Guadeloupe with your family : practical guide
15 January 2020
Formerly called Karukera, Guadeloupe owes its name to Christopher Columbus who discovered it after his voyage to the New World. Known for its zouk and rum, Guadeloupe is an island of amazing diversity. It is where the beaches rush towards the ocean and where the wild nature regains its rights. Young and old alike will find their happiness at the top of a volcano, in the shade of a banana tree, kicking out of a wave, or behind their mask and snorkel in the depths of the sea.
- Guadeloupe in brief
- Why go there?
- Our luxury destinations for families
- Family Activities
- Sea exploration
- Nature getaway
- Before leaving
1 – GUADELOUPE IN BRIEF
- Capital city: Basse-Terre
- Political system: Presidential
- Languages: French and Creole
- Currency: Euro
- Cost of living: Higher than the metropolis
2 – POSTCARD
Butterfly of the Caribbean, Guadeloupe spreads its wings in 2: Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre, crossed by the Rivière Salée. From Marie-Galante to the Saintes archipelago, to the Désirade, let yourself be surprised by its islands rich in diversity, its tropical mangrove swamps and its heavenly beaches.
- On the west coast is Basse-Terre, a small corner of wild and bucolic paradise. Less touristic than Grande-Terre, its hiking trails and lush tropical forest will amaze your little adventurers. Hibiscus and iguanas will meet you in the heart of the National Park nature reserve. The ascent of the Soufrière will transport you to its highest point: the volcano that overlooks the island. In a more relaxing way, the magnificent botanical gardens of Valombreuse or orchids will take you for a romantic or family stroll. To the north, the magnificent beach of Deshaies and its rupestrian fishing village will allow you to enjoy the pleasures of the sea. In the south of Basse-Terre, don’t miss the Saintes archipelago under any circumstances. A stop on these islands with their military vestiges is highly recommended. Its wild beaches and Fort Napoleon are just waiting for you.
- On the other side, Grande-Terre on the east coast is full of white sandy beaches and blue lagoons. The most seasoned surfers will find themselves on the beaches of Anse du Souffleur, Anse Bertrand or Saint-Anne. It is also on this side of the island that the best sunsets can be watched. From Pointe des Châteaux, the colours of the star plunging into the sea are even more beautiful than elsewhere. But this is not the only superb lookout, Point de la Grande Vigie and Porte de l’Enfer also offer a breathtaking panorama. Want a more authentic experience? Head for la Désirade where you won’t be able to resist the splendid beaches and the hidden treasures that will be revealed to you through diving.
- In the very south, the island of Marie-Galante, preserved from mass tourism, reveals all its authenticity. The landscape is unique: sugar cane plantations as far as the eye can see and old mills stand out on the horizon. Colourful villages, majestic beaches, it is also in these places that you will find the best rum of the Antilles.
- To the north, between Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre, nestles the Grand Cul-de-sac Marin. Laughter will give way to astonishment. Admire the coral reefs and dive into the marine reserve which will take you to the closest of spectacular aquatic fauna. Lagoons, heavenly beaches, tropical mangrove swamps and coral reefs can be found in this enchanting place protected by UNESCO.
3 – WHY GO THERE?
- For the magnificence of its landscapes. Beaches and coconut palms in the tropics on one side, the discovery of the wild and tropical island in the footsteps of Christopher Columbus on the other side. The beauty of the string of uninhabited islands dependent on Guadeloupe will make you feel like an explorer lost in the midst of the splendour. You won’t have to choose, on this “island of beautiful waters” everything is possible! Under the sea, in the air or on land, the ways to explore the island are infinite… It’s therefore no coincidence that Guadeloupe finds itself in Little Guest selection of the best family destinations in the Caribbean!
- For its local festivities and Antillean atmosphere. Less well known than Rio’s, the Guadeloupe Carnival is nevertheless worth the detour! This carnival owes its origin to the European settlers who brought this cultural event to the heart of the Antilles. For 5 consecutive days (from Shrove Sunday to Ash Wednesday), the inhabitants join the crowd to admire dancers and musicians, dressed in their most beautiful costumes, dancing and playing to the rhythms of the drums. This colourful show certainly is not to be missed! No matter what time of the year, there will probably be a party that you will attend!
