The green butterfly island of Guadeloupe has a lot more to it than just beaches. Beautiful nature with several hiking trails await you. So pack your trekking gear and head to the rainforests and scenic coastlines. It’s amazing, believe me!
Guadeloupe actually is an archipelago of islands. Main island is shaped like a butterfly, but is actually two separate islands Grande-Terre on the East side and Basse-Terre to the West and Caribbean side. This French overseas department is very French system-wise; however, culturally very Caribbean. Prepare for some practise in French since English is hardly spoken or even understood…
We had spent a week in a resort area in the West “wing” in Grande-Terre and near capitol Point-A-Pitre earlier in our journey (beginning of Dec 2016; you can access our previous Guadeloupe post here). Now we returned to the island for 2 nights when making our way back island hopping on our Caribbean Tour. I am so glad we returned to Guadeloupe! Otherwise I would have been left with quite a narrow or limited perception of the whole island!!
Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre are very different. I don’t know why, but somehow it seems that all the wealth has been packed to Basse-Terre. Both economically, socially as well as agriculturally, it seems. Even the island of Marie Galant in the South seemed to be a wealthy getaway places and very popular among sail boat cruisers… (we stopped there with a ferry from Dominica to Guadeloupe). Grande-Terre seemed to be much flatter, drier (despite thick rainforests regionally) and in poorer condition than its sister Basse-Terre, which was clearly well-established. Roads were in good condition, large plantations around, shops had much large variety and just village outlines neater to start with. We rented a car from Point-A-Pitre (40 euros a day for a little Nissan) and it was very easy to get around with clear signage and smooth traffic.
Capitol Point-A-Pitre has several attractions to see too, one of which being the victory square or Place de Victoire. A large park with monuments and a big cathedral near the harbour is a popular spot for people of any age to hang out. The square had a few restaurants and shops around, otherwise it was somewhat difficult to find place to eat and buy groceries or even snacks. Near Gare de Maritime, or the port area a few streets were filled with market booths and trucks selling clothes, souvenirs but even groceries, vegetables and fruits during the daytime.
Hiking the trails
There are more than 30 marked hiking trails in mainland Guadeloupe. Most of them are around Basse-Terre, since altitude varies more. A map of all main attractions and clearly marked trails is provided free at the airport and hotels. The map also describes (in French only) all the trails and explains with signs level of difficulty, altitude difference, average time and if there are any specific risks or attractions involved. Many of the trails go by cascades or natural springs – many of them are good for dipping in the water too!
We selected one of the shorter trails since we didn’t have real trekking gear, had only a few hours to spend and had a 7-yr-old minor with us. Leevi is a good sport and can actually walk 10 km easily, as long as we take little breaks and have some snacks with us. But the trail we took was only a 2 km trail to a beautiful cascade and back. It was marked easy, which it was. What made it more challenging was hopping on rocks as the trail itself was muddy and wet and we all had our running shoes on, no real trekking boots. But still fun and very doable. No going with a stroller or a wheel chair though, even if no real stairs or steep climb. As it went through a thick rainforest, humidity is very present and it rains often. Heavy rain can be dangerous due to possible landslides in often steep climbs; however, slight rain is ok and there’s always wet (=muddy trail) anyways.
What an experience it was for us all – especially junior enjoyed being in the middle of a thick rainforest with huge trees and plants. To reach this trail (and others) we had to drive a tiny serpentine road in a breath-taking scenic drive through little mountain villages, forests and banana fields. The drive itself was totally worth it!
To conclude: my suggestion is that if and when you visit Guadeloupe, be sure to visit both or several islands! Perhaps a combination of beach vacay and nature village stay would be an idea? Or at least rent a car (easy and fairly cheap!) and make several day trips aroung the islands. And pack your hiking gear with you 😉