As I’m writing these few lines, it’s been a month since we left French Polynesia to come and settle here in Guadeloupe with our family. Little by little, we are getting to know this beautiful island. In our first article on the island of Guadeloupe, we told you about the Bassin Bleu walk, on the highlands of Gourbeyre (island of Basse-Terre). This week, we are taking you on another hike, but this time in the famous Cascade du Paradis (waterfall of paradise), in the Commune of Vieux-Habitants.
I must say that when you arrive on an island that you don’t know yet, you just want to discover all the smallest nooks and crannies! So, I’ve decided to look at the topographic maps and the few websites about walks to do in Basse-Terre, that’s why I can propose doing this very nice family walk.
I must admit that we went on this hike twice. On our first try, we arrived very late in the afternoon and did not have the chance to really enjoy and admire the scenery. We were only able to stay for two minutes at the end of the ride, at the risk of coming back in the dark of night. Not very smart, I admit, especially with two young children. But we came back just before the night, on the run. So, in order to better appreciate the walk and the discovery of the fauna/flora around us, and also knowing that I wanted to write an article for our blog, we decided to come back for a full day and bring our picnic.
The program of the day: an early start, a little bit of road, a nice family walk in a tropical setting as beautiful as ever, and the show climax, a swim in a beautiful green water basin, all lit by a beautiful morning light. What more could you ask for?
As a small aside, be careful not to confuse it with the Bassin Paradis. Their names are similar, but this latter is located not far from the Carbet Falls, in the town of Capesterre-Belle-Eau.
The start of this hike is not really close to where we’re living until we find our little nest here in Guadeloupe. As I write this article, we live in the heights of Saint-Claude, and the hike starts in the village of Vieux-Habitants. After preparing our picnic for the day, we leave our Airbnb early to go hiking. As always, you will find at the end of the article all the practical information you need to know about this hike in the forest. About 20 minutes’ drive towards the west coast and we arrive on the outskirts of the Vieux-Habitants village. The beginning of the hike is not easy to find, and you will have to drive to the end of the valley of Grande Rivière des Vieux-Habitants.
Approximately 6km of road brings us to the bottom of the valley. On the way, take your time and enjoy the landscape of this area. In some places, you have very nice views over the surroundings and the very green valley floor. As on our first try, we park on the parking lot of the Grivelière house, a locally known establishment, witness of the past. It is currently closed for renovation for the end of the year 2021, but we hope we’ll come back to visit it, and of course taste the food. The house has been classified “Historical Monument” in 1987, especially for the conservation of these buildings. But I digress.
The hike starts on a very wide dirt road, in the beginning of the valley. The weather is nice and the views on the surroundings are already very beautiful. We quietly move forward with the family, in the middle of nature. We are going to have a great time here for the day! We avoid the cows right out in the way. It is relatively fresh, but it is still early. Having young children has some advantages: they do not sleep in and neither do we! We keep going on the path, which is tarred in some places. It is easy for the kids, Louis enjoys it and, with all the weight of his 5 years and half, does not even complain… We go along old farms on both sides of the road.
About 500/600m after having started, you will have to cross a ford at Auphrant Gulch. When we passed it both times, and even if we are in the middle of the rainy season, we did not encounter any problem. You even have stones placed on the right and left to avoid getting your feet wet (even if we will learn later that we have no choice anyway at the end of the walk). Vegetation is always luxuriant, of a bright green, and as we have time, we take pleasure observing all these details around us. We can observe mushrooms (there were few of them in Tahiti), the famous rat-tail shrubs appreciated by bats (that we will meet the first time during our late return) or finally quite a lot of epiphytic plants, meaning that they use other plants/trees as support to grow.
We go on for about 1km to reach the dam on the Grande Rivière des Vieux-Habitants. Just upstream, you’ll find a yellow sign on your right indicating other hikes in the area. I will talk about it in detail in the part about practical aspects, but obviously, doing this hike during heavy rain and if bad weather is forecasted is impossible (and absolutely not advised). Here, there are two possibilities that we both tested. On our first pass, we went down to the left side of the dam on a small trail that leads to the river’s edge. From here, you can jump from rock to rock to reach the other side, without too much trouble. Melanie did it with Teo in the baby carrier, so it’s possible! You just have to be careful since some passages are slippery. By doing so, you avoid getting your feet wet (for now). The other solution, faster but also simpler, is to simply cross at the dam. You can go down the wall and walk along the dam, or even a little upstream, directly into the river. At the time of our visit, the water level was relatively low and the current quite weak, so no problem.
Once we crossed the river, we kept following the marked trail towards the right (valley bottom). The trail is mostly reduced to the passage of one person and goes through a superb tropical forest composed of numerous ferns, bamboos, and other plants of all kinds. I really enjoy observing all of it, while taking care to immortalize the best I can with my photographic equipment. The path is well shaded from the dam, even if the first portion is globally too. You’ll have to continue on this path for about 15 minutes, and especially not miss the “famous official junction”. There is a huge rock with a red arrow pointing to the right, indicating that you will have to cross the river at this level. Here, you can’t go back, you’ll have to get your feet wet, and even your calves (and maybe your thighs, if you are small). Once again, crossing is not a problem as long as the current is not too strong, and the water height acceptable. If in doubt or if you feel rain coming, I advise you to turn back and try the hike another time. The water can rise quickly in this kind of valley, just like an accident can quickly happen.
