Arriving in Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe, was like a homecoming. We visited here last year and fell in love with the quaint French town of Terre-de-Haut, the outstanding diving and snorkeling, and the panoramic view of small, lush, mountainous islands capped with centuries-old fortresses. This is one of those special places that we can visit repeatedly and still find new things to do and places to explore.
Strolling through town we immediately noticed a difference from our previous visit; so many more businesses were open. Last time we were here it was during the off season. ¡Pura Vida! was one of only a handful of boats in the anchorage and we often found ourselves alone in restaurants and tourist attractions. This time it was different. We were surprised to be turned away from a few restaurants because they were completely full and almost every single business was open. The place was buzzing with locals and hordes of day-trippers arriving by ferry from nearby Guadeloupe. Notwithstanding the horror of not being served at our first choice of eatery, it was wonderful to see tourism flourishing after the devastating 2017 hurricane season.
Despite the crowds, we still managed to find beautiful secluded areas to explore. We hiked to Fort Josephine, on the summit of Îlet à Cabrit for spectacular views of the islands known collectively as “The Saints.” Îlet à Cabrit is uninhabited by humans, but, as the name suggests, is full of goats. Some goats watched us suspiciously from under the cover of shrubberies by the trail and others greeted us with a mixture of caution and curiosity when we reached the summit.
We also walked across the narrow island of Terre-de-Haut to the beaches on the east side. Here, the hurricane damage is still quite visible as the flora struggles to regain its verdant cover. Other than a couple of surfers enjoying the churning waves, we had these beautiful beaches all to ourselves.
After a few days in Îles des Saintes, we sailed north to mainland Guadeloupe. Our first stop was at the magical thermal beach in Bouillante. We spent the evening among locals soaking up the hot mineral waters where the river meets the sea, and watching the sunset with cocktails in our hands.
The next day we sailed to meet Jacques Cousteau. Well, not really the legendary ocean explorer that inspired my love of the sea since childhood, but the underwater marine reserve that bears his name. Last time we visited this area, the seas were rough and the anchorages unbearable. This time was the complete opposite, and we were able to do multiple dives in this magnificent underwater garden.
We made one more stop in the town of Deshaies, in the northwest of Guadeloupe, to clear out of the country and stock up for our multi-day passage to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. As we reminisce about our second trip to Guadeloupe, we are astounded at how different each visit was, how many new things we saw, and how much more we still haven’t explored. Perhaps a third landfall is in order on our way south this spring.