This Lesser-Known Caribbean Island Boasts Stunning Waterfalls And Colorful Beaches

An idyllic and friendly Caribbean destination, Guadaloupe is actually an archipelago of five islands: Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, Les Saintes, and La Desirade. Within this group, one of the lesser-known islands, Basse-Terre, boasts some of the archipelago's most spectacular scenery, including lush rainforests, stunning waterfalls, and sandy beaches in a striking array of colors, from blonde and reddish-gold to smoky black. 

If you love waterfalls, this may be the tropical destination of your dreams. The most famous of Basse-Terre's cascades is Les Chutes du Carbet, which is actually a series of three waterfalls one above the other, deep in the jungle. These falls, the tallest of which drops over 375 feet, have been wowing visitors for eons. After Christopher Columbus witnessed them in 1493, he described them in his logbook as "a very large spring spreading water on all sides of the mountain," per France-Voyage.

It's possible to hike to the first cascade (the tallest one), but the route is strenuous and takes around three hours round trip. A more relaxing, 40-minute round-trip walk leads to the second waterfall, whose drop is still an impressive 360 feet. Unfortunately, you can't hike to the third waterfall due to a risk of landslides. Other waterfalls on the island are also worth visiting and tend to be less crowded than Carbet. These include Cascade aux Ecrevisses, Cascade Le Saut de L'Acomat, Saut de la Lézarde, and more.  

Basse-Terre's colorful beaches

If you prefer the perfect white sand and luxury beach resorts, it's best to head to another Caribbean island. That's because Basse-Terre's beaches are better known for their rustic beauty, with earth-toned sands, a lack of significant development, and plenty of space for strolling. A few of the island's most popular beaches are clustered on its northwest coast. One of these, Plage de Grande Anse, is a pristine arc of golden sand near Deshaies that was one of the filming sites for the TV series "Death in Paradise." At 0.6 miles, the beach is the longest in the archipelago, and many agree it's well deserving of its reputation as a slice of tropical paradise. 

Besides Grande Anse, another sublime stretch of sand is Plage de la Perle, two miles down the coast from Plage de Grande Anse. This beach, with reddish-gold sand, has a lovely view looking out over a small pearl-shaped islet. It rivals Plage de Grande Anse in terms of beauty but is less crowded, giving it a more chill vibe. Near both beaches, visitors can find an array of decent restaurants serving fresh seafood and fun fruity drinks. A few drawbacks of both beaches, however, are that the parking areas can get crowded and the waves and currents can be surprisingly strong, so take care when swimming and snorkeling, especially if you have kids. 

More island activities for nature lovers

Yet another beach to check out is Plage de Malendure, on the west side of the island. To complete your color palette, this is a spectacular black-sand beach, which acts a striking border between the bright-green foliage and brilliant turquoise waters. The lovely beach is perfect for swimming and relaxing, but one of the best things about it is that it serves as the launching point for trips to the Cousteau Marine Reserve, a superb spot for glass-bottomed boat trips as well as snorkeling, diving, and kayaking trips. 

Besides waterfalls for days and colorful beaches, the island also has an active volcano, La Soufriere, which last erupted in 1977. Its 4,813-feet summit is the highest point of not only Basse-Terre, but also the archipelago. Adventurers who like climbing tall things may get a thrill out of hiking to the windy summit via a challenging 4.4 mile trail that loops around the mountain.The route is strenuous but not technical, with a few sections that require boulder scrambling,and there are beautiful views along the way if it's not too misty. Bring a variety of clothing (i.e., rain gear, thermal layers, sunscreen) to prepared for changing weather conditions on this trail.