Once on the other side, you can see a set of rocks on your right, like paving stones. You will have to follow this direction as if you were going down the river for about 50m. The path continues on your left, in the forest, and brings you in a few minutes on a first basin with beautiful green colors, at the foot of a waterfall. In the background, you can see the famous Cascade du Paradis. During our first try, we had to run because of the pressing night, but we arrive this time at 10 o’clock at the bottom of this magnificent pool. We are alone, in a quiet place, a setting that I judge paradisiac, without mincing my words. We fully enjoy this moment with our family, far from everyone else. A small bath in this beautiful deep pool reminds us that water in a river is not so hot, haha. I take pleasure shooting some long exposures shots.
We then go up the trail towards the famous Cascade du Paradis. This one is even more spectacular. The water comes down from the mountain with an impressive flow. At the foot of this waterfall and of an imposing rocky lava escarpment, in the shapes of “basaltic organs”, we find a magnificent turquoise green basin. The setting is splendid, even more when you are alone. We decide to eat at the edge of the basin, which, on second thoughts, is not so smart considering the traces of landslides and the stories I could read. I would rather advise to rest on the other side, where the big rocks are (opposite side of the organs). We spend a good hour for our lunch, in this enchanting setting which is impossible to be indifferent about. The kids are getting tired and it’s time for us to go back. A smooth return, without a hitch, allows us to get back to the car parked on the parking lot. Even if the hike doesn’t have any particular difficulties, we are still a bit tired and so is Louis.
- Difficulty: nothing in particular, little elevation gain, but a crossing near the dam and another one near the Grande Rivière (just before the arrival)
- Duration: 1h30 one way – 3h return
- Length: about 5 km round trip
- Type: round trip
- Ideal: to do with a small picnic at noon
- Season: prefer dry season, be careful in case of heavy rain because two river crossings
- Not to forget: rain cape, shoes (no flip-flops), mosquito repellents
Obviously, I don’t know the area like the back of my hand yet. From the research I was able to do and from my topographic maps, you can:
- Go to the Beaugendre valley
- Go on the Trois Crêtes or Piton de Bouillante hike
Here is what you need to know for this hike as well as some elements to help you.
Of course, you will have to go to Guadeloupe first. If you are preparing your trip, you should look at the flights on Skyscanner, the flight comparator I have been using for more than 10 years now to find the best prices. This will allow you, thanks to options such as “all month” or “cheapest”, to find great holidays at discounted prices. Depending on the season and airlines, you will be able to find flights as low as 350€ from Paris. Here is a link which proposes the cheapest dates to come and visit Guadeloupe. You can look at the cheapest prices from the USA here, and same goes from Canada here.
Once there, you will have no other choice than to rent a car. You can pick it up at the airport or in Pointe à Pitre. Again, I recommend looking at the car rental comparison service Rentalcars, which compares many rental companies to find the cheapest prices.
Regarding the access to the hike, everything will depend on where you will stay, obviously. It takes about 30 minutes from Saint-Claude (see the itinerary). If you arrive from the North, from the Mamelles road, you will need about 45 minutes (see the itinerary). In both cases, you will have to drive along the Grande-Rivière valley from Vieux-Habitants for about 6 km to the Parking de la Grivelière. Note that you can park slightly after the parking. On your left, there is a large space where we have already seen several cars parked.
If you have a smartphone, I recommend you download:
- Mapsme, an app providing very high quality offline (no internet) maps,
- The application “Rando Guadeloupe” (Android / Apple) – in French: you will find a lot of walks, including this one (Cascade Paradis). In addition to the classic map, you also have access to precise information about the place (fauna, flora, etc.),
- You can also download the complete track of the hike on the Wikilocs website.
There are quite a few nice places to sleep in the area after a good day of hiking. Here are three that have a very good reputation and are located nearby:
- L’Eden des Colibris: a superb vacation house in a magnificent setting
- Peaceful House: another dream house, with a breathtaking view of the surroundings
- Les écolo-gîtes de l’Habitation Laurichesse: a beautiful wooden establishment less than 2.5km from the beach of Petite Anse.
If you live in the area and/or if you have good addresses, feel free to leave us a comment! You can also look at the addresses to sleep around the hike of Vieux-Habitants via this link.
I’m coming to the end of this second hike here in Guadeloupe, entirely located in the Guadeloupe National Park. Honestly, we really enjoyed ourselves, and being able to swim in this splendid setting, that changes from the white sand beaches and coconut trees! The path is really nice, and the setting at arrival is splendid. A few hours of walking in a magnificent environment. If you have time and are in the area, it is clearly a very nice hike to do!
See you soon for another walk, and we can’t wait to discover more about Guadeloupe!