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Airbnb, thank you!

I had two experiences recently that made me all the happier that Airbnb exists.

Another disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you click on one of them and make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission. This will not affect your price.

1. A vision of paradise

When my Airbnb host in Guadeloupe, Thierry, offered to take me to see a sight only locals know about, I jumped at the opportunity.

I’ve used Airbnb to book accommodations before, but usually it’s been a place where the owner isn’t present: a full apartment or home that we had to ourselves. On my trip to Guadeloupe and Martinique, however, I was traveling solo, so I booked Airbnb accommodations where I’d be staying in someone’s spare bedroom.

Thierry and his girlfriend, Clarisse, were my hosts in Guadeloupe, and Thierry is a perfect example of the kind of experience that simply won’t happen if you stay in a hotel or even a hostel. By staying with a local, you get the local point of view, and, if you’re lucky, you might find out about the things they keep hidden from the tourists.

This sight that Thierry offered to show me was a waterfall. He told me “It’s beautiful and not far away.” Sensing from his eagerness to show it to me that it must be something special, I agreed, even though I’d just been to see a waterfall a couple of days before.

“This one,” he said, “is not signposted at all. It’s where the locals go.” Count me in!

He told me to wear a swimsuit and wear walking shoes that could get wet. We would walk “in a river,” he said.

a view showing the river my Airbnb host and I walked down
This gives you an idea of what the walk was like.

Given Thierry’s limited English, combined with my limited French, communication wasn’t always clear between us. I interpreted walking “in a river” as meaning we would have to wade across the river.


To read about all the best things to do in Guadeloupe, see my guide to Guadeloupe!


Well, I was partly right. We did need to wade across the river, but we also needed to wade in the river to get to the waterfall. The river, in effect, was the route to the waterfall. Sometimes we could walk on the bank, but mostly the bank was much too steep and overgrown.

It was the kind of stream trout fishermen love: shallow, fast-running, and strewn with rocks and pebbles. The problem for me was keeping my footing on the uneven stream bottom, especially at the moments when the sun was hitting the water so I couldn’t see what was underneath.


To find out more about Guadeloupe, read these articles!


I fell on my butt in the water pretty soon after we first plunged in; I didn’t hurt myself, but after that I paid much closer attention, planning my path several steps ahead all the time so that I wouldn’t fall again. (My camera got wet and stopped working, so the photos that accompany this story are from my phone, which was in a higher pocket and didn’t get doused. Fortunately, my camera worked again by the next day when it dried out.)

Thierry, meanwhile, was incredibly patient, waiting for me at every turn of the river, enjoying the quiet and beauty of the place we were passing through. It was an impressive stretch of rainforest, with particularly tall trees laced with vines and epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants but don’t take their nourishment from them). But that walk certainly put me through my paces.

a view of the rainforest undergrowth on the walk with my Airbnb host
A view of the rainforest undergrowth

It was worth it, though. As we rounded the last bend in the river, we emerged into what I can only describe as a vision of paradise. I got the sense that Thierry had brought me there just for the enjoyment of seeing my reaction. A high, fast-moving waterfall tumbled down into a large, green pool. The steep slopes on each side were covered with huge trees and other tropical plants, fish darted in the stiller parts of the pool, a bird chirped on a branch overhanging the pool. Vines worthy of Tarzan reached down nearly to the water. And when the sun came out, it was even more glorious.

View of the waterfall and pool, with Thierry, my Airbnb host, sitting at an upper pool in the distance.
The waterfall and pool. That’s Thierry up at the upper pool.

We had a swim and a quiet sit, Thierry up on the rocks next to the waterfall, me below in the pool.

The waterfall is called Bras du Fort, by the way, and it’s near Goyave. The locals all know about it, and, sure enough, a group of people showed up as we were packing up to leave again.

On the way back we took a different path. This one, after a short stretch of the river, involved climbing up and then down a hill. Besides the effort of climbing, this route was complicated by the very slippery mud on the path, so we had to grab trees and branches to stop ourselves from wiping out. Nevertheless, I think I preferred this way.

