I have been dreaming, daydreaming, planning, and stalking every Instagram post on Guadeloupe for the past year. After relocating to Canada for love but not the love of cold winter and weather, I have been just dying to go somewhere tropical filled with warm weather, endless beaches, and the jungle as my playground. I’m normally a Costa Rica wanderluster. I have spent much time down there since my first trip in 2009 and it feels as if I’m ‘home’ when I land. Unfortunately, between the trials and tribulations of baby making, Zika, and baby making with my second I haven’t been down south since 2015. After much thought and consideration this is why we ended up exploring Guadeloupe.
- Direct flights from Montreal. Ease of traveling with a toddler and baby.
- Guadeloupe is a French territory and is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean.
- The air and sea weather in January is warm 78 degrees at an average of , so we wouldn’t have to worry about it being to chilly to fully enjoy the vacation, or too hot for the baby.
- There is no current cases of Zika. (While we are not expecting we still try to avoid tropical diseases because you never know the side effects years down the road and the little one’s brains are still developing.)
- Food and wine. Um who doesn’t want some French food and wine beach side? I know I do!
- Amenities. Hospitals, shops, paved roads, child friendly condos, and basic stores.
- Diversity of excursions. You have pristine beaches that are child friendly with soft sand and aqua water. There is a volcano and hiking trails, tons of beautiful waterfalls, and rougher rustic beaches that are postcard picturesque.
- It is mainly French visitors and population. No offense Americans. I myself was born and raised a proud American, but there is something refreshing traveling to a destination that is primarily traveled by another country.
- Affordable. You can go luxury or keep it simple within a decent budget.
- A place I’d like to explore with the hopes of coming back to explore more.
We left at the perfect time Mid January when it gets beyond frigid in Canada. I was starting to look and feel like a snowman. We scored direct flights down on Air Canada for around $450 CAD each. I was happy with our flights. We got in at 2 pm so that gave us time to get to our rental and we still had some day left. At least that’s what I thought. After we landed customs was fairly quick even though they only had 2 agents working. They pulled us through faster because of the baby and my little girl Charlotte had to use the potty which is after customs. Our luggage didn’t take too long either. The trickiest part was figuring out contacting the rental car company to come pick us up. They are 15 minutes off site. There is a courtesy phone in the information center after customs. Finally, we found you have to add an extra when making the call. My -and husband both got roaming plans and had trouble 70% of the time during our stay using the service. After reviewing many car rental companies, I ended up renting from Pro-Rent. It seemed they were less shady than others companies who charged little fees here and there. They had many good reviews and decent rates. We paid about $230 Euros for a weekly rental of a small Euro size hatchback. The car rental place picked us up within the next hour. It took over twenty minutes with traffic to get the the rental. Then there was a long ass line up of about 15 renters and one agent in a tiny building do the paperwork so that in itself added some painful time in our commute. I was seriously worried about fitting our car seats and luggage in the tiny car but we managed after taking away the back privacy divider. Our drive to our rental in Saint Francois took over an hour during rush hour. We even chose back roads as the sun set for the night as we tried to get to our destination as quickly as possible. When we finally arrived it was dark. It had taken us almost just as long as our flight time to get the rental car and drive to our destination which makes for a 12 hour day of traveling with tots. It was no fun indeed.
We rented a 4 bedroom apartment in Savannah Residence. It had more than enough room for 7 people and was in a gated community with a private pool. The residence was walking distance to everything, the local bus, bakery, grocery store, marina filled with restaurants and a bit of night life. It is the perfect safe location for families and those looking for a relaxing retreat.
I found the French to be very warm and welcoming. I tried my best to speak French as I relocated to Quebec, and I am still practicing. I found the locals and French tourists to be very kind and understanding that I was attempting to speak French more so than where I currently live.
From Saint Francois you can easily take the bus to the flavorful town of Saint Anne. It’s a 35 minute bus ride for a few bucks and there you can find nightlife, beautiful beaches, colorful markets and restaurants galore. I did it easily with my baby and a stroller but getting back was tricky. I couldn’t find the bus stop for the way back and nearly found myself stranded. Some kind locals saw me with the baby sitting on the bus stop bench once I did find it to ask if I was ok.
We ventured to the other island Basse Terre for a day trip. We left a bit later than I wanted but that happens when you are traveling with groups. It took us over an hour to get to Deshaises where we stopped to enjoy Plage Grande-Anse. It is a gorgeous long and rustic beach with golden sand and larger waves. I didn’t find the current too strong, but it drops off quickly so it can be a bit dangerous for kids. My two year old got knocked down and pulled under a wave with her float a few times, but she is still alive, and I would go back again.
