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The Civilized Explorer

The French West Indies

Welcome to the Internet's most nearly complete information source on the French West Indies, particularly St. Barth, Martinique, and Guadeloupe. You will find information about beaches, restaurants, activities, and places to stay, with photographs and links to maps, satellite pictures, and other resources.

The French West Indies is an excellent travel destination. You can walk in pristine rain forests, climb active volcanoes, and swim in underwater national parks. You can stay in world class hotels and dine in world class restaurants. We provide sufficient information for persons to plan their visit entirely on their own. Our information provides greater depth and breadth than possible in travel brochures and Caribbean travel guides. You have easy access to travel information without the time constraints of a busy travel professional and without pressure to buy into package tours. The General Information section contains information on entry requirements, driving, rum distilleries, and more.

| Travel Guides | Photographs | Maps of the French West Indies |

[Photo of a couple lying on a beach with a long empty stretch of sand in the background.]

This friendly couple is taking in the sun on Anse de Grand Saline, St-Barthélémy, French West Indies. As you can see, Grand Saline is long and sandy. It was particularly uncrowded in this photo because it was taken in August, a favorite time of the year for the people who live there, as this couple does.

St. Barth (updated in 2006) is one of the friendliest islands in the world. It used to be a watering hole for the rich who didn't want to be famous. As a result, prices are outrageous, but the food, lodging, and service are absolutely world class. The island economy is based solely on tourism, and it is a wonderful place to visit. Everyone speaks English, and the merchants take American dollars at (usually) better exchange rates than the banks. Your change will be in francs, but you can spend those while you're there. Please note: all the beaches are top optional, and two are clothing optional. Everyone is quite casual about it, and no one is pressured to reveal more than he or she wants.

St. Barth is the friendly isle.

[Photo of a woman swimming under water.]

Just a little further down the Caribbean is the butterfly-shaped island of Guadeloupe (updated in 2005), also in the French West Indies. This island is much larger than St. Barth, and its economy is based on agriculture rather than tourism. There is now substantial development of the tourist industry, and tourism may be overtaking other industries as an important factor in the economy. Beaches are now overrun with vendors hawking swimsuits, pastries, coffee, shirts, and on and on. More hotels are being built. And more Americans are finding their way to this wonderful island. Non- French speaking persons are more likely to find their language spoken here than they were two years ago. Like St. Barth, all the beaches are topless, and a couple are clothing optional (as you may be able to tell from this picture).

The island of Guadeloupe is split into two wings, one flat and one with an active volcano and a rain forest. The flat side has sugar cane, great beaches, and rum distilleries to sample. For the active, see the other side where you climb the volcano, explore the rain forest, snorkel or scuba. Then go back to the hotel, shower, have a drink, and dine at some of the best restaurants in the world.

Guadeloupe is the island for Civilized Explorers.

[A woman standing on the second 
floor of a veranda with a palm tree spreading its leaves behind her.]

This traveler is on the veranda of a former plantation house on the island of Martinique (updated February 2008). Martinique is the home of Fort de France, a cosmopolitan city with a pace that is fast for the tropics. (There is even a rush hour with traffic jams!) It rains every day on Martinique, and the vegetation is lush and gorgeous. Martinique is also home to an active volcano, Montagne Pelée , which erupted early this century, killing everyone in the town of St-Pierre except a man in jail.

Martinique also has an agrarian economy, with sugar cane and bananas being the money crops. Although none of the beaches here are clothing optional, all are optionally topless. As usual, the restaurants and lodging are world class. For nightlife with a fast pace, this is the place to be. Again, not many Americans come here, and those that do usually are on day trips in Fort de France. You'll have the island to yourself for exploring.

Martinique is the cosmopolitan island.

If you've never been in a rain forest, you'll find it a unique experience. If you decide to go, The Rain, The Film and Other Things gives you tips on what to wear and what film you might choose for photos. If you will be renting a car, take a look at our page Driving in the French West Indies.

We have a link to a map of temperatures sent by reporting stations in a number of Caribbean islands. For a discussion of weather- related news, see The Palm Beach (Florida) Post. Additional news and weather information are available at the Civilized Explorer News & Weather Page. Since the weather is remarkably pleasant year round, there's a discussion of summer vacations for your information.

If you are interested in going to the naturist beaches, you'll find descriptions and photos at Naturist Beaches in the French West Indies NEW!. It is, after all, the French West Indies. We have photos from the naturist beaches at our Skin Divers page; use the descriptions as your guide - some links show the top-free, some show the clothing-free.

More Links

For our book reviews on Caribbean travel guides, see PaperView -- we have found some gems.

The Civilized Explorer provides additional links to the French West Indies and to other Caribbean islands on our Caribbean Island Information Page. If you are moved to live and work in the Caribbean, we are happy for you, but sorry to report we have no information on living and working there.

As always, if you have any objections, corrections, suggestions, or questions, drop us a line via Cyber Poste.

The Mraur Cyber Poste stamp is Copyright © 1995 by Jim Felter and is used with his kind permission. For more of his work, please drop by Jas' HomePage.

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