Joie de Vivre, Caribbean Style: Guadeloupe Islands

From gorgeous turquoise waters to ever-flowing fresh-squeezed guava juice, the Guadeloupe Islands is an unforgettable experience bathing in seasonless sunshine. As a part of the country of France, Guadeloupe is just like Hawaii is to the United States. Despite the vast Atlantic distance, there is very much a French way of life here beyond the language spoken, yet this butterfly-shaped island boasts friendly charm and colorful Caribbean style and is ready to share its tropical sophistication with discerning couples.

Les Saintes in the Guadeloupe Islands seen from Fort Napoleon

Made of five islands (Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, La Désirade, Les Saintes, and Marie-Galante), even in the highest tourist season, Guadeloupe still feels like an undiscovered gem compared to most other Caribbean islands. While tourism is very alive here, everywhere you go feels like an authentic community where people actually live their everyday and not just for a weekend. It adds to the draw of this part of the French Caribbean, especially when you find out you can get a very affordable direct flight on Norwegian Air right out of New York City. With a quick train up from Virginia to catch the plane, Guadeloupe is the place you never knew you had to go until you do.

Rustic elegance at Le Relais du Moulin Guadeloupe
Le Relais du Moulin in Sainte Anne in Guadeloupe

Nestled in the town of Sainte-Anne, an iconic 19th century sugar mill with bright blue blades greets you immediately as you pull into the gorgeous property called Le Relais du Moulin. Upon arrival, guests are warmly welcomed in the open-air lobby by bilingual staff who offer refreshingly cold fruit juice. After the 45-minutes drive from the airport, it's the perfect start to an island getaway!

The bungalows are sized ideally for couples and designed with simple luxury in mind... all in air-conditioning, of course! The buildings are surrounded by lush tropical gardens full of palm trees and bougainvillea, making for romantic evening walks as you're serenaded by lyrical island frogs.

While Le Relais du Moulin is situated away from the main part of town, you're still within driving distance from the local hotspots like the Bois Jolan beach or shopping favorites at the Sainte-Anne Market. If you choose not to go off property, many amenities can entertain you as well as Le Mango Restaurant to tempt your tastebuds with its refined locally-sourced cuisine and themed menus.

Editor's Experience: Travelers with food allergies and dietary restrictions, you'll have no worries at Le Mango Restaurant! Completely accommodating, the servers and chef allayed all of my personal concerns and created the most delicious curry chicken dish I've ever had for my first dinner there.

Though most all staff are bilingual, there may be some language barriers detailing precise allergies, so if concerned, ask to speak to a second person for confirmation. (And if you don't know any French, pack your food allergy translation cards as a pre-caution when traveling around the island.

My second evening meal at Le Mango was a themed Mechoui buffet. Anyone with allergies understands the nervousness behind a buffet due to cross-contamination, but the chef came out and personally escorted me and shared what I could and could not eat. Most of the food was gluten-free, but due to other allergies of mine like peppers, options were limited. I was assured to not go hungry though, and the chef supplemented my meal with some sides directly from the kitchen.

Luxury honeymoon vacation spot at La Toubana in Guadeloupe
La Toubana Hotel and Spa for a luxury honeymoon experience

Also in Sainte-Anne, but with a gorgeous oceanfront view, La Toubana Hotel & Spa is Guadeloupe's first 5-star hotel. Its open layout and cliffside pool overlooking its private beach were meant for couples seeking the ultimate modern luxury experience. You won't want to step out of this bespoke oasis after lounging in any of their beautifully designed quiet relaxation areas while sipping on guava juice cocktails! (It's no wonder that this place is where the French president stays when he's in town.)

Cocoa House and waterfalls in Basse-Terre
Les Saintes Bay at Fort Napoleon

Once you arrive in Guadeloupe via Norwegian Air's direct flight from JFK, you'll find renting a car will be your best bet for getting around the main islands of Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre. Mountainous jungle terrain makes up Basse-Terre and hilly idyllic fields grace the landscape of Grand-Terre. Both "wings of the butterfly" offer beautiful scenery for your daily road trips. Some tour companies and hotels do accommodate private transportation which also makes for a stress-free travel experience if you're not the adventurous road trip type.

To get to the other islands, short ferry rides allow couples to island hop very easily to Les Saintes and the others. Whether you use your mainland hotel as a homebase or decide to stay overnight on another island, the possibilities are endless. Les Saintes, though, is the quintessential island hop for the afternoon because of its brief ferry time and walkable oceanfront community.

