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December through May is considered the dry season, while June through November is considered the more humid season. However, in our experience, rain showers or clear skies can occur at any time during the year. In general, rainstorms pass quickly and the sun shines on most days. Average air temperatures in coastal areas range from 22º to 30º C (72º to 86º F) and in inland areas, from 19º to 27º C (66º to 81º F). Naturally, travelers will find more rain and cooler temperatures in the rain forests and higher elevations. The warm coastal water temperatures stay between 20º and 23º C (68º and 74º F).

Guadeloupe is justifiably proud of its spectacular beaches, many of which are well sheltered and ideal for swimming. The natural beaches, all beautiful to behold, range from the long white stretches of Grande-Terre to the darker sands of Basse-Terre. Guadeloupe standouts include those at Ste. Anne, St. François and Le Moule on Grande-Terre as well as Grande Anse / Deshaies on Basse-Terre. Public beaches are free, though some may charge for parking. Unlike hotel beaches, they have few facilities. Hotels generally welcome non-guests but charge for changing facilities, beach chairs and towels. The only clothing-optional Guadeloupe beach is a small cove at Plage Tarare near Pointe-des-Châteaux. As is true with clothing-optional beaches everywhere, women should not arrive alone. Topless sunning and swimming in Guadeloupe is more common at hotels than on village beaches. Take your cue from how the locals are dressed.

Dining in the French West Indies is always a memorable event. An exciting variety of Guadeloupe restaurants take advantage of gorgeous settings to complement their culinary delights. Cooking in France is an art form and the French Caribbean continues this delicious tradition. Guadeloupe visitors discover a wide range, from classical and nouvelle French cuisine to spicy Créole and local specialities. Le déjeuner, or lunch, is often the main meal of the day and usually served from noon to 2 p.m. It's generally a good idea to call ahead for reservations for dinner.

The pace of service in many Caribbean restaurants may surprise first-time visitors. It is wise to remember that standards are different in the West Indies. If you demand fast food and brisk service, perhaps the Caribbean is not for you. However, if you can downshift and relax into a tropical mode, your patience will be richly rewarded. Experienced travelers always arrive at Guadeloupe restaurants before they are really hungry and allow extra time for their meals to be prepared and served.

A 15% fee is often included in Guadeloupe restaurant bills (service compris) and additional tips are optional. Budget-conscious travelers with kitchenette facilities have learned to avoid the costs of dining out by preparing many of their own meals.

Be sure to get a copy of the Ti Gourmet for Guadeloupe when you visit. It is available in hotels, tour offices and restaurants free of charge. This handy little guide offers invaluable, detailed information in English and French on local restaurants. Bon appétit!

Guadeloupe's cuisine mirrors its many cultures. The local Créole specialties combine the finesse of French cuisine, the spice of African cookery with the exoticism of East Indian and Southeast Asian recipes. Fresh seafood appears on most menus. Other specialties are: shellfish, smoked fish, stuffed land crabs, stewed conch, and curry dishes. Guadeloupe is considered one of the true culinary capitals of the Caribbean, with some 200 restaurants recommended by the Tourist Office. Some are in hotels, some in lovely settings by the sea, and some on the front porches of the cooks' homes. Local rum drinks often precede a meal and imported French wines often accompany it. Guadeloupe's most colorful culinary event is La Fête des Cuisinières (Festival of the Cooks) held annually in early August.

Guadeloupe has nightspots galore, discos and nightclubs in the larger hotels, and a variety of piano and jazz bars at the Bas du Fort Marina. Some hotels offer dinner dancing and performances by folkloric troupes. The hot dance music is continues to be Le Zouk, performed regularly by many local groups. Some of the most popular dance clubs for locals are in or near Gosier. Legal drinking age is 18.

There are two casinos on Guadeloupe, one in Gosier and the other in St. François. Hours are 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. nightly, with extension to 4 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and nights before holidays. Legal age is 18. Proof of identity (passport or driver's license with photo) is required for entrance to the gameroom. They offer blackjack and American roulette. Dress is casual; jacket and tie are not required. Slot machines are located outside the gameroom entrances.

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