Tahiti vs Guadeloupe: Which is Better for Travel?

I enjoyed Vagabond Journey’s comparison of Georgia and Armenia and thought I’d give it a go to compare Guadeloupe and Tahiti.

 

We spent six weeks in Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, and two and a half months in Tahiti. They’re both French territories, and therefore similar in many ways.

 

Which island is better? To live in, and to visit as a tourist?

 

I’ll compare the islands in the following categories: Food, People, Costs, Beaches, Culture, Capital City, and Proximity to Other Islands.

 

Food:

Both islands were easily set up to cook at home. I didn’t go out to eat almost at all at either island. Jacob enjoyed roulottes, or food vans, for cheap fast food style eating, in both islands.

For me,Tahiti wins for best cuisine. But take this as a mild disclaimer: I was pregnant in Guadeloupe, and everything tasted a little off to me anyway.

Guadeloupe’s food is mainly French. To try cooking Caribbean-style food at home I used caribbeanpot.com.

The food in the grocery stores is fresh and tasty, especially the pineapple and other tropical fruits, but the selection is somewhat limited. The grocery stores are quite small.

The must-try items are the saltfish, a Caribbean specialty that involves soaking in water overnight to get rid of the salt, and the licorice-flavored soda, L’ordinaire.

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Perhaps Jacob’s favorite soda of all time (but then he’s a licorice junkie): L’ordinaire

 

Tahiti’s grocery stores aren’t American sized, but they are unusually large for a small island nevertheless. They have a frozen section, a foreign import section, and plenty of exotic fruits and vegetables as well as local ones.

The cuisine is also unique: a blend of Chinese, Polynesian, and French. Most dishes include fresh coconut milk which can be bought at the Casino (large French grocery store) near you.

Although Tahitian food is more likely to make you fat because it’s oh so yummy and oh so carby, it’s worth it. Pictured below is taro; Tahitian salad called poisson cru with cucumber, tomato and raw fish; and the jellied po’e, a popular dessert. On the right is a curried fresh seafood dish.

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People:

Another win for Tahiti.

This is just in the category of as a visitor. If you live there, you’ll make friends and get into the culture wherever you are. But as a visitor, you will probably feel more comfortable in Tahiti.

The culture there is one of non confrontation. Everyone is extremely laid back. Hospitality is a cultural value.

 

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Ryder at a Tahitian wedding reception

 

In Guadeloupe, there’s an undercurrent of racial angst.  We felt like there were a lot of hooligans hanging around, a lot of suspicious characters. Tahiti was so safe, there were even women taxi drivers. The vibe was very different.

Guadeloupe is still certainly a safe place to visit; Tahiti is just exceptional in this regard. Also, we did have friends in Tahiti in advance, which helped us to get immersed in the culture.

 

Costs:

Guadeloupe is less expensive than Tahiti in almost every regard. It’s cheaper to get there for Americans, it’s cheaper to rent a car, and it’s easier to find accommodation. Even just grocery shopping in Tahiti is a wallet-drainer. I easily spent $75-$100 every couple of days.

No one visits French Polynesia expecting a backpacker’s paradise. The Caribbean fits that bill much better.

Beaches:

Guadeloupe wins.

It’s much easier to find a place to stay right on the beach. The towns are arranged so that it’s easy to live near the water and have everything you need in terms of shopping and other services. The water is clear and lovely for snorkeling. Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, doesn’t have a very good beach, and you have to travel quite a ways to find snorkeling. Guadeloupe has a volcano and plenty of other natural and unique hikes to explore.

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Hiking in Guadeloupe

However, there is a wonderful hike to do in Tahiti which includes a natural water slide.

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Hiking in Tahiti

Culture:

Tahiti is famous for Paul Gaugain paintings, beautiful women, and native clothing and dancing. Guadeloupe’s culture is less well known or pronounced. If anything, there is a reggae/Rasta vibe. Overall, Tahitians seem more proud and more sharing of their culture with outsiders. Tip: the Latter-Day Saint Church organizes a lot of these kind of functions, and they’re free to attend.

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Native Tahitian dance and clothing

Capital City:

Both islands have a very slow lifestyle. There isn’t a ton of stuff to do in either country. But when it comes to capital cities, there’s much more to entertain in Papeete than in Pointe-a-Pitre. In Papeete, there’s better shopping, a cultural center which hosts events such as the FIFO movie festival, and a lack of the shady characters that tend to populate Guadaloupe.

Proximity to Other islands:

It’s very easy to hit Guadeloupe on a tour of other Caribbean islands. In fact we passed up Saint Lucia, Dominica, and Martinique on our ferry to Guadeloupe.

Tahiti is isolated. Flying is much more practical to visit other islands of French Polynesia. We didn’t visit Bora Bora for this reason. Moorea is just a (very choppy) boat ride away, but other islands are more difficult to reach and much more remote.

Guadeloupe is a better launching spot to see other countries/cultures nearby.

 

To sum up, I would say go to Guadeloupe as a tourist for the cheap beach vacation with a lot of gorgeous views, or even choose it as a stop on a cruise; choose Tahiti to live or learn French for the friendly people, good food, and unique culture.

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Lush Guadeloupe

 

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Tahitian cultural celebration

Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 364 awesome articles for us.

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