For a long time, “Island Hopping” has been on our bucket list. We want to fly into one island and leave from another, and figure out everything else along the way.
And now we are doing it, island hopping in the Caribbean. 🙂
We don’t particularly want to visit islands too close to the US, nor do we want to visit US territories. Why go where everyone else goes, right? After a bit of discussion, we decide that the eastern Caribbean holds the most interest to us. So we’ve decided to fly into Saint Lucia and fly out of Guadeloupe, and figure out the rest along the way.
The next step is finding flights. We have points on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines. After running the numbers, we decide to use Alaska Airlines. Strangely enough, Alaska Airlines code-shares with American Airlines, and we are on AA metal all the way. We fly out of San Diego, CA and have a layover in Dallas, TX, then on to Miami, FL. We stay overnight in Miami, then continue to Saint Lucia. The return trip flies out of Guadeloupe, then retraces our route back home.
And we’re off!
We stayed at the San Diego Airport Hilton the night before we left. It starts the adventure a day early, and it removes the stress of getting up extra early to avoid rush hour traffic, accidents, and everything else that seems to happen when you’re in a hurry to get to the airport.
We don’t even unpack, so, in the morning, there’s nothing to worry about on the quick shuttle ride to the airport.
And, a day and a half later, we arrive in Saint Lucia at 1:30pm.
We had read that, before a visitor is allowed entry to these islands, proof of lodging was required. So we already have a place to stay in Saint Lucia, an apartment right on Reduit Beach that we booked through VRBO for five nights.
On our fourth day in Saint Lucia, we rent a taxi for the day to see the other side of the island, and ask the driver to take us to the dock to buy tickets before we’re finished. He says, “No problem,” yet drives past the dock, telling us we can do it on the way back. Well, he knows best, right.
We spend the day doing touristy things, then return, stopping at the docks just before arriving at our apartment. And the gate to the docks is closed and security guards are posted. “No problem,” our driver tells us. He talks to the security guard and, sure enough, the gate opens and we are drive to the ticket agent. We knock on the door. After a few moments, it opens. “We’re closed. Come back tomorrow.” This time, pleading doesn’t work, but we did get a time-table for the ferry.
The next afternoon, we board the Express Des Iles ferry and are off to Martinique! Uh oh. It’s the eastern Caribbean in the shoulder season, just before hurricane season. During the 90-minute trip, the boat is bounced around more and more. We’re feeling seasick, and a few other passengers are actually sick. Fortunately, barf bags are in abundance, so no one makes a mess. With deep breathing and keeping our eyes on the horizon, we manage to finish the trip with our lunch still in us. 🙂
We’ve decided to stay in Martinique just two nights; we realize that we won’t get to enjoy each island unless we stay a while, and perhaps four islands are too many for the time we have. Live and learn. We are staying in Karibea Squash Hotel, a small hotel near the dock at Fort-de-France that we found through Expedia. It is walking distance from the dock, or so we thought. It’s after dark, but we start walking, confident we can get there.
Wrong. After about 15 minutes, we hail a passing taxi and ride the rest of the way.
The next morning, we pull out the laptop to see where to stay on the next island, Dominica. We have only about 15 minutes of battery life, so I go to the front desk and ask to borrow a converter. Oops. The converter doesn’t fit the boxy plug on the computer cord. Find a hotel, quick!!
We find Rosalie Bay Resort on Booking.com just before the battery dies.
Pro tip: buy converters before you go on a trip, and be sure they fit all your plugs.
The four years I spent in high school studying French is proving useful, although I occasionally slip in a German word by accident. But, everyone is patient as I do my best to fit in. After two days, we return to the dock to get ferry tickets. Remembering what happened in Saint Lucia, we buy ferry tickets to Dominica, and then from Dominica to Guadeloupe. We leave Martinique, a bit sad that we had so little time to explore.
Uh oh, again. The wind picks up, and people are pulling out the barf bags. This trip is longer than the first, and we both come close to using the sick bags ourselves. When we finally get to Dominica, we decide to fly to the next island. Even though we’ve already purchased the ticket, it’s not worth being sick.
We are finally here! The feeling of seasickness slowly leaves us as we walk down the dock towards the town of Roseau. We decide to rent a car. We should have rented one on each island; it’s so much easier than trying to find a taxi. Plus, where we are staying, a taxi wouldn’t work. The rental car agent from Road Runner Car Rentals meets us at the dock, and we’re off!
The roads in Dominica are rural, and it takes some adjustment to drive on mountain passes. The drop-off seems precarious at times. Notice that the steering wheel is on the “other” side of the car; fortunately, the year I spent living in Australia gives me enough experience to handle it without a problem.
My wife decides she’d like to try driving, since she’s never experienced driving on the right side of the car and the left side of the road. So we find a quiet street and change places. To her surprise, she really enjoys it!
However, I have to remind her that her name is not on the insurance (because we never imagined she’d want to drive); next time, we’ll be sure that both of us can drive. We drive to the other side of the island and arrive at our destination: Rosalie Bay Resort, a beautiful resort on the eastern side of the island.
The resort is lush and beautiful, a garden in the eastern Caribbean.
There are few other visitors, and we have the resort almost to ourselves. Still, we didn’t come to stay at a resort, and spend the week seeing as much of the island as we can.
After seven wonderful days, we drive to the airport. The airport is on the opposite side of the island from the dock in Roseau, but the rental car agent doesn’t mind picking it up there. We wait for our flight, mindful of where we wash our flowers.
We’ve purchased our tickets through WinAir Airlines. When the plane arrives, it’s an ATR 42 turboprop operated by Air Antilles. We climb aboard and, before we can show our tickets to the flight attendant, are told, “Sit in any free seat.” The cabin door is closed, we taxi down the runway, and we are in the air.
We land in Guadeloupe (pronounced Gua – da – loup, not “loup ay”) at Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport. We are not sure where to go, so we follow the signs, looking for customs. Nope, no customs. We just get our bags and head over to Avis Antilles to pick up our car. It’s a small, European-type car with a stick shift; Our bags barely fit, but we manage to stuff them in, and we drive to the hotel.
Travel has its up and downs, and this was one of the downs. The hotel is unsuitable. There is major construction next to the hotel, so we have noise all day long. This is not the hotel’s fault, of course, but it is not fun for us. But the real problem is that the water stopped working in late afternoon. I go to the front desk and interrupt the clerk who is playing on his mobile phone. He has no idea why the water is off or when it will return, and is unconcerned. I request water bottles to be brought to the room. By morning, I had made two more requests, still had no water bottles, and no water was working.
We pack, turn in our keys, and drive away, looking for a hotel with working water.
And we find La Cocoteraie Guadeloupe, a beautiful resort near the eastern-most point of Grande-Terre. The hotel is built in a classic style and has hundreds of rooms; as best we can tell, only nine of them are occupied.
So, once again, we have the hotel practically to ourselves. We spend the days driving around the island and taking in the sights, including Cimetière de Morne-à-l’Eau.
Except that it’s a cemetery, it’s a marvelous wonderland of tiny, fanciful houses on a beautiful Caribbean island. All good thing come to an end, and this is no exception. We’ve been gone almost three weeks, and it’s time to go home. As we fly from Guadeloupe to Miami, we look out the window at the blue Caribbean waters sprinkled with small, green islands, savoring our experiences and memories.
Would we do it again? Would we island hop again? Sure!! It is great fun! Maybe in the south Pacific next time. 🙂