Travel Tip: When island hopping, be sure to bring your passport. Some ferries sail to neighboring non-Guadeloupe islands, so they may request to see your Guadeloupe passport stamp for entry and re-entry.

Beautiful road trip ideas on Basse-Terre in Guadeloupe

On Les Saintes, you'll find charming shops, historic sites, and tranquil beaches to suit any vacation mood you might have. Fort Napoleon, a 19th century structure in Terre de Haut overlooking all of Les Saintes, gives one incredible view of Les Saintes Bay and the terracotta red rooftops dotting the coastline -- that alone makes it worth the visit up the steep hill.

Afterwards, head down to La Plage de Pompierre (a public beach in Terre de Haut) for a rest in the sunshine or a quick swim. Lined with palm trees and surrounded by the bluest of water, this quiet beach is a hidden gem that is rarely crowded with visitors. A small snack shack is located near the entrance, but beware, there is quite the fiesty (re: adorable) resident goat who loves to find your treats and photobomb your selfies once you bring your delicious snacks back to your spot on the sand!

To round off your Les Saintes visit, lunch at Hotel Kanaoa gives the best panoramic view as it's located right on the water of Les Saintes Bay (which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site). Their coconut flan is a must-try dish to finish off your meal.

La Toubana Hotel private beach for a romantic honeymoon vacation in Guadeloupe
Carnaval celebrations in January on Guadeloupe

The Guadeloupe Islands are full of life, color, and energy. From local festivals like Carnaval to homemade rum punch, the Caribbean gives its own French flair alongside its other diverse African, Indian, and Caribbean cultures that are celebrated here. Fresh artisanal bread smells make you feel like you're in France, but shortly after, the savory spices of curry vibrantly remind you that you're actually quite far away from Europe.

The beachfront marketplace in Sainte-Anne entices sensory wonder as you peruse through the various stalls selling everything from typical souvenirs, handmade arts and crafts, to edible delights to bring home with you. Even the spices are openly displayed in local orange, yellow, and red madras buckets which allow you to fully experience the culinary diversity in Guadeloupe.

Sainte Anne Beach and marketplace for a fun afternoon date on your Guadeloupe honeymoon
Homemade rum punch sold at Sainte Anne marketplace in Guadeloupe
Colorful restaurants in Deshaies Guadeloupe

On the northern left side of the butterfly, Basse-Terre, a coastal town named Deshaies [de-hey] is a must stop for those lovers of beachfront color and the popular BBC light-hearted detective series, Death in Paradise (which is completely bingeworthy on Netflix just in case you want to prep your trip with its gorgeous imagery). Many of the filming locations are situated here, including the Honoré Police Station and Catherine's Bar. Restaurants specializing in seafood and Creole line the water; you'll even discover that Guadeloupeans are serious about their pizza with the variety of pizzerias in the area.

Viewpoint from Terre de Haut on Les Saintes with turquoise waters and sailboats
Musicians from Carnaval in Gosier

There are so many things to explore while on Basse-Terre. If you're a nature lover with a few hours to spend, the Botanical Garden in Deshaies has a beautiful array of plants, animals, and nature vignettes. The lorikeets are quite the charmers, especially when they know you have a sweet treat to share with them!

If you're a chocolate connoisseur, La Maison du Cacao (or the Cocoa House) presents an educational experience from pod to bean to bar. Everything is grown and made right there, and as every choco-expert knows, the soil in which cacao is grown makes all the difference when it comes to flavor! So even if it's just a quick stop, be sure to pick up some of these local chocolate bars to bring back to your hotel.

Travel Tip: If visiting La Maison du Cacao, it's highly recommended to book a private tasting tour. English-speaking tours are most always available, but crowds can be overwhelming, so it's best to plan ahead and request something more honeymoon-friendly.

Spice market at Sainte Anne Beach for an afternoon date on vacation
Chalkboard restaurant menu in Deshaies for a honeymoon lunch
Les Saintes for a romantic honeymoon daycation

No matter which island you stay on in the Guadeloupe Islands, couples will find an exquisite Caribbean destination ready to make your vacation a top memory. Between the warmth of the people, the aromatic cuisine, and breathtaking views, Guadeloupe will woo you with its French je ne sais quoi and win you with its Caribbean joie de vivre.

- Chelsea

Disclosure: Accommodations, transportation, activities, and meals were provided so we could experience the Guadeloupe Islands and Norwegian Air. All love and opinions for what's been mentioned in this feature are our own. Some of the above product links are affiliate-linked and purchasing through these links helps support Tidewater and Tulle and its wonderful partners! You can find our full disclosure policy here.

French Guadeloupe Holiday on Points and Travel