Rainforests, Waterfalls, Hot Springs and a Big Volcano
A half-hour driving from the bustling island capital of Pointe-à-Pitre reveals a very different world. In the Parc National de la Guadeloupe, rainforest-clad slopes rise from the shore, jungle streams cascade over boulders and an active volcano soar to a height of almost a mile. This pristine landscape is laced with more than 180 miles of hiking trails that lead to hidden waterfalls, bubbling hot springs and remote forest glens that are home to more than 270 species of birds. Bragging rights and sweeping views of the islands await those who follow the path upwards to the summit, which is the highest point in the Lesser Antilles.
With 70% of its territories classified as a Natural Reserve and listed since 1993 as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, the Guadeloupe Islands are a heavenly playground for the outdoorsy type. The Guadeloupe National Park offers close to 200 miles of waymarked hiking trails spread all over the archipelago with majestic Basse-Terre, nicknamed the Emerald Isle at the center. Covered by a 17,000-hectare rainforest, Basse-Terre is dominated by the imposing silhouette of La Soufriere Volcano, which rises at 4,813 feet. In this lush setting with breathtaking waterfalls, a thousand and one friendly species beg for your attention.
- Best for: Solos, couples and families, beach lovers and adventurers
- Best season to visit: Year round
- Weather: Steady trade winds account for relatively minor differences in seasonal air temperatures, which range from the 70s into the mid 80s. Rain showers are less common from December to May
The Guadeloupe Islands Information
Hiking in the Islands of Guadeloupe Overview
The Guadeloupe Islands offer an astounding variety of environments and as a result of numerous waymarked hiking trails for all levels. One of the most scenic hikes is La Soufriere, a mildly active volcano located in Basset-Terre. Birdwatchers will enjoy the exceptional biodiversity with endemic species such as the black woodpecker, the pearly-eyed thrasher, and the lesser Antilles pewee. Walking paths can be found on each of the islands of Guadeloupe, but the best hiking trails lie within the 65-square-mile boundaries of Guadeloupe's national park on Basse-Terre. There are several routes leading to the 4,800-foot summit of La Soufriere volcano, with moderate grades along most of the trail. The summit is covered in fantastic rock formations and steam vents that emit sulfurous fumes.
Hiking in the Guadeloupe Islands Tips
It is best to hike in the morning (do not start a hike after 3.30 – it can get really hot in the afternoon and sunset is early I 5.30pm in December and 7 pm in June). Choose a trail suited to your capabilities: hiking is more difficult in a tropical environment. If you have any doubt, reach out for a tour guide. The hike levels are indicated at the beginning of the trails. Build some flexibility into your schedule if reaching the summit of La Soufriere is on your must-do list. Higher altitude hikes can be weather dependent, and conditions can go from clear to cloudy and windy in a relatively short time. If bad weather is predicted, guides may suggest an alternate hike through lower forests, saving the summit trek for another day. Before going on a hike, check the weather report and make sure the trails and accessible. Help to preserve the National Park by leaving nothing behind and collecting your rubbish.
Best Places to Hike in the Guadeloupe Islands
For an easy stroll, visit the grounds of the Deshaies Botanical Gardens or follow the path to the Cascade Aux Ecrevisses. For a challenge, climb the path known as Chemin des Dames to the summit of La Soufriere for big views and an alien-like landscape of fumaroles and lava flows. Venture deep into the forest reserve where more than 270 species of fern and 100 varieties of orchid line shaded pathways. For more adventure, add a rappel down volcanic slopes or a slide down waterfalls, and then enjoy a relaxing soak in one of Guadeloupe’s numerous hot mineral springs.
Basse-Terre is a verdant and pristine land of mountains, rainforests, and cascades surrounded by waters teeming with life. It hosts the highest mountain peak in the the Lesser Antilles, the Soufriere Volcano. Fun and educational signs can be found along the well-kept trail. Plenty of other, more accessible hikes are also available. Among them, the Forest House, at the heart of the National Park offers direct exposure to the tropical forest along with a free exhibition of the rich environment of the archipelago.
