At only 9.5 miles long the island of Maria Galante is just a speck on most Caribbean maps. But in the case of this tiny island size does not matter. In fact travellers that have visited will tell you that there is much to be discovered, from French inspired cuisine to windmills and ruins. Or maybe you want to just spend the day kayaking down a river or sipping some of the best rum on earth. Well fear not Caribbean traveler Maria Galante has it all and then some.
Where is Maria Galante?
Located in the Caribbean Sea and part of the Lesser Antilles island group that include Martinique, Saint Lucia and Barbados. Maria Galante is nestled between its two sister islands, Guadalupe to the north and Dominica to the south.
As of the 1999 consensus the population of the Maria Galante island was 12,488 inhabitant with most living in the three main communes of Saint Luis, Capesterre and Grand Bourg. locals call the island La Grande Galett translated “The Big Biscuit” due to its round and level shape with its highest peak being Hill Morne Constant at only 669 Ft above sea level. Other nicknames for the island are lile aux cent moulins translated “The island of 100 windmills due to the number of former sugar mills and Grande dependence, being the largest dependency on its sister island of Guadeloupe.
Maria Galente was the first Island Christopher Columbus encountered on his second voyage to the new world in 1493. After anchoring off what is now Grand Bourge, he named the island after his flagship the Marigalante translated ” Gallant Mary. In 1654 the first sugar plantations where set up with ox powered mills and slave labor was brought from Africa. Windmill began to replace the ox powered mills in 1780 and buy 1830 there were 105 windmills on the island and 72 still stand today.
Slavery was outlawed on the island in 1794. Maria Galante and some of the surrounding islands became a French overseas department in 1946.
Things to do
For a small island Marie Galante offers many site seeing destinations that you can visit by yourself or with the aid of several tour companies.
Visit the commercial and administrative center of the island the charming community of Grand Bourg. There you will find a tiny museum called Au Mouillage the retraces all the means of transportation on the island. A short drive from Grand Bourg you will find Chateau Murat and its many windmills, museum of sugar production and old slave quarters. Some of the best distilleries in the French Caribbean can be found on Maria Galante. The most famous on the island is Distillery Poisson know for having one of the best white rums in the Caribbean and a historical museum to enjoy while sipping the islands nectar. Head north and stop at the fishing village of Saint Louis and do a little shopping at the open market and stroll along the Vieux river or rent a boat or Kayak and see the interesting botanical and animal species. Head inland to visit the Devils Hole a subterranean lake that can be explored with climbing ropes. head back to the north to look over the cliffs and the stunning cove that opens to the Caribbean sea known as The mouth of the giant. Finally visit the traditional city of Capesterre with its red and white house’s all built around the church at the center of the city.
Being part of the French leeward Islands Maria Galante has a high regard for good food plus you can enjoy your meal with the stunning views the island has to offer.
There are many styles of cooking represented on the island with most centering around seafood and the spicy Creole dishes. Interestingly lunch is the main meal of the day and is served from noon to around 2pm and its always a good idea to make a reservation for lunch and dinner. Night life such as live music and dancing can be found in the main community’s of Saint Luis, Capestere and Grand Bourg. Ask the locals at the restaurant or you hotel where you can find the hot spot for the night.
Where to stay
Marie Galante hotels run from no frills to 3 star so depending on your budget and location there should be something for everyone as long as you don’t have to high of expectations.
The only real Marie Galante resorts can be found in the city of Grand Bourg with its 100 room Cohoba resort complete with pool or the Lauberg De Larbe featuring a restaurant , air conditioning and hot water. If you are staying in Saint Lois try Le Salut the staff can provide meals but there is no hot water. If staying in Capesterre try Chez Hajo for a quite stay and pretty environment but there is no air conditioning or hot water.
Sometimes you just want to get off the beaten past and find a place that’s original and still holds the charm of a bygone era. You may just want to know what things where like before commercialism came to the Caribbean or have bragging rights to exploring a island that no one has heard of. Maria Galante offers these things and more, its unique with its African, French influence, slow pace, and its proud tradition. I recommend the island to any Caribbean enthusiast that want to take a step back and just enjoy the past in the present.