Deshaies, Guadeloupe: The Paradise in “Death in Paradise”
Visiting Deshaies in Guadeloupe, the fictional Saint Marie island that provides the setting for the BBC series “Death in Paradise”, was a bit surreal for me.
Have you ever visited a theme park? Disney’s Main Street, for example, or Harry Potter studio, where the designers do their best to create a feeling that you’ve been transported to another place or time that you already know well?
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That’s how I felt in Deshaies, which I knew so well as the fictional town of Honoré in the TV series. Yet it’s not an invented village built to entertain tourists. It’s an actual village that looks just as I imagined it.
“Death in Paradise,” in case you haven’t watched it, is a BBC detective series produced by Red Planet Pictures. It’s starting its 12th series in January 2023. It works on a fairly standard premise: each week’s episode starts with a mysterious murder, which the oddball detective proceeds to solve, with the help of several sidekicks. Right now Ralf Little plays the Detective Inspector who, right on cue near the end of the episode, always has a sudden inspiration that solves the crime.
Deshaies, Guadeloupe and “Death in Paradise”
Before I left for Guadeloupe, I wrote about how I chose my destination: because of “Death in Paradise.” I love the scenery in the show, set on the fictional island of Saint Marie. I decided that it was as good a way as any to choose which Caribbean island to visit. That’s how I found myself visiting Guadaloupe and, in particular, this place that felt so familiar, even though I’d never been there before: Deshaies, where most of the show’s action takes place.
(Before I go on, a message for any of the cast and crew of “Death in Paradise” who might happen upon this post: I am not some creepy stalker. I have greatly enjoyed every episode of your show, but what I really fell in love with was the setting.)
Small buildings, some of them brightly painted, line a peaceful bay, dotted with fishing boats. A church stands above the village on a rise. Serving as a clear reminder of our mortality, a huge cemetery looms on a hill, visible from pretty much anywhere. The cemetery, by the way, is usually carefully excluded from the filming of “Death in Paradise.”
To me, it was very clear why the producers chose Deshaies for the “Death in Paradise” set:
- It’s the prettiest village in Guadeloupe, in my opinion.
- It allows the cast and crew to spend half their year in the real Deshaies.
- The guest stars, when they appear in a single episode, get a free trip to Guadeloupe. I wonder how many extend their stay to enjoy a bit of this paradise.
To read about all the best things to do in Guadeloupe, read my Guide to Guadeloupe!
In the show, the fictional island of Saint Marie is a British overseas territory, though with some sort of French colonial past, given that some of the characters have French accents. Guadeloupe, in real life, is an overseas region of France.
Deshaies seemed to me more touristy than any other towns I visited on the western “wing” of Guadeloupe, though it’s still not very touristy. It’s home to a few more seafood restaurants than a village that size would have, with higher prices. Many of the shops seemed more prosperous than the average. But you’d have to go to the eastern “wing” of the country to find a truly tourism-oriented economy.
You might also enjoy these other articles about places in Guadeloupe:
“Death in Paradise” filming locations
I visited what I knew as Catherine’s Bar, the restaurant featured in the show, which, in real life, is Restaurant Le Madras. The wooden patio with a roof, right on the beach, was just as I “knew” it from the show. It looked just the same, if much less busy.
To soak up the atmosphere a bit, I ordered ice cream (passion fruit and guava sorbet, to be specific). The tiny waves lapped at the beach just below me. Palm trees shivered in the wind. The chickens picked for food. Hardly anyone was around except for a few customers in the restaurant itself across the tiny street.
It was quiet.
Your mileage may vary, of course. I visited after “paradise season” was over, usually December to May. I don’t know how much busier the town gets when they’re filming.
Added in 2022: The town of Deshaies has begun accommodating cruise ships with up to 600 passengers. I fear this may change the small-town feel of the town.
After my ice cream, I strolled up to the Deshaies church: the Catholic Church of Saints Peter and Paul. The church appears in the background of the show in every episode and has been used for a few scenes as well.
Just where I expected to find it, right next to the church, was the building used in “Death in Paradise” as the Honoré police station. It was closed, and I saw no indication of what it is used for other than a filming location. I noticed, though, that the building next to it has fake window panes painted onto wood shutters. It was the only remnant of the filming I came upon.