What to Pack for Hiking in the Guadeloupe Islands
Bring a light jacket for summit hikes, as temperatures can drop at higher elevations. You may want to bring a change of clothes and a raincoat. Wear comfortable, sturdy and moisture-resistant hiking shoes/boots with a pronounced tread will prevent slipping on muddy trail sections. Include a bathing suit for the waterfalls and hot springs, and don't scrimp on water, as the tropical sun and altitude can cause dehydration. Eat before leaving and bring 1 to 2 liters of water per person for outings over 2 hours, do not forget snacks and fresh fruits
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Passport and/or Visa Requirements
Entry Requirements: U.S. citizens must have a valid Passport and a return or ongoing ticket. Passport must be valid for 6 months beyond date of entry and 1 page required for entry stamp.
No vaccinations or preventative medications are required for travel to Guadeloupe Islands. Yellow Fever is not a problem here. Check with the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at cdc.gov.
Culture and Customs
The Guadeloupe Islands are a department of France, but they are also very much a part of the Caribbean. In bustling Pointe-à-Pitre, a stroll along Rue Frébault provides boutiques stocking perfumes, haute couture and delicacies straight from Paris. The scene shifts at Rue Duplessis when shoppers are immersed in the sights, sounds and scents of the St. Antoine Spice Market. In this open-air celebration of micro-capitalism, animated vendors hawk handicrafts, seafood and produce, and the smells of exotic spices permeate. Similar dualities abound across the islands. One can linger over buttery croissants and cafe au late at a sidewalk cafe, or duck into a corner rum shop for a bokit sandwich washed down by a Ti Punch. A local favorite, bokit is similar to fried naan bread stuffed with delicious hams and cheeses. Guadeloupe's dining scene is among the most celebrated in the Caribbean, with island chefs drawing on both French and Creole traditions. Lively dance traditions such as zouk, quadrille and toumbélé are enjoying newfound popularity in a culture that celebrates its roots, but also enjoys fusion jazz and dancehall music. The islands also support a vibrant arts community and have produced some of the region's most respected writers. For an immersion in island culture, plan a visit to the lively market days staged on alternating Sundays at the towns of Le Moule, Sainte-Anne and Saint-Claudeon. Grande-Terre's magnificent beaches host a number of upscale hotels, while the green slopes of Basse-Terre are home to nature preserves and parks where hiking trails lead to hidden waterfalls. Harbors on the island's western shore are launching points for whale watching excursions, and as many as 15 species of marine mammals are known to frequent the area. A network of excellent roads facilitates land travel while an efficient ferry system making island hopping easy. Favorite destinations include postcard-quaint bays of Les Santes and the quiet island of Marie-Galante, which provides a glimpse of old-school Caribbean life. When on Les Saintes, be sure to try a Tourment D’Amour -a pastry that resembles a height- challenged cupcake flavored with coconut and tropical fruits.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
Electricity is 220 Volt, 50 cycle with European standard wall plugs. U.S. appliances will require an adapter. WiFi is available at many hotels.
Guadeloupe Island's country/area code is 590. It is recommended that you check with your local provider to see what data plans are available or roaming charges will apply.
The water is safe to drink Guadeloupe. Many brands of local and imported bottled water is available for purchase at most restaurants and stores if preferred.
Language & Currency
French is the official language of the Guadeloupe Islands. You will hear locals speaking Creole. While at the hotels and tourist areas, English may be spoken, but outside of these areas very little English is spoken. A French translation book is recommended.
The Euro is the currency in the Guadeloupe Islands. U.S. Dollars and sometimes traveler checks may be accepted. It is a good idea to rely on your credit cards for purchases. Please let your credit card company know that you will be travelling out of the country to make sure your card is available while on vacation and see if they charge any foreign transaction fees due to the currency exchange.
Guadeloupe Islands is on Atlantic Standard Time (AST) and does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Guadeloupe Islands are 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT).
Location, Size and Population
Guadeloupe Islands are located in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean and are part of the Lesser Antilles. The islands encompass nearly 630 square miles including the 2 connected main islands of Basse-Terre and Grand-Terre and the smaller islands of Les Saintes, Marie-Galante and La Desirade.
The population of the Guadeloupe Islands is 470,755 (2016).