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Guadeloupe: 15 gorgeous reasons to go

By Lebawit Lily Girma, for CNN
February 17, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
Don't like being hassled by beach vendors? You won't be in Guadeloupe, with 200-plus public beaches that stand out for their natural state and lack of salesmen or towering resorts. Don't like being hassled by beach vendors? You won't be in Guadeloupe, with 200-plus public beaches that stand out for their natural state and lack of salesmen or towering resorts.
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Guadeloupe Islands: Pristine beaches
Marie-Galante rum
Les Saintes
Ti' Punch
Inns and villas
Striking sunsets
Pointe des Châteaux
Guadeloupe National Park
Underwater haven
Waterfalls
Markets
Historic forts
Botanical gardens
French Creole cuisine
Shopping
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In the eastern Caribbean, Guadeloupe is a perennially overlooked paradise
  • New flights from the United States may change its tourist profile
  • The five-island group is an overseas region of France
  • French traditionally make up more than 80% of all tourists to Guadeloupe

(CNN) -- Think the old, pre-megaresort Caribbean is gone?

It's not on pristine Guadeloupe -- a five-island overseas region of France located in the Leeward Islands -- but the era of relative obscurity there may be coming to an end.

First the pristine part.

With modern infrastructure and top-notch cuisine, Guadeloupe is a 629-square-mile treasure of near-empty beaches, forests, waterfalls, cliffs and healthy coral reefs.

Fresh conch kebabs, seaside bars, gwo ka drummers playing and chanting against the sound of lapping waves -- how this cluster of islands has remained off-the-beaten path for so long is a mystery for out of work travel agents to contemplate.

That may change. Soon.

Traditional Caribbean culture still prevails on Guadeloupe.
Traditional Caribbean culture still prevails on Guadeloupe.

Historically, a stronghold of French tourists, Guadeloupe is vying to become the next big winter escape for North Americans, launching formal marketing efforts aimed at those tourists just last year.

In April 2013, American Airlines and Seaborne Airlines launched weekly, direct flights from Miami and Puerto Rico to the main city of Pointe-à-Pitre (population 132,884).

JetBlue followed in November, signing an interline agreement with Seaborne.

By the close of 2013, Guadeloupe Islands' Tourist Board reported a 22.5% annual increase in visitors from the United States.

According to the Caribbean Journal, Guadeloupe received just 420,000 visitors overall in 2013.

If all of this doesn't convince you to give Guadeloupe a look now, the gallery above just might.

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