The French Caribbean island is about to have a moment—here are four reasons to visit in 2016.
Guadeloupe is, as Derek Zoolander might say, so hot right now. The French Caribbean island, often twinned with nearby Martinique, has always been popular with French tourists. Now, it has become easier than ever for Americans to visit thanks to new direct fares from New York and Boston on low-cost carrier Norwegian Air. The island is so buzzy that Condé Nast Traveler named it one of the top 16 places to visit in 2016. So, why should you book a ticket? Here are four reasons to go now.
T'S EUROPE, BUT NOT.
As an Overseas Department of France, Guadeloupe is officially part of the E.U., meaning that you can spend the leftover Euros from your last trip to the continent. It also means that the bulk of the travelers who visit are French nationals who come for weeks at a time thanks to generous vacation policies, particularly in the summers, so the accommodations lean more toward guesthouses and rented homes than expensive hotels or all-inclusive resorts. One thing to keep an eye out for: Most cars on the island are stick shift, so if you're not comfortable driving one you'll need to book an automatic as far ahead as possible, since most of the rental agencies only have a few. You'll also be able to stock up on French products like La Roche-Posay sunscreens.
Photo by Corrie Vierregger
Pigeon, Basse Terre
THERE'S A BEACH FOR EVERYONE.
Guadeloupe may be small, but it has a wide range of beach options. In the town of Sainte-Anne, there's a white sand beach (no pebbles in sight) just a two-minute walk from shops and cafes, which makes it a good option for people who want to multitask or mixed groups who want options. Near the capital of Basse-Terre are black sand beaches like Malendure, whose turquoise-turned-cobalt waters are reminiscent of Lake Tahoe. The beaches at Pearl Beach are ringed with beautiful coral formations, and Courvelle Beach's clear, still waters draw snorkelers from around the world.
AND THERE'S ALSO A GROWING CULTURAL SCENE.
On a rainy day (more likely, a rainy afternoon, as the humidity often breaks following a shower around 3 or 4 p.m.), check out the Mémorial ACTe museum, which opened in summer 2015 near the airport in Pointe-a-Pitre. Housed in a stunning lattice-work building, the multimedia exhibits discuss the history of the slave trade around the Caribbean. Also in Pointe-a-Pitre is a the Musée Sainte-John Perse, which honors the Guadeloupe-born poet who went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1960.
YOU CAN LEARN FRENCH AND EAT FROMAGE... WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY WORKING ON YOUR TAN.
Sure, it's fun to study French in Paris. But if it's the middle of winter and strolling the Seine doesn't seem quite as appealing as usual, you can always practice your parlez-vous while lying on a beach, getting a tan, and sipping a rum punch (often at the same time). The France-meets-Caribbean vibe means you can enjoy fancy cheeses and pastries while also wearing shorts and flip-flops. For French-Creole fusion at its best, head to the restaurant Le Mabouya dans le Bouteille in the lively Marina de Saint-François: the fish dishes are changed based on the day's catch and the dry French wines are stored in one of the island's few climate-controlled cellars.
Written by Lilit Marcus