The Pretty White Sand Beaches At This Hidden Caribbean Island Promise Pure Relaxation

Are you dreaming of white sand beaches and turquoise water? If so, you're not alone. Escaping to an island for relaxation sounds divine, but in most cases, you may fight for that towel spot with other tourists seeking respite. That is unless you visit the quiet island of La Désirade in Guadeloupe in the Lesser Antilles, which sits 6 miles east of Grande-Terre. According to the tale, Christopher Columbus' second voyage in 1493 was tumultuous. When he discovered this island, his crew longed for a break and rested there. Fittingly, La Désirade translates to "the desire." 

La Désirade was a leper colony for 200 years until 1958. It only has nearly 1,500 inhabitants, per France-Voyage. You have to take a 45-minute long ferry ride from Saint-François on Grande-Terre for around $35 per person. Or, a small plane from Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport (about 15 minutes). When you get there, you'll have stretches of beaches with very few tourists. It's a great spot to relax without crowds, enjoy the sun and surf, and hike around a lovely landscape. It's also great if you love snorkeling. Let's explore La Désirade and see what you can do there. 

Sun and sand in La Désirade

While the north side of La Désirade is steep and a bit barren, the south is where you'll find lovely white sand beaches. Its residents make their living mainly from fishing. The island is only 27 square miles, so if you stay for a few days, you can see it all on rented scooters or bikes. You don't need a vehicle since there is only one paved road, but car rental services are available. The weather is perfect for beach days, with an average temperature of around 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the dry season (January through June) and 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit in the wet season. 

There are beaches along the coast, but three main ones stand out. Le Souffleur Beach is right in the middle of the southern coast and is only about 15 minutes from the ferry. You can find some barbecue grills, tables, and a volleyball net. Baie Mahault Beach is the most remote and the quietest, though the white sand has a few more rocks. It also has the ruins of the leper colony from the beginning of the 18th century and a cotton factory. Grand Anse Beach is closest to the main port and offers 2-miles of shoreline and clear waters. Fifi Beach is large, has a coconut grove, and receives the most visitors. It also has a lovely restaurant called La Payotte, which has seafood, snacks, and drinks.

Snorkeling, hiking, and things to do

La Désirade is a good spot for snorkeling. You might see butterfly fish, French angelfish, moray eels, scorpionfish, long-lure frogfish, green and hawksbill turtles, barracuda, stingrays, and eagle rays. You just need to avoid these two things when snorkeling on vacation: strong currents and watercraft. If you'd like to experience lower-risk scuba diving, you can get certified right on the island at the l'Îlot Plongée Désirade diving school for $67.

Hiking fanatics should stop by the tourist office near the ferry to get a trail map. One great hike is the Circuit Nord de la Désirade, a moderately challenging 4.4-mile loop, or the Pointe des Colibris par les Hautes, which is a 5.3-mile loop on the moderate side. Another spot to hike to is La Croix de la Pointe des Colibris, where you will likely see a number of the iguanas that live on the island. You're not supposed to feed them. However, you'll probably catch them begging for snacks. 

Yet another is the rather steep hike up to the Chapel of Our Lady of Calvary, a tiny, pretty blue-and-white building. You'll have some beautiful views of the island and the ocean. When you're done, check out the Jardin Botanique du Desert, which has around 800 species of plants and the largest group of cacti in the Caribbean. For more adventure, you might want to explore nearby Guadalupe Island, which tourists call the most friendly Caribbean destination.