, Madia, wanted to get out of DC and her idea of the perfect vacation always involves a beach.  She was searching around for cheap flights and discovered Guadeloupe, part of the French West Indies (aka French Caribbean).  In all the traveling I’ve done, I’ve never been to the Caribbean so I was super pumped to discover this island.

Guadeloupe isn’t very touristy, which was nice.  It made some parts of traveling a bit difficult but it was great to experience a place that doesn’t have a strong tourism.  It makes you feel like you get a sense of how the island really is, instead of how the tourism board wants you to think it is.  With that said, it has been a hotspot for the French to visit, being a French colony and all.


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We booked tickets on Norwegian for $200 round trip from DC.  My recent ticket from SFO to NOLA was $210 for one way, so I already realized this place would be a steal of a deal.  Apparently this airline is positioning themselves as the budget long haul airline – this means you can find cheap tickets to exotic places without all the extras (aka, you will have to buy your drink on the plane).  They give you 1 free carry on, so that is always a plus.  The downside is they only fly to Guadeloupe two days a week – Saturday and Tuesday.  Between the flight and getting lost, it really only felt like we have 2 days on the island.  So plan accordingly!

Renting a Car
You will need a car.  I’m not kidding about this.  The island is definitely on island time.  We arrived on Saturday night and didn’t see a bus until Monday morning.  Not only will you need a car, they do not have GPS.  Luckily Madia was prepared.  Going old school with a throwback to 2001, she looked up directions to our hotel from the airport and printed them out.  Still, it was obscure directions.  We had a difficult time follow them and we ended up lost.  We found the best to drive around the island was by following these rules:

  • Roughly know the routes you will be taking and where they are located on the island.  Take a look at a map of the island and get to know the area you plan on visiting. I found it easy to drive around once I figured out the road system.  We stayed on the southeast side of the island, so I focused on that area.
  • Follow the signs!  Seriously.  Every round-a-bout will have signs telling you which way to go.  Follow them and you are less likely to get lost.  With that said, on our way to the airport we got lost because there were signs directing us to the airport and Pointe-à-Pitre.  Once we came close to Pointe-à-Pitre the signs for the airport stopped.  We had to backtrack and hand gesture with the gas station attendant in order to find our way back on track where there are signs again pointing us in the correct direction.
  • If you have a smart phone, find wifi (we discovered McDonald’s comes in handy here).  Use the google maps app.  We plotted out our course and the little blue dot still followed us around without data or wifi.  This was super helpful when we were trying to figure out if the last round-a-bout was the turn we were supposed to take.

A few last tip when renting a car in Guadeloupe:

  • Know how to drive a standard transmission. Like most European countries, they don’t really have many automatic transmission cars there.  If you do need to rent an automatic be prepared to pay a hefty fee for it.  I believe the cost was around 3x more expensive than a standard transmission.  Luckily, I know how to drive a manual.
  • Even if you credit card covers insurance or you opt to pay for the Personal Liability Insurance they will place a hold on your card for around 15% of the cars value.  I’m not joking.  I believe our hold was about €1,500.  CRAZY!

Hotels
After reviewing a bunch of hotels, we discovered Hotel Turquoise (Résidence Turquoise) in Gosier.  From reviews of hotels in Guadeloupe, it seems that most hotels are pretty sub-par from what is normally expected.  A lot of the hotel reviews stated they did not give you common items like a towel.  This place has good reviews, was a good price point and was in walking distance to the beach.  The only odd thing was they told us we had to clean the room before we left, which is odd for a hotel. I would also suggest checking out AirBnB as a source for a place to stay.  I found some spots that were about half the price that we paid.  Plus, if you are going to have to clean the place before you leave, you might as well just rent an AirBnB.

As I stated before, we stayed in the Southeast side of the island.  It was great for a beautiful beach vacation.  If you want to have a mountain vacation, this island has that too!  Go to the west side of the island and hike the volcano!

Le Goiser

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We stayed in Gosier, which was a great landing zone.  It had a nice little beach with a bar.  We headed over to the beach Sunday morning to see if we could find some breakfast, which was about a 5 minute walk.  They have a few restaurant options but we opted for the food trucks and grabbed a crepe.  So yummy and a beautiful view! Across the way is an island called Îlet du Gosier which looks like a nice little place to spend the day on the beach if you can charter a boat to take you there.  We didn’t have the opportunity to check it out this trip as there was a festival happening that weekend.

Pointe des Châteaux

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After breakfast we drove to the end of the island at Pointe des Châteaux.  We were told to check out the statue.  It turns out the statue is really only a cross, which they have all over the island and isn’t all that exciting. However, the views were amazing!  It was about a 10 minute hike up to the top and you feel like you are at the end of the world.  They have a nice beach there as well, but they didn’t have a lot of shade at that beach so we decided to check out the rest of the coast line to see what else we could find. I little ways down the coast we stopped at a grove, which everyone seemed to be pulling off the road to camp out on the beach for the day.  It was nice because it had a lot of trees, and therefore shade, but not a lot of beach.  There was also a lot of seaweed patches, so we didn’t really swim around a lot.  Plus, I have this irrational fear of water, or at least the things lurking in water.  When I was a kid I was always afraid a shark was going to eat me while I was in the swimming pool.  I’m not really sure where this fear came from, maybe in a previous life I was eaten by a shark?  Regardless, I always have a pair of water shoes now when I know I’ll be at the beach.

Sainte-Anne

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While driving back to our hotel in Goiser, we drove through Sainte-Anne.  We stopped at the Carrefour to grab some wine, cheese and fresh baguette to have for dinner.  Through our research we already knew this place was supposed to have the most lovely white sand beaches and a great market.  While we were shopping for dinner items we decided we needed to spend the next day in Sainte-Anne.

White sandy beaches did not disappoint! The water was crystal clear turquoise blue and you could see right through to the bottom.  I was up to my shoulders and I could still see the ocean floor.  I didn’t even put my water shoes on!  That’s how nice it was.  Madia said it was officially her new favorite beach.  The water was like bathwater. So warm and comforting.  The sand was soft and beautiful.  There was even shade, which both of us are big on having while at the beach.

All-in-all we had a excellent time in Guadeloupe and I highly suggest heading there.  Already, we are making plans to head back there.  I love hiking and I heard the volcano is amazing to see.  I can’t wait to go back and experience the small ilet (islands) and  and check out the west side of the island!

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Thanks for reading,
Meandering Mason

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