The Island Runaways duo loves to escape for tropical getaways, but one thing that puts a damper on our plans? The cost. Just like most people who dream of island escapes, we don’t have limitless funds, so we’re always searching for good deals. Fortunately, Zickie and I have discovered a very interesting bargain to share with our Island Runaways readers.
In the French Caribbean, specifically, on Martinique and Guadeloupe, savvy travelers can rent cottages or apartments at a fraction of the cost of a hotel room. If you’re traveling with a family, for instance, instead of two adults and two kids crammed into a single room, parents can enjoy their own space and a bit of privacy in a two-room cottage. Also, you can save money by preparing breakfast and even lunch yourselves in your own kitchen.
Want to save even more? Then take your trip off-season. In the French Caribbean, that’s in June, although July and August can also net you fantastic deals. This past summer, Zickie and I stayed in two properties in Guadeloupe that we can gladly recommend. They were both part of a small business called “Piment Café," owned by Frenchman Didier Rault and his wife on rustic Basse Terre island.
(The open-air living area at Ti Karet, Piment Café, Guadeloupe)
Didier’s properties are located in gorgeous Deshaies, a region on the northwest coast of Basse Terre. Zickie, our daughter, and I had become intrigued by the beautiful scenery from the PBS mystery show “Death in Paradise” (largely filmed in Deshaies), and we were eager to swim in the gorgeous, clear Caribbean sea and explore the Creole culture. After finding Piment Café online, and reading some reviews on the Routard website, we exchanged emails with Didier and put down a deposit. So far, so easy. Then we also arranged to rent a car at the Pointe-à-Pitre airport. Again, no problem.
One thing I personally liked about Guadeloupe? They drive on the right, like we do in the United States. The roads there are also in great condition. So we made our way to Piment Café (or Hot Pepper Café in English) and got installed at a cottage called Ti Karet, which means “little sea turtle” in French Creole. With only three rental cottages on site, we expected not to be crowded with other guests – and that's exactly what happened! Only one other couple was staying on the property, since this was the low season. (A French couple who were, by the way, absolutely delightful, and spoke some English.)
(Zickie and our daughter at Ti Karet)
The kitchen and living area were open air: in the morning, a hummingbird flew in and out as we drank our coffee and our daughter had her juice. Bright frangi-pani and tropical flowers blossomed just feet away.
(Frangi-pani in the tropical garden at Ti Karet)
In the evenings, we grilled outside. There was Wi-fi, which we used to check email and post Facebook updates, and television, which we did not bother to turn on. Although the property is not on the ocean, incredible beaches were about 5 and 10 minutes away, as were restaurants and bars.
The Fort Langley Hotel, about 10 minutes on foot or 2 minutes by car, welcomes non-guests to their restaurant and beach bar; you can also pay extra to do watersports on the property. During the day, access to the hotel's beach is free. While we loved drinking a sunset Ti Punch at the Fort Langley, it was also a relief to retreat back to the quiet of Piment Café. Did I mention guests at Piment Café also share a small pool?
In the super low season of June, it cost Zickie, our daughter, and I approximately $602 to stay a week at Ti Karet, with two (air conditioned) bedrooms and two bathrooms. These rates may adjust in the future; you can look on Piment Café website for the most recent rates. Just click on the English version for a translation.
For our second week in Guadeloupe, we moved to Didier’s apartment in the fishing village of Deshaies proper. In terms of a room with a view, this rental should win awards! From the kitchen and dining table, you could gaze upon the harbor, with sailboats anchored in the azure water. The view changed throughout the day, from sunrise to sunset, so Zickie and I never got tired of staring at the sea and the picturesque town harbor. The apartment had a modern kitchen, two bathrooms, and two bedrooms on separate floors. The price? In the very lowest season (June), it was 325 euros for 3 people. That’s about $455 for one week. (In high season over Christmas, it’s 640 euros for 3, still a very nice deal.)
(The view we loved in Deshaies)
In the mornings, we wandered down to town, about a 5 minute stroll, for fresh croissants and café au lait. Our daughter loved the bakery's chocolate beignets, still warm from the oven. Along the main street were cute souvenirs shops, little groceries, and seafood restaurants. Deshaies itself was marvelous, and served as an excellent base to explore Basse Terre, from the Grande Anse beach to the Botanical Garden.
One of the neatest things? During our stay the production company was actually filming episodes of Death in Paradise, the PBS/BBC television show that introduced us to this area in the first place! We even got to see one of the lead actors.
Sometimes I enjoy the convenience of a hotel, where everything from breakfast to daily housekeeping is taken care of. Renting a “gîte” as they’re called in French does entail more involvement, whether it’s visiting the market or making more of your own arrangements. And, since I speak French, that certainly made it easier for us as a family to go grocery shopping and explore on our own. That being said, we found Guadeloupeans very friendly and helpful. Not everyone speaks English in this island archipelago, but those who did were eager to practice with us.
Didier himself speaks good English, by the way, and knows the area extremely well, so he can offer you advice on snorkel trips, beaches, and the attractions of the island. Island Runaways travel tip: If you plan to rent a gîte and will need some assistance in English, be sure to ask if an English speaker will be on-site or close-by to help you during your stay.
(A kitchen with a view. The apartment at Deshaies, Guadeloupe)
Definitely, one discovery we’ve made in both Martinique and Guadeloupe over the past two years: by renting a “gîte,” we wind up having more funds to spend on dining out and excursions. It also allows us to feel like we’re part of the community, in a small way. And we all valued the island's wonderful serenity and beauty.
Have you ever rented a cottage or apartment, either at home or abroad? If so, Zickie and I would love to hear about your experience and any advice you might have.