It was weird to see that so much about Deshaies matched the image in my head from watching “Death in Paradise.” Because of that, it was easy to think about the show as if it was real. I found myself thinking “If I lived in a town with so many murders, I would seriously consider moving away!”
Book your accommodations in or near Deshaies here. Apparently the cast stays at the Langley Fort Royal Hotel, and some scenes take place there as well.
Getting to Deshaies
Guadeloupe is a butterfly-shaped collection of islands, and Deshaies is at the northwest tip of Basse-Terre island, the western “wing” of the butterfly.
There is a bus system in Guadeloupe, both line buses and little jitney vans. Unless you have a lot of time, though, I’d suggest either renting a car or taking a taxi to Deshaies. I rented a car for my whole stay. Since Guadeloupe is a French territory, the roads and signage are just like in France. That gave me a feeling of familiarity. From the airport, a taxi will take 45 minutes to an hour. Make sure the cab has a meter or negotiate a price before you set off. If you want to travel around a lot, a rental car will end up costing less than relying on taxis.
From the airport, take the N1 west to the N2, which will take you right to Deshaies.
Things to do in Deshaies
Besides perusing the filming locations for “Death in Paradise,” there are other things to do in or near Deshaies:
Visit the botanical gardens “Jardin Botanique de Deshaies.” This is one of the most beautiful spots in the area. On the way there, stop on the hill just after you leave Deshaies and catch the view back toward town. You can also stay right in the botanical garden in this villa or this bungalow.
Go to a public beach:
- Plage de Grande Anse, or Grande Anse Beach, is just north of the town.
- La Perle Beach a.k.a. Anse La Perle is north of that.
- Plage de Clugny is even further north.
- There’s a nudist beach as well, between la Perle and Clugny.
- Plage de Leroux a.k.a. Plage Ferry, is just south of Deshaies.
- Petite Anse Beach is further south of that.
All of these are short drives away by car or taxi. All are beautiful beaches, with Grande Anse being the biggest. Plage de Leroux is quite small.
Anse la Perle beach, by the way, is the location of the Inspector’s beach house in the TV series. The house was built for filming purposes. I didn’t go see it, so I don’t know if the production company dismantles it when each production season ends.
The town’s official website is mostly in French, but the tourism section has English translations. Their Facebook page has announcements about special events.
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If you’ve visited the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and spent any time in Deshaies, please add your comments below!
My travel recommendations
- Booking.com is the company I use most for finding accommodations. If you prefer, Expedia offers more or less the same.
- Discover Cars offers an easy way to compare prices from all of the major car-rental companies in one place.
- Use GetYourGuide to find walking tours, day tours, airport pickups, city cards, tickets and whatever else you need at your destination.
- Bookmundi is great when you’re looking for a longer tour of a few days to a few weeks, private or with a group, pretty much anywhere in the world. Lots of different tour companies list their tours here, so you can comparison shop.
Other travel-related items
- Get a Priority Pass if you fly a lot so that you can use airport lounges while you wait for flights. Plan your visits around meals and/or drink times and it’s definitely worth the investment!
- I’m a fan of SCOTTeVEST’s jackets and vests because when I wear one, I don’t have to carry a handbag. I feel like all my stuff is safer when I travel because it’s in inside pockets close to my body.
- Airalo is an e-sim card. You buy it through an app and activate it when you need it. I tried it on my trip to Thailand and it worked just like any other sim card, but without my having to fuss with physical cards.
- I use ExpressVPN on my phone and laptop when I travel. It keeps me safe from hackers when I use public or hotel wifi.
My husband and I watch the show and love it! So much so, that he wants to visit as well. Thanks for sharing your experience – now I REALLY can’t wait to go!
Go for it! I hope one of you knows a bit of French, though. English speakers are very few and far between in Guadeloupe.
I’m glad it didn’t disappoint!
Although I’m not familiar with the show, it looks a cute setting!
If you like murder mysteries in the old-fashioned style, it’s a good show. And the scenery!
