Ah… sunbathing on a long white sand beach while in the distance the swaying rhythm of the calypso gently rocks you. If you are fond of scuba diving, snorkelling or kitesurfing, the thousand species of multicoloured fish and the preserved coves are just waiting for you! In the Caribbean, each island has its particular characteristics and your dream is clearly within reach… So how to choose among these paradisiacal destinations? We have concocted a little selection for you to help you see more clearly… Let’s get on board!
Grande Terre and Basse Terre, separated by a thin arm of the sea known as the « salt river », together make up the French department most prized by lovers of sunshine and a gentle way of life: Guadeloupe. These two islets are very different, and that is the strong point of this charming destination. Grande Terre, the seaside resort, is a real invitation to relax, its beaches are the most beautiful in the West Indies and the welcome you receive has no equivalent in the region. It is on the latter that you will find La Caravelle Club Med ****, an extraordinary resort offering an all-inclusive formula to make the most of your holiday! Basse Terre is much wilder, covered by a lush forest that abounds in birds, trees and colourful flowers. For the delight of hikers, the steep paths of this fabulous jungle lead to the Soufrière, a volcano that peaks at an altitude of 1467 metres. In the north of the island, surf addicts meet between Grande-Anse and the Deshaies spot, to ride perfect waves. If you are passing by, don’t forget to visit the Deshaies Botanical Garden – which once belonged to a certain Coluche – and stroll quietly through this 7-hectare park whose collection of exotic flowers, plants and trees includes more than 1000 species.
A land of a musical mix, Guadeloupe has developed over time various traditional musical styles such as kadans and biguine. The island’s shops resound with these languorous rhythms to which of course zouk and reggae are added. Carnival is a great festival in Guadeloupe. It begins on Epiphany Sunday and ends on Mardi Gras; it gives rise, in all the villages of the island, to surprising costume contests and wild dances. For this reason, Guadeloupe is an ideal destination in winter. The island’s climate is particularly favourable in all seasons, with an average of 27°C; and there is no real difference in temperature between the hottest and coldest months.
Getting there and staying there: the Pôle Caraïbes International Airport allows you to arrive on the island from wherever you come from. It is in the south-west of Grande Terre, 20 minutes by car, that you will find the perfect example of Creole charm and luxury: La Créole Beach Hôtel & Spa ****. Entirely renovated in 2016, located in the heart of a tropical park of palm trees, lilies and hibiscus, this hotel gracefully combines Creole buildings and contemporary design. It is only 7 km from the centre of Pointe-à-Pitre. The hotel offers a wonderful cuisine of lobster from the fish tank or poulet massalé. You better don’t miss it…
To find out more, consult our practical guide to Guadeloupe.
During your stay in this magical country, it would be a shame to stick to beach towels. Take time to explore its wild spaces and numerous reefs, venture inland to conquer Pico Duarte, the highest peak in the Caribbean; dive in the bay of Punta Cana, one of the world-famous Dominican diving spots. Since the country’s capital, Santo Domingo, is the oldest colony in the « New World, » why not take a tour of the picturesque colonial Chu Chu to discover it? Santo Domingo’s admirable hundred-year-old buildings are sure to amaze you. For example, the Alcázar de Colón, a monumental residence with no less than 55 rooms, the Ozama Fortress or the Cathedral of Santo Domingo. Stroll freely around the city before discovering the country’s fascinating history at the Dominican Museum of Man and finish your city-trip by discovering Dominican contemporary art at the Palace of Fine Arts. Finally, if you are there at the right time, don’t miss the extraordinary Santo Domingo carnival which is one of the 10 most beautiful carnivals in the world!
Scuba diving is certainly the sports activity for which one goes to the Dominican Republic… In the Samaná Peninsula, the area of Las Galeras is particularly suitable for this activity. Once immersed, you fall face to face with La Torre. It is a 50 m high submarine mountain, covered with coral, surrounded by abundant marine life. The Michès Playa Esmeralda Club Med ***** is the ideal place to discover this region, do not hesitate to book a room for an all-comfort stay in a hotel with access to a wide range of family activities.
On land, baseball, which the Dominicans call la pelota, is a real institution. One of the best ways to get to know the social life of the country is without a doubt to attend one of the games of the professional championship that takes place from October to January. The lively atmosphere in the stadiums will not leave you indifferent…
The Dominican gastronomy is also worth the detour… It results from the meeting of Spanish, pre-Columbian and African cuisines. You can’t leave the country without having tasted the three most famous Dominican specialities: sancocho, mangú and casabe. Sancocho is a succulent stew that can be enjoyed with rice, avocado, spicy sauce and salad. Mangú is a delicious mashed plantain that Dominicans eat in the morning. In Creole restaurants, taste the casabe, a yucca cake rich in vegetable fibres that has the advantage of being 100% gluten-free and fat-free.
Flight and stay: To enjoy the most beautiful beaches from the moment you arrive, choose La Romana International Airport. Otherwise, the international airports of Santo Domingo and Punta Cana are also suitable. For a radiant stay, opt for one of the incredible villas of the Casa de Campo *****, you won’t regret it. This award-winning hotel complex boasts a unique spa and numerous tennis courts. It is also a golfer’s paradise, with three golf courses nearby, the most famous of them, « Teeth of the Dog« , is regularly frequented by the stars of this sport. The resort is next to a huge reserve where you can practice sports as varied as horse-riding or ball-trap… You won’t want to leave.
For more information, consult our practical guide to the Dominican Republic.
St. Barts is a unique island in the Caribbean. This confetti of French land located north of the Caribbean arc attracts hard-to-please tourists. At New Year’s Eve, you must see the impressive spectacle of the yachts invading the bay of Gustavia. Remnants of the Swedish period, such as the old bell tower and the Wall House, watch serenely over the luxury boats that anchor here all year round. Like this naval ballet, your stay on the island will be one of elegance and refinement, with shops and restaurants vying for your satisfaction.
On the natural side, the island abounds in natural cavities forming many natural pools that are just waiting for you. Located on its far-eastern coast, beyond Toiny, most of them are intact and absolutely magnificent. At sea, surface diving is surely one of the most popular activities in Saint Barthélémy, with spots such as Anse de Colombier, Shell Beach or Saint-Jean. You can see lobsters, boxfish as well as numerous green turtles. The windy beaches to the east are the most exposed to the waves. They are ideal for unforgettable kitesurfing and windsurfing.
Getting there and lodging: in the majestic Anse des Cayes, there is an eco-resort that bears the sweet name of Hotel Manapany *****. Not far from the bay of Gustavia, the establishment allows you to spend a stay that is both serene and sporty. It can be reached in 5 minutes from Gustaf III International Airport. Please note that this hotel is one of the few to offer a free airport transfer. From the moment you arrive, you won’t know what to expect as a plethora of activities awaits you: snorkelling, diving, hiking, sailing cruises, yoga… The service at this resort is impeccable, the food is delicious and above all, the chefs make it a point of honour to prepare delicious picnics that you can take with you when you set off to discover the island’s immaculate beaches… Who can top that?
To find out more, consult our practical guide to Saint Barthélemy.
There you go, you know everything! If, in spite of this first review, you are still undecided, do not hesitate to contact your favourite travel designers and little concierges who will be happy to inform you about the offers available, depending on the period you wish to travel.
See you soon!
Julien, 35 years old, journalist and translator, from Saint-Malo, France