- To celebrate art in all its forms. Guadeloupe is at the crossroads of different cultures (European, African, Indian and Amerindian). Its historical past continues to influence its culture and traditions. Between colonization and slavery, the Creole culture is the mirror of its history. Music, dance and song are inseparable: the inescapable zouk, the gwo-ka (traditional music played with drums), the quadrille (dance of the bourgeoisie) or the biguine (local dance played by an orchestra). On the markets, Guadeloupean crafts are celebrated in all their forms: jewellery, paintings, pottery, basketry, clothing, toys, etc. You will not leave Guadeloupe without bringing back a unique and original souvenir to the whole family.
4 – OUR LUXURY DESTINATIONs FOR FAMILIES
La Créole Beach Hôtel & Spa ****
In the south-west of Grande-Terre, in the heart of a magnificent tropical park and facing the Caribbean Sea, is the splendid Créole Hôtel Beach & Spa****. Only 7 km from the centre of Pointe-à-Pitre, this luxury establishment of Guadeloupean inspiration welcomes you in an enchanting setting. In the heart of a magnificent seaside resort, children will have fun at the aquarium or in the swimming pool. Water sports are in the spotlight and are suitable for young and old alike! Qualified instructors will do everything they can to satisfy your little ones!
La Caravelle Club Med ****
It is off the Caribbean Sea, on the paradise island of Grande-Terre in Guadeloupe, that you’ll find the incredible La Caravelle Club Med. This exceptional all-inclusive hotel, housed in a lush environment, is the ideal place to spend a peaceful and quiet family holiday. Lovers of water sports in particular will be delighted with the various options available directly from the hotel’s beach, which can be reached in 40 minutes from Pointe-à-Pitre airport.
5 – GASTRONOMY
Creole cuisine will amaze your taste buds. On the restaurants’ menu, you will be spoilt for choice. Fish and shellfish lovers will enjoy cod accras (fritters), blaff (broth with sea urchin, fish or shellfish eggs), fish or crayfish broth. Even more exotic, take a risk by tasting touffé de requin (stewed shark). Chicken can be eaten with coconut sauce or spices (chicken Colombo), and can be cooked slowly over a wood fire (boucané chicken). As a side dish, rice, red beans and plantains will be a highlight on your table. It will also be the occasion to taste forgotten tubers such as cassava, taro or yam.
If you have a sweet tooth, the Antilles will open the gates to paradise for you: Blanc-manger coco (a kind of flan made from coconut milk) or banana flambé with rum. The delicious exotic fruits are incorporated into the country’s most refined pastries. And to finish off with a glass – or two – of rum or a ti-punch (a cocktail made from lime and sugar cane) to help you digest.
- In the west, in Basse-Terre, all roads lead to rum. Go to the Distillerie Bologne. In Guadeloupe, the culture of coffee is also omnipresent. The exceptional “Bonifieur ” cafe, which makes the country famous for its unique aromas and rarity, will make your mouth water. Do you miss the Distilleries? Head to the Habitation Desmarets restaurant to savour the best of Antillean cuisine in the heart of a former distillery. Also taste the tourment d’amour on the Saintes archipelago, a delicious little round cake filled with coconut jam.
- To the east, in Grande Terre, Le Zawag welcomes you to the Créole Beach Hôtel & Spa ****. Rediscover the local dishes and let yourself be tempted by the lobster in the fish tank. Passing through la Désirade during the Easter weekend? The Cabri (goat’s) feast will then be in full swing. All the dishes will be goat-based during this celebration: stew, colombo, etc. In Pointe-à-Pitre, the Gastronomy Festival will be held and you can taste the best of Guadeloupean gastronomy and try your hand at cooking. It takes place in July.
- To the north, at Grand Cul-de-sac Marin: seafood and shellfish can be enjoyed with the whole family in an idyllic setting. To the south, in Marie-Galante, enjoy a bébélé (tripe-based soup) emblematic of the region. Taste the best rum of the island at the Distillerie Bielle. Stop at the typical restaurants that line the island to taste the succulent local specialities.
6 – FAMILY ACTIVITIES
Guadeloupe is an island with a rich heritage. The Ti-Moun (children in Creole) won’t be bored not even for a second! From Pointe-à-Pitre to the Cocoa Museum, what better way to discover the history and culture of the island while having fun?