I’ve never watched the show before, but how neat that you got to visit a place that became recognizable to you through the show! It looks like such a beautiful place, very relaxing and the scenery is gorgeous. I have never been to Guadeloupe, though I’ve been to other spots in the Caribbean. I’ll have to consider it for a future trip.
I highly recommend it! (Guadeloupe, but also the show!)
Rachel, I loved reading this post. I can truly feel the peace and happiness you are feeling via your words. Congrats on following your dream to visit a place that has touched you. It can happen via a TV show, a book, a movie, and someone’s passionate words. I have a feeling you will find your own story here, and I look forward to reading it!
Thanks for the kind words, Doreen!
I’ve never seen the show, but I know that surreal feeling well. Fan of the show or not, it looks like Deshaies would be a lovely town to visit!
Absolutely! It was lovely long before the producers of the series found it!
It’s always fun to visit the site of a show or movie. How great that this matched what you expected!
Yes, it was!
Thanks for sharing, Rachel, I LOVE the show and can only dream of visits to the islands. Thank you for posting your great pictures.
Glad you enjoyed it!
I’ve never seen the show but the places looks amazing! So peaceful and beautiful. Your photos and the things you’ve said makes me want to go there!
Watch the show if you get a chance, and you might start planning a trip!
I love Death in Paradise!! my husband thinks it’s boring. Have you been watching Tatau which is similar?
No, I’ve never heard of it. I suppose that it hasn’t gotten to the Netherlands yet. I’ll watch out for it!
This post was awesome, thank you! My wife and I love the show and have often talked about visiting there. Did you get a sense of the people there? Did they enjoy the tourism/tourists as a result of the show? Also what time of year did you visit?
Glad you liked it! Every single person I spoke to there in any capacity was warm and friendly and welcoming. My Airbnb host went out of his way to show me off-the-beaten-path sights. I think I would have enjoyed Guadeloupe with or without the show, but it certainly added to my visit to Deshaies in particular. I was there in April.
The TV series prompted us to visit, then consider staying, and then moving lock-stock-and-barrel. Loved reading your take on it and perhaps knowing that we are not quite that mad!!! 🙂
You live there? I’m jealous. I got home and told my husband it’s top of my list for places to retire. Legally speaking it wouldn’t be hard with our European passports. We’ re still some time away from retirement, but I just fell in love with Guadeloupe!
Thanks a lot for posting this.
Wife and have seen the show in Norway and this February we will visit Guadeloupe and of course Deshaies.
Enjoy! Such a pretty place!
I was in Deshaies 4 weeks ago. I also wanted to visit this village becouse of Death in Paradise.
I am a great Fan. I Live in Germany.I had the luck that the crew was there to film for the next series. And I meet Kris Marshall at the bar in my hotel. I have a picture me an him together. I also have pictures of the Police Station, the Policecar, and the Restaurant. It was a great pleasure for me to see the original places.
Isn’t it beautiful? I would have LOVED to be able to watch the filming a bit! They were due back there just a few weeks after I visited. Oh well.
very nice, i know this site and I love it so much !!
I only recently discovered this show, and so have been settling in on eight seasons to watch – thoroughly enjoyable so far 🙂 So much so that I too plan to visit this beautiful little town. Sure beats Canadian winters! This far-belated posting comes with my thanks for your article 🙂
I’m jealous! I’d so love to go back! Enjoy!
The show is presently re-run on German TV. In Season 2, Episode 3, a scene plays in the cemetery, offering the vital clue (sorry for the pun)….
Haha! Thank you! I’ll have to re-watch that one; I didn’t remember any of them taking place in the cemetery!
My husband and i watch the show all the time. We are from Canada and we just came back from a 9 days trip to Guadeloupe. We went to Deshaies and went to see a few places where they filmed Death in Paradise, it was pretty cool to see them in real life. We even had lunch in Catherine’s bar by the ocean!
Isn’t it a lovely place? I hope to get back there next year and spend a bit more time in that corner of the island. I watch the show every week, eying that perfect scenery…
My wife and I another couple sailed into Deshaies 26 years ago from Antigua. Spent a couple of days there.
Dined in the restaurant on the beach, hired a local who spoke some English and traveled to the Parc National de la Guadaloupe and beyond through the sugar cane fields and return
Sailing in sounds lovely!