Guadeloupe is home to many inviting beaches featuring warm water, soft sand and ample locations to tie up a hammock and enjoy a good book. Throw in the chance to buy a variety of fruit sorbets churned beach side and I am always a happy camper! Though most beaches are not usually overcrowded, on national holidays and Sundays one must arrive early to snag prime picnic tables or set up shop in a shady enclave. As I've been disappointed by the beach rundowns in the best-known guide books, an insider's opinion of Guadeloupe's best beaches follows (in no particular order):
Plage á Port Louis - The beach of Port Louis is my favorite on the island. It has a palpable sense of calm — a great place to think, write and read. The main beach, accessible from the main parking lot, has plenty of picnic tables and niches for blankets or hammocks. The beach continues north and features additional picnic tables that are semi-private due to the foliage between each site. If driving, arrive early and continue down the road at the north end of the parking lot to reach these sites. They are great for small parties and groups of friends or family enjoying a day out together. This side of the beach is also great for snorkeling, though I recommend water shoes and/or being really careful of sea urchins. Bring your own picnic, as vendors are scarce. Also bring two Euros for parking.
La Grand Anse - This beach between St. Rose and Deshaies is a long stretch of sand with great views of the lush, villa-dotted hills nearby. It is very popular with sunbathers, so be prepared for the occasional topless French woman. The road leading to the beach is lined with restaurants that offer local plates in a casual atmosphere. If a picnic is not carried, the restaurants are the best place for lunch or a snack. There are very few picnic tables beach side and very few vendors in comparison to other Guadeloupean beaches.
Bois Jolan - While the beach of St. Anne may be one of the prettiest on Guadeloupe, it is definitely the most crowded. Continue a few kilometers past that location to reach Bois Jolan. This beach is equally beautiful and much more accessible. It is great for beach side sports and snorkeling. While there aren't as many restaurants lining the beach, there are still cute places to find food and live music in the evenings.
Plage á Gosier - While living in Guadeloupe I often noted that locals are really into sports and fitness. This athletic affinity is very much on display at Gosier's main beach. For many, exercise is the main agenda whether running alongside the beach, swimming laps, playing soccer or engaging in water aerobics. It is one of two beaches with night lighting that allows many to stop by after work. Note that parking can be a bit tight and the beach is easily accessible by bus. No need to carry a lot to the beach, cheap eats including sandwiches, beignets and sorbet are easy to find.
Plage de Babin - This beach off the back roads of Morne-a-L'eau won't be found in any of your standard guidebooks. It is not your run of the mill sunbather's paradise; even many Guadeloupeans outside of Morne-a-L'eau have not frequented the location. Mud baths are the draw; the rich clay mud beneath the water is nutrient-rich and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. Walk off shore until you find large deposits of smooth mud beneath your feet. Carry a handful to the shore and spread a thin layer over your body, allowing the mud to dry and pull toxins from your skin. Return to the water to rinse off and voila — a true insider experience!
Les Pompierres - The small islands of Les Saintes are accessible by ferry from the town of Trois-Rivières on Basse-Terre. I highly recommend spending a night on the main island of Terre-de-Haut; the word quaint could have been coined to describe the main (and only) village lined with brightly colored houses. Les Pompierres beach is beautiful, mostly surrounded by rock formations that dissipate coming waves. Water flows calmly into the beach area, which has a gradual slope and no real drop off. This, along with a wealth of tree-covered picnic tables, makes the beach great for families during the day. The beach, however, truly shines at night. When moving your hands under the water, what look like flecks of light appear. This, coupled with the lights of fireflies from the adjacent hills, makes for a magical night swim.