- Pointe-à-Pitre: Freshly disembarked from the airport, take the opportunity to discover the town of Pointe-à-Pitre. It’s a must for any self-respecting traveller. It has been labelled “City of Art and History” for its historical past. Take a stroll through the centre and walk through its shopping streets. Mark a minute of silence on the Place de la Victoire in homage to the slavery abolition. More cheerful and festive, the marina is the place to be where pubs, shops and nightclubs reign supreme. But not only that, it is the emblematic place that marks the endpoint of the Route du Rhum from Saint-Malo.
- Markets: Get up at dawn so you don’t miss one of the must-sees of Guadeloupe’s heritage. A festival of colours, an explosion of tastes, a mix of spicy aromas will tickle your nostrils and fill your taste buds and pupils with delight. The warm atmosphere will allow you to get to know the locals. At the Basse-Terre market, you won’t be able to resist fruits and vegetables, spices, rum, ti-punch or local crafts. If you like freshly caught fish, you’ll find what you’re looking for at the marché de la Darse in Pointe-à-Pitre or the fish market in Saint-François. Always in Pointe-à-Pitre, the spicy, saffron or vanilla scents will take you on a journey through the spice market. And for the late-comers, the night market in Sainte-Anne will allow you to taste the best specialities of the Antilles until dawn. You will find markets all over the island. The less touristy markets that are worth the detour are outside Pointe-à-Pitre.
- Memorial ACTe: Located in the capital, it is the “Caribbean Centre for the Expressions and Memory of African Slave Trade and Slavery“. From the port, it is impossible not to notice the sober and futuristic architecture of this former sugar factory. But this “silver roots on a Black Box” designed on the principle of the black box only reveals its deep secrets once inside. Its permanent and temporary exhibitions will give you information about the historical periods that forged the history of the island. Its artistic creation space will invite you to discover Creole art in all its forms. Finally, cross the Morne de la mémoire, a 12-meter high footbridge, to arrive in the garden of all mysteries beauty.
- Cocoa Museum: The history of cocoa can be learnt in the course of an educational tour of the cocoa tree. Discover the expertise of the farmers who, like masters, extract all the flavours of freshly picked cocoa pods. From the laboratory to the sublime botanical garden of this ecomuseum, you will learn all about cocoa. With a reservation, the whole family will create their own chocolate bar during a fun and playful workshop.
7 – SEA EXPLORATION
- The Cousteau reserve off the Basse-Terre coast is one of the most beautiful diving sites. It is renowned for the diversity of its coral reef and the richness of its biodiversity. But first of all, you will be entitled to the inevitable question from your curious kids: “Who is Commander Cousteau?”. A former French naval officer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau is a Jack-of-all-trades. A filmmaker and ocean explorer, he has introduced the general public to the sea world through his explorations, his inventions (the diving suit) and his film, The World of Silence. However, the less adventurous still have to be convinced to take the plunge. Three diving sites for beginners or experienced divers will allow you to discover the luxuriant aquatic fauna and flora of this exceptional place. Swimming among fish, turtles or next to dolphins, you will not stop dreaming. The journey starts from Malendure Beach in Bouillante. Once you’ve set sail, you won’t want to go back to the coast. Nearby, you will find the Centre de plongée des îlets specialised in first dives! Diving fan, other destinations are waiting for you! Follow the guide.
- The magnificent beaches of Guadeloupe look like postcards. All have in common, an infinite expanse of white sand bordered by turquoise waters that make you want to laze on the beach all day long. The beaches are as instagramables as possible. On uninhabited islets such as Pigeon Islets, you won’t even need Photoshop since no filter is required! On the Basse-Terre side, Plage de Grande Anse near Deshaies is by far the most beautiful beach. From the beach to the rainforest, it’s only a step away! The undecided won’t have to choose. On the Grande-Terre side, Anse du souffleur in Port-Louis, a lively beach near a small fishing port, will seduce families. And when saffron shades adorn the sky, young and old alike will admire this colourful spectacle. Plage de la Caravelle in Sainte-Anne is also a very popular beach. In this beach of fine sand and coconut trees, you will not be able to leave the Antilles. Don’t miss either Souffleur beach in La Désirade or Pain de Sucre beach in the Saintes islands, less frequented and wilder.
- Bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Guadeloupe is perfectly situated to face the waves. With your neoprene wetsuit and your surfboard on, set off to conquer the best waves! From October to May is the ideal season to improve your right and left or just get started. Friend beginner, don’t stay in the line-up without daring to take the plunge. Head to the Sainte-Anne le Helleux spot where many surf schools including the Surf School of Guadeloupe will be able to train your kids from 12 years old. Ideal for beginners too, keep in mind the Bananier where experienced instructors will guide you to tame the waves of the beach break. To vary the pleasures, the Gosier Anse Vinaigri, seems to be ideal. This little-known spot combining reef and beach break areas is by far the best. Parents will be able to observe the impressive view of the Basse-Terre, the islands of Les Saintes and Gosier. You feel like taking it to the next level? Don’t miss Moule, a popular spot where many international competitions take place in winter. Also, try the hollow wave of Anse Bertrand or challenge the fearsome wave current of the Clugny spot. You still feel like taking the wave? Little Guest also offers you other trips under the sign of Sea, Surf and Sun.
8 – NATURE GETAWAY
- The Soufrière volcano: You don’t need to be sporty to start the ascent of the Soufrière. Head to the picturesque village of Saint-Claude located 5 km from the starting point towards, no more and no less, the roads to paradise. During the excursion, open your eyes wide and look at the wildlife all around you. Admire the Guadeloupe Woodpecker, the reddish-black plumage bird that inhabits the rainforest of this majestic National Park. Say goodbye to it and reach the summit, the real thing this time, at 1467 m from its highest point. Don’t be impressed by the fumaroles emanating from the volcano, a great reward awaits you as you ascend. At the very top, make a stop to look at the incredible view on the Antilles, Guadeloupe and its archipelagos. On the way back, before heading out again, enjoy the natural hot springs of the nearby Bains Jaunes. Itinerary
- The Crossing Road: Take the whole tribe from Petit Bourg to Pointe Noire through the mountain ranges. It is also called “Route des Mamelles” because of its two successive peaks: the peaks of Petit-Bourg and Pigeon. The 17 km crossing will take you on both sides of the Basse-Terre. The vegetation is lush and the fauna is impressive. On the way, make a refreshing stop at the Crayfish Cascade, a magnificent crystalline waterfall in the middle of the jungle. Continue to the Maison de la Forêt, where you can learn about the rainforest and its tiny creatures. Don’t forget your sandwich to enjoy lunch in the great outdoors at one of the picnic areas. The 17,300-hectare nature reserve will make your explorers think they’re Tarzan. Itinerary
- Then go to the tree climbing adventure park Le Tapeur to defy the law of gravity. The view from the zip lines is breathtaking. From the suspended footbridges, huts and slides, they can touch pineapples with their fingertips and smell the delicious scent of orchids. And just opposite, Guadeloupe’s Zoo at the Parc des Mamelles in which 4 hectares of enchanting forest will come to beautifully close the road of the crossing. Your little ones will be able to get close to exotic animals out of the ordinary. Iguanas, raccoons, multicoloured parrots and jaguars will pass before their astonished eyes. Itinerary
Are you keen on hiking on the islands or in Europe? Discover all our advice and our favourite destinations.
9 – CLIMATE
Guadeloupe enjoys a tropical climate and pleasant temperatures. Located between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, it enjoys a relatively high level of sunshine. Temperatures are mild, between 20 and 30 degrees all year round. Winter is the best season to get there. It is in the dry season called “Lent”, a hot period that takes place from December to May. The rainy season, called “wintering”, is wet. Rains are more frequent from June to December. It is therefore the low season. Good to know: the sun in the Antilles rises early from 5:30 am and sets around 6:30 pm.
10 – BEFORE LEAVING
- Your children must travel with an up-to-date vaccination record, if necessary go to the doctor for booster shots before leaving! The Pasteur Institute details all the precautions before leaving for Guadeloupe.
- There is no compulsory vaccination except for travellers over 1 year old who have been in transit for more than 12 hours in a country where there is a risk of yellow fever transmission. Vaccination against hepatitis A is recommended. It must be done 10 days before departure.
- For certain travellers, only and on the recommendation of the doctor (e.g. long stay, etc.): a vaccine against hepatitis B, flu or pneumococcus can be prescribed.
- Don’t forget to bring a mosquito net and mosquito repellent.
- Boil the tap water before drinking it, this is an island!
- Take sunscreen with a high protection factor (50 SPF+).
- Consult our travel checklists so that you don’t forget anything if you are travelling with babies (from 0 to 3 years old), toddlers (from 3 to 6 years old) or older children (from 6 to 12 years old).
Bonvini a Gwadloup (Welcome to Guadeloupe)!
Maud, 29 years old, passionate about writing and travel, from Hainaut, Belgium