It was a busier beach, yet you can find quiet spaces to relax and shady spots to retreat away from the sun. The town itself wasn’t as accessible and walking friendly as I would have liked, but the beach was worth it. The roads are very well kept in Guadeloupe, but the French drivers are so scary! I felt like we were going to get into an accident at any minute. To raise the stakes my husband told me he didn’t get the insurance on the car and he wasn’t sure what his credit card would protect us for. Even the owner of the rental car company said he doesn’t drive after dark in Guadeloupe as it is too dangerous. The roads are very narrow. Mix that with crazy drivers and no guard rails; it doesn’t leave much room for error.
My husband and his friend did the volcano hike at la-soufriere. There were signs that there is a toxic gas that can come out at any time but that didn’t stop them from doing the hike all the way to the top. They left at 4 am to make time for the sunrise. They were able to do the hike up and back in under four hours. The end was a bit strenuous where you need to grab onto stuff and actually work for it, but they made it to the top!
We didn’t eat out much. The restaurants all seemed a bit expensive and it is tricky traveling with kids. In general we cooked at home or grabbed small stuff from the market for snacks on the beach. The best were the bagettes. Every bagette I ate in two weeks was on point and only cost a Euro.
Our second week after the in-laws left we ventured off the main island to Marie Galante which is an hour ferry ride further. We had mixed feelings about this island. It was the last thing we planned and we weren’t sure between the second week in Deshaises, ClubMed all Inclusive, or Marie Galante. Marie Galante is known to have some of the most beautiful beaches, no crowds, and local flavor of country, sugar cane fields, and the roots of Guadeloupe. Would we get bored? Would it be the best part of our vacation and we wished we had spent the whole two weeks there? Would we want to come back for three weeks and live like locals? When I first got off the boat I said, “YES! This is exactly what I was looking for. I am totally feeling it. I love this place already!” Even though our rental was a 10 minute was from Grand Bourg we had to rent a car for a day to get our luggage to the house and to explore the upper part of the island known for its beaches. Rentals are more on the island. We paid $45 Euros a day for a tiny car. They seemed a bit shady when it came to the rental conditions and even hit a huge dent by standing in front of it while we were checking off scratches on the car. We later figured this out when we washed the car and put the pieces together they wanted to charge us for something. Before returning the car since the charge already went through we cancelled our card. Later we found out they had put a $1,000 hold on it but it was later released. Locals recommend renting from Magloc it a few blocks away from the ferry. Once we got to the island we heard there was a dengue fever outbreak recently in the Caribbean and a few cases in Guadeloupe. We didn’t see any mosquitoes in Saint Francois but already in Marie Galante we saw a few buzzing around. Our home was a rustic cabin that had basic amenities. While each bedroom had AC I thought the ridiculous part was the windows hatched open with no screen so bugs could squeeze through and there were no bug nets. At 11 am there were flies and mosquitoes flying about the house. Dave, my husband was ready to cancel the rest of the trip and go home since he was paranoid about one of us catching dengue fever. A close friend of the family recently got it and lost over 30 pounds of muscle in a month, so I couldn’t imagine what it would do to a baby. We opted for getting trash bags and taping them over the windows so bugs couldn’t get in. We then killed all the bugs we could find, and didn’t venture out much after that. 😦 The property was lovely with lush vegetation for privacy and a hammock for relaxing, but the bugs kept hunting for our blood. The best part of the island was being able to experience Plage Anse Canot.
It is hands down one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to. There are shady areas for kids to relax out of the sun. There are tables and grill areas for cooking, and the water is soft and crystal clear. My two year old could swim far out with her floaties, and we weren’t afraid she’d be tossed by a large wave or pulled out by a strong current.
Personally I wouldn’t go back to Marie Galante except for a quick day trip to the beaches. There is not much to do there and the eating out options and grocery store selection is very very limited. When we were not at the beach we felt a bit confined to our home rental where we kept the doors shut and the ac blasting because of a dengue fever outbreak locally. Would I go back to Guadaloupe again? Yes. It is a very safe destination where natural beauty meets relaxation and pristine beaches. The French are very nice even when they knew I couldn’t speak Francais very well. If I were to do it without children, then I would chose to stay on Basse Terre where the beaches are more rugged and there are more outdoor activities. If I took the children again, I would stay in Saint Francois without a car and then take a day ferry once or twice to Marie Galante.
One day I’ll be back, but first I want to visit Kauai, Spain, and Italy.