One of the few islands with excellent
Getting Around: The Raizet airport has the best stock of rental cars on the island, including international agencies such as Avis and Hertz. No need to purchase a temporary local driver's license. Driving is on the right.
Where to Stay: The Tourist Board has an office at the Raizet Airport. They can be very helpful in locating hotels, inns or campgrounds. Most of the major resorts are on Grand-Terre, which is not a convenient location if you plan to do extensive hiking and exploring. The Relais Creoles are small (from 6 to 40 rooms) private hotels located in the countryside, usually with their own excellent Creole restaurants. Close to La Soufriere is Hotel St-Georges in St-Claude. Guadeloupe's small hotels are represented in the U.S. by International Tours and Resorts at 800/223-9815. Another alternative are the rooms and kitchenettes called Gites, popular with many budget-minded French travelers. Some of these also are quite isolated, but as you'll need a car to get around anyway, just select one located in good walking country. A list of Gites is available from the tourist offices in Basse-Terre or Grand-Terre, or through the Syndicat d'Initative de Deshaies; tel. 0590/28-49-70. The Syndicat charges a 5% commission/rental fee.
Camping: Not only can you camp, you can arrange overnight treks of four to five days along the trails of the Parc Naturel with one of the forest service personnel. Their English isn't always the best, but the guides try their hardest to explain the amazing variety of terrain you'll pass through. Campsites are available (as are small bungalows) off the beach at Sable d'Or near Deshaies in Basse-Terre; tel. 28-44-60; Camping Traversee near Mahaut on Basse-Terre; and the Guadeloupe Hotel at Saint-Francois, also offering complete camping facilities. Fully equipped campers sleeping up to six can be rented from Vert'Bleu in Deshaies, Basse-Terre ; 0590/28-51-25. Or check with the local park service office or police about other sites that might look interesting to you. Be aware commercial campgrounds sometimes are so crowded tents are up against each other.
Hiking/Walking Services: This is one island where you can walks for days, specifically from Vieux Fort on Basse-Terre's south coast to Pointe Allegre near Ste.-Rose on the north. Contact the Organisation des Guides de Montagne le la Caraibe, Maison Forestiere, 97120 Matouba; tel. 0590/94-29-11. They are familiar with all the best hikes inside the national park. Through them, you can arrange day hikes or treks of a week or more. My very helpful guide was Berry Gerard. Having him describe the terrain and vegetation on the La Soufriere climb made all the difference between knowing and guessing about what we were seeing.
Health & Safety Warnings: The manchineel tree and its caustic sap is always a danger. The trees are called “le manceniller” and usually marked in red paint. Come prepared for rain. The higher slopes receive 250 inches annually. Drink bottled water.
Snakes & Other Venomous Creatures: None.
For More Information:Web site: www.frenchcaribbean.com .