Secret Caribbean hideaway – now, you don’t get dreamier than that. A few decades ago, people would come back from the Caribbean with tales of simple, inexpensive pleasures enjoyed on quiet, pristine beaches. These days, it seems almost impossible to even aspire to those kinds of experience. At a time when many of the previously unspoilt beaches have received a huge dollop of touristy hotels, it’s more difficult than ever to find those remote areas where you can really kick back and relax.
But – and keep this information under your straw hats – there are still some untouched gems in the French West Indies around Guadeloupe, where you feel like you’re taking a step back in time. The best way to experience these places is by hiring your very own bareboat charter. With just you, your loved ones and a boat, there’s nothing to get in the way of paradise.
Where’s the catch, I hear you say. Surely, the beaches aren’t that great, or the food is mediocre at best. Otherwise, why wouldn’t we have heard of these places already? The simple answer is that there is no catch: the beaches are among some of the most beautiful of the Caribbean and the food is excellent in most places. The reason you won’t have heard of them is merely because the French have been keeping them very close to their collective chest.
Take your vessel south to the pancake-shaped Marie-Galante Island. She was ‘discovered’ in 1443 by Christopher Columbus and named after his ship. In the 19th century, the island became French and sugar-cane became the main industry which it still is today. Visitors to Marie-Galante often find that life on the island feels as if time stopped fifty years ago: the architecture is quaint and charming and the landscape is dotted with old windmills, vestiges of the island’s sugar-cane heyday. Beyond the beautiful white sand beaches, the island also has other natural attractions, for example: the Trou à Diable which opens up to reveal a breathtaking subterranean lake.
A few miles to the west of Marie-Galante are Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas. Along with a few uninhabited islets, these are collectively known as the Iles Saintes. The two islands are an archipelago of volcanic rock and are primarily inhabited by the blue-eyed descendants of Brittany and Normandy. On Terre-de-Haut there are eight stunning beaches, all with plenty of shaded areas. Just east of the dinky Pain de Sucre beach you can find some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean. In the main town on Terre-de-Bas you can have some fresher than fresh red snapper on the beach front, under straw umbrellas, on simple plastic chairs – it really doesn’t get any better than this.
End your trip in Dominica, as lush rainforests and unspoiled beaches create an irresistible allure. Dominica is laced with numerous rivers and waterfalls with over 300 zigzagging across the island. As with so many Caribbean islands, Dominica was also formed through volcanic activity, so don’t be surprised if you stumble across bubbling lakes. With such astounding natural beauty, it’s no wonder that Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed right here.
Start your sailing vacation by meandering up past the eastern coast of Guadeloupe. You will come across La Désirade, a baton-shaped island with a peculiar history of its own. The Leprosarium was the emblem of La Désirade from 1728 to 1956, well over two centuries, and lepers were sent there to keep them away from the rest of the population. Other reasons for visiting the island include its beautiful and unusual beaches which are protected by coral reefs and present excellent snorkeling areas.