In my previous post I covered the basics of Guadeloupe or 'Gwada' as the locals refer--how to get there, where to stay, etc.--but this post is about venturing out of your villa. The main island (or two) of Guadeloupe is really big, plus there are several smaller islands off the coast, so you can easily spend a week without seeing most of what the butterfly-shaped island has to offer. Here is a good list to get you started:
Saint François - Located on the Southeastern part of the island is this charming seaside town and marina. It is a popular spot to vacation due to the casino, golf course and white-sanded beaches. And the town itself has a lot of yummy restaurants and bars, some of which offer fantastic ocean views. You can also catch a ferry for the day to nearby islands of La Desirade and Terre-de-Bas.
La Desirade - About a 45-minute scenic ferry ride from Saint François, this island is worth the choppy seas sometimes encountered on the journey. There is only 1 road on the entire island, about 3km long, on which you will encounter beach after beach, and it is hardly crowded which means you will have a quiet and enjoyable day relaxing on the sand. Rent a scooter and stop at La Plage du Souffleur, the island's prettiest beach, for some swimming and sunning but beware of the spiny sea urchins! Just when you're getting hungry and thirsty, the beach restaurant La Roulotte opens up offering fresh food fared from the sea and chilled rosé from Provence. Grab a spot under a palm tree and let the afternoon slip away.
Pointe des Chateaux - As the name might suggest, this is the Southeastern-most point of Guadeloupe marked by unique rock formations. Hike the trail around the peninsula and take in the magnificent views and crashing waves around you. When you reach the cross you know you've reached the very top.
Not listed above but deserving of an honorable mention is Plage de la Caravelle at Club Med. This beach is beautiful and loaded with amenities, but comes with a steep sticker price. For 80 euro pp, you get full access to the resort including food and drink (Club Med is an all-inclusive property). So if you're looking for waiters to bring you cold watermelon as you bask in the sun, or you're looking to partake in every watersport imaginable, this is the place and thing to do. To make it worthwhile, get there as early as possible so you can really take advantage of the free food and drink. In my opinion, there are many places just as pretty in their own way that are free (and less touristy!) but to each their own.
Au Bon Poulet - At first glance this shack on the outskirts of Le Moule doesn't look like much, but the smell wafting from the large grill outside and its reputation for amazing chicken draws the crowd. I recommend getting it to-go (with a side of frites that come in a paper bag) and bringing it back to the villa for a delicious feast. Be prepared to wait in line. (Rte. N5, Le Moule)
Les Frères de la Côte - An unassuming but delightful restaurant in Saint François with good food and great service. We showed up unannounced, no reservation on a busy night, and the staff set up a table for us outside. Not to mention, our cheerful waitress went out of her way to make sure we understood the French menu. The fresh-grilled fish was tasty but it is for the wonderful service (and the herbal, medicinal digestifs on the house) that I recommend this place. (Saint François)
L'O - For a more upscale yet refined, oceanfront dining experience in Saint François this is the place to go. The prix-fixe menu is filled with good variety (and value) and leaves you far from hungry. Get the tuna tartare as an entreé (in French that is your appetizer, don't be fooled!), you won't regret it. Reservations recommended. (12 Rue de la Republique, Saint François)
I.Pâtes - A small, charming duel restaurant-gourmet shop in Saint François offering imported Italian meats, cheeses and handmade pastas and desserts. Great for take way, either lunch or dinner, and reservations recommended for dine-in. A unique spot on a French island. (5, rue de la Republique, Saint François)
Accras - You can't spend a week on this island without sampling some of the local fare like accras, or salt cod fritters. These little fried balls of fish make a perfect snack and can be found just about everywhere, but they are best from a small streetside shack.
Ti Punch - Incase you were wondering, the drink of the island is ti punch. It is an espresso-sized beverage that is quite potent. Locally-made white rum, sugar cane, and lime juice is all that makes up this cocktail. Proceed with caution.
I should mention that most, if not all, of the above recommendations are located east on the island of Grand Terre but there is a whole other butterfly wing that we can't forget about. Make it a priority to drive over to the other side of the island to experience the golden or black sanded beaches and the lush tropical rainforest that Basseterre boasts. It seems like a completely different island based on the landscape. Specifically, I'd recommend the town of Deshaies in the north for its nice beaches and quaint village feel. I can't say I've been, but I caught a sneak preview via the BBC show "Death in Paradise" which is filmed there. It was actually this show that planted the seed in my head to visit Guadeloupe!
Anyway, it's easy to stay busy on this island or relax at your private villa and have an amazing vacation. Whichever path you choose, you can't really go wrong (we are already scheming our return). And if not, just know that there is always a good baguette, cheese and bottle of wine to fall back on. Bon vacances!