Tourists can go on waterfall hikes on Basse-Terre. // © 2016 Guadeloupe Islands Tourist Board
Feature image (above): Guadeloupe is made up of five islands that are only 20 to 45 minutes apart. // © 2016 Guadeloupe Islands Tourist Board
A destination can get a real shot in the arm when it becomes the backdrop for a successful movie or television program. That’s the case for French overseas territory Guadeloupe, the setting for the popular British-French TV show “Death in Paradise.” I caught the crime-drama series on Netflix and was instantly hooked by the storyline, which features a British police inspector who has been transferred to Guadeloupe (referred to as the fictional island of Saint-Marie in the program). The destination is shown off to good effect in the show, which has definitely raised the area’s profile.
Guadeloupe is an archipelago of islands in the eastern region of the Caribbean, south of Montserrat and north of Dominica. Guadeloupe has two main islands: beach-centric and flat Grande-Terre, and mountainous Basse-Terre. Together, they form a butterfly shape, which has led to Guadeloupe’s nickname, “The Butterfly Island.” The archipelago also contains a sprinkling of smaller islands to the south: Marie-Galante, La Desirade and Les Saintes.
Except for a short period when Sweden held Guadeloupe from 1813-1814, the island has been under French control, and its main language is French, as well as Antillean Creole. In the major tourist areas, it’s usually possible to find an English-speaker when necessary.
There are direct flights to Guadeloupe from Miami on American Airlines and Air France; and Norwegian Airlines will resume direct flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport during the winter season, commencing Nov. 10, 2016.
What to Do
If your clients are island-hoppers, they’re going to love Guadeloupe, since all five islands of the archipelago are only 20 to 45 minutes away from one another. Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre are separated only by a mangrove swamp and are connected via a highway. The outer islands of Marie-Galante, Les Saintes and La Desirade can be easily reached via ferry service. These outer islands have a special appeal of their own, as they’re less developed than Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre.
The hub of tourism on Grande-Terre is the town of St. Anne. Here, visitors can find a range of beaches, accommodations, restaurants and markets. St. Anne can make a great base for day trips to explore outer islands, as well as the eco-pleasures of Basse-Terre, such as waterfall hikes and Guadeloupe National Park, which contains the dramatic La Soufriere volcano.
For U.S. travelers, the most familiar brand name hotel in St. Anne will most likely be Club Med Caravelle. The 300-room all-inclusive property is a destination in itself, with loads of activities and dining options. A stay at an all-inclusive resort could feel confining, however, since visitors from the U.S. will probably want to roam beyond the boundaries of their resort and venture further afield to Guadeloupe’s outer islands. Other accommodation choices throughout the destination include luxurious villas, three- and four-star hotels, eco-lodges and bungalows.
Water-based activities on Guadeloupe include scuba diving, surfing, snorkeling and windsurfing. A prime dive site is the Cousteau Reserve in Basse-Terre, a protected underwater park that French explorer and conservationist Jacques Cousteau claimed was one of the world’s best dive sites.
One of the benefits of being under French control is the Gallic influence on the islands’ cuisine, which has resulted in a delectable French-Creole cooking style. For dedicated shoppers, some of the islands’ best buys include colorful, plaid “madras” fabric and Guadeloupe’s locally produced rum. The market in St. Anne — open daily and located near the town’s fishing pier — is a perfect place for shoppers to begin their browsing. Rum aficionados will want to include a tour to one or more of Guadeloupe’s rum distilleries. A good place to start is Musee du Rhum (Museum of Rum) on Basse-Terre, which combines exhibits on rum-making alongside archaic distillery equipment dating back to the 18th century.