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Nature thrives in every nook and cranny here. Clinging to the hills above the village of Deshaies and Grande-Anse Bay, proprietors George and Sylvie Carreyre’s 10-bungalow hideaway meshes a colorful collaboration of environment and art that’s capped by an over-the-top, 3-level refuge staircased into a mango tree.

The spa is equally imaginative, with its natural pool inviting guests to a communion with orchids and ferns. Aside from creative touches that seem to one-up themselves in every direction, the Carreyres take pride in the fact that all organic spa scrubs and wraps are concocted on site. Nightly bungalow rates are from $156, including breakfast.

It makes sense that Basse-Terre’s lush landscape is home to the 12-acre Jardin Botanique de Deshaies, where a 1.5-mile circuit travels through more than 1,000 species of flowers and tropical plants. Among the park’s landscape of 15 themed areas are waterfalls, flamingos, and the Parrots’ Village where chromatic macaw and ararauna were coaxed to perch on our shoulders for nectar treats.

Unfortunately, our busy schedule found us spending only a night at the four-star Aquarelle’s in Sainte-Rose. Definitely the most spacious and luxurious of our accommodations, the village of 15 upscale, Creole-style villas sleeps four to 10 guests in 2- to 5-bedroom designs.Each villa is high-end throughout, pampering with a private pool off a large wooden terrace, oversized kitchen equipped with stainless steel appliances, separate living room, and bathrooms with multi-jet shower and whirlpool tub. Nightly rates start at $178 through Nov. 1, 2011.

lovely les saintes Our finale excursion to Les Saintes tipped this Caribbean sojourn’s scales from remarkable to phenomenal. A collection of nine islets off the coast of Basse-Terre, this postcard-perfect slice of Guadeloupe is home to descendants of French fishermen who settled here from Normandy and Brittany. Traveling via the 300-passenger Miss Guadeloupe ferry from Trois Rivieres, we got a glimpse into local life that at times rivaled the scenery beyond. It was amusing to see island women donning traditional Creole attire of brightly colored madras skirt, matching headdress, white lace-trimmed blouse and scarf draped over the shoulder. With the heat and humidity, it seemed as masochistic as charming.

The main port of Terre-de-Haut lies at the beautiful bay of Anse du Bourg with its backdrop pinnacle resembling Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain. Since there are few autos on the isle, the best way to tour is via bike, scooter or foot for the hard core. There’s also exploring with Bruno Gargar, a charismatic Creole who developed his Gwada Discovery tour company to “be as different as the islands.” Gargar encourages spontaneity. So between visiting cozy cottages like Auberge Les Petits Saints, exploring historic Fort Napoleon, snacking on cod fritters, and purchasing spices and coffee along the harbor’s main street, we dived into what is arguably the Caribbean’s most magnetic asset—the sea.

practical advice “Since it’s an archipelago, our destination is naturally diversified,” says Luigy Ssosse, promotion assistant for Guadeloupe Islands Tourist Board. “So it’s a good fit for families and couples interested in eco-tourism activities and discovering different landscapes.” Ssosse recommends visiting between December and May, since June to October can be extremely warm and wet.

American Airlines, Air France and Air Canada offer direct flights into Point-a-Pitre (PTP). Connecting flights are also operated from Grand Case Airport (SFG) on the French side of St. Martin via Air Caraibes and Air Antilles Express.