2. A bit of local music

A few days later, Thierry told me about the local music, and played me a recording of a local band. Heavy on the drums, it’s the kind of music that just demands that you dance. With my complete ignorance of music, it sounded to me much like some of the drumming I heard a lot of in Malawi, which was not what I expected. I thought Guadaloupean music would be more or less the same as reggae. Thierry explained to me that this particular type of drum music is unique to Guadeloupe and a point of pride for Guadeloupeans. There’s even a statue in the capital of the island’s most famous tambour player, Sonjé Vélo.

The statue showing a man playing a large drum
the drum statue

He told me that every Saturday there’s a performance in the capital, Pointe-à-Pitre, and, if I’d like, he could take me. Of course, I agreed. Unfortunately, he had to work that morning, so we only got there in time for the very last song. Nevertheless, it gave me that taste that I never would have known about otherwise.

The group is named Akiyo, and you can visit their Facebook page here.

So thank you, Thierry, and thank you, Airbnb, for connecting me with Thierry. Getting that “only the locals know” information is what it’s all about!

If you’d like to use Airbnb, you can get a 23 euro credit by using this link, and I’ll also get a credit for my next Airbnb stay. If you’re not up for the Airbnb experience, try booking.com for a range of other accommodation options. Click here for Basse-Terre accommodations and here for Grande-Terre.

Have you ever stayed in an Airbnb rental? How did it work out for you?

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19 Comments

  • Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru

    May 18, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    We’re big fans of Airbnb, too, and you’re right: the experiences you had wouldn’t have happened in any other circumstances. I love how this system offers meaningful connection in a destination. And your photo of the swimming glade below the waterfall is stunning.

    Reply
  • alison abbott

    May 19, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    I haven’t used AirBnB yet, but heard lots of rave reviews from people at TBEX.Especially when the host was involved. Having that “local” info can make all the difference with your experience.

    Reply
    • rachel75

      May 19, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      Yes, having the host there is your best bet for the local info. Otherwise it’s just another way to rent an apartment or house. You could also try VizEat (link above in the right-hand margin) for a similar thing only with meals, where you eat with a local host at their house.

      Reply
  • Anita @ No Particular Place To Go

    May 20, 2015 at 7:44 am

    What a host and such a great experience! We use AirBnB as our go-to website for booking our accommodations and, with over 30 bookings so far, still think they’re great! I really like the fact that we can get apartments for longer stays or stay in B and B’s for a little more local interaction. We read the reviews religiously before booking and it’s also nice to have our own profile and owner’s reviews that we can use as references. We had one bad booking in December of 2014 in Cartagena and AirBnB refunded our money within 3 days as well as gave us a future credit.

    Reply
    • rachel75

      May 20, 2015 at 8:03 am

      Funny, I always read the reviews too, but this one didn’t have any yet. I decided to take the gamble because the house looked quite nice for the price and the location seemed good.

      Reply
  • Karen Warren

    May 21, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    I’m new to AirBNB but I did use it a couple of times in New Zealand earlier this year. I agree with you that it’s a completely different way to see a place, making you feel like a local. And your experience in Guadeloupe looks amazing!

    Reply
  • Anita

    May 22, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Lucky you to have a host so keen to share his world with you, and thanks for sharing it on the blog. We are in an AirB&B apartment right now…our host picked us up at the train station and drove us out for a first look at seaside Porto, pointing out her favorite restaurants alon the way. She has also offered to show us around on her day off. Splendid opportunities for a local’s perspective!

    Reply
    • rachel75

      May 22, 2015 at 6:40 pm

      Wonderful! It doesn’t happen with every booking, but it’s surely more likely to happen than if you book a hotel (where you don’t meet anyone) or a hostel (where you only meet other foreigners). Enjoy Portugal!

      Reply
  • Tom Bartel

    May 22, 2015 at 10:14 am

    You had the full airbnb experience. It’s why we love it, too: the ensured chance to interact with a local and see stuff you’d never find otherwise. And, you made Guadalupe sound so cool and lovely. We may have to go there someday.

    Reply
  • Sue Reddel

    May 22, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Like many others I haven’t used AirBNB but after your review we just might consider them in the future. Love all the extra local advice and tours your host gave you.

    Reply
    • rachel75

      May 22, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      Read the descriptions and look at the pictures carefully, and read the reviews and the host’s description of him/herself. Then go for it!

      Reply

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