Looking at the Caribbean island on which Death in Paradise is set, it’s hard to imagine how anyone works up enough anger to actually murder someone – when they could be sitting on the beach enjoying a magnificent sunset, or sipping a rum cocktail at Catherine’s Bar.
But fortunately enough, Saint Marie is deadly enough to produce seven or eight new murder mysteries every season.
Saint Marie does not, of course, exist in real life. The show is shot in Guadeloupe, where the Death in Paradise cast and crew head for each season, including the tenth instalment filmed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s everything you need to know about filming locations for Death in Paradise, from the “shack” to the police station to the town of Honoré.
Where is Death in Paradise set?
Death in Paradise is set on the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Marie, in the town of Honoré. This imaginary island is supposed to be about a 10th of the size of neighbouring Guadeloupe.
Saint Marie may be a British Overseas territory, but the island’s history and location means around 30 per cent of its inhabitants are French: it only came under British control in the seventies. The main religions on the island are apparently Catholicism and Voodoo, which means there are some exciting local festivals every year.
Where is Death in Paradise filmed?
The BBC One drama is filmed in Guadeloupe, a butterfly-shaped collection of islands in the Caribbean that stands in for the fictional Saint Marie. It is an overseas region of France, which explains all the French-speaking locals who appear as extras on the show. Bien Sur!
Filming for Death in Paradise season 10 still took place in the area in 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic. The authorities on the Caribbean island reportedly did everything in their power to ensure the shoot could happen.
Executive Producer Tim Key said: “They could have said to us, ‘We don’t want you here this year,’ but they didn’t. They did want us there. And they made it possible for us to get there, they wrote us permissions that covered us for all sorts of eventualities – because everything was so up in the air in terms of what quarantine might or might not be necessary. I can’t oversell our gratitude to Guadeloupe.”
In Death in Paradise we spend most of our time in the town of Honoré, where DI Neville Parker, played by Ralf Little, heads up Honoré Police. Much of the filming takes place in the commune of Deshaies, which doubles for the fictional Honoré. Deshaies is located on the northwest tip of Basse-Terre Island (the other “wing” of the butterfly is Grande-Terre Island).
Looking back on location scouting for season one of Death in Paradise, the show’s creator Robert Thorogood recalled the moment “after days of exhausting, frustrating and ultimately fruitless searching that we stepped onto the beach at Deshaies for the first time and realised we’d finally found our location for Honoré. All three of us on the trip had had a sixth sense that this was ‘the one’ before we even got out of the car.”
Honoré’s “farmer’s market” can be constructed for filming when required, and local sites are often used for key scenes – for example, Death in Paradise’s first Detective Richard Poole (Ben Miller) was killed in the beautiful botanical gardens.
Nearby resort Langley Fort Royal Hotel is used as a base during filming. For almost six months each year it is home to Death in Paradise’s crew and guest stars and actors, although some of the core cast prefer to live in local villas with their families.
Unsurprisingly, the hotel has made plenty of guest appearances, too: murder victims have tumbled from convenient balconies, and the beach and the bar have appeared in many scenes throughout the years.
Where is the detective’s “shack” on the beach?
The beach-front shack – complete with a hungry lizard named Harry – has long featured in the show. This rickety structure is actually a full-scale set, and is assembled each year on Anse La Perle (or La Perle Beach), one of the most beautiful spots in Guadeloupe with miles of unspoiled sand and palm trees.
Between shoots, the shack is taken down and put in storage so it’s not washed away when the tide comes in during the winter months. These days, it also has to be fenced off during the shoot.
Key explains: “We’ve had years where we’ve kind of left it to the elements, and then people were having parties in it at weekends, like tourists having parties. We were like, ‘We have to secure this a little bit more now!””
Where is Honoré police station?
The production company takes over a church hall in Deshaies to use as the police station, with the priest’s office becoming the “incident room”.
Where is Catherine’s Bar?
Detectives often like to grab a drink after work at Catherine’s Bar, where the owner is always on hand with unusual cocktails and life advice (and, for Neville, chicken and chips). These scenes at a real bar located on the town beach at Deshaies.
Show creator Robert Thorogood tells us: “It’s run by a slightly grumpy woman who, I think, resents having so many tourists come and drink there. Because the last time I was there just to have a cup of coffee, she rolled her eyes.” (If you want to get on her good side, maybe order a full meal.)
What is it like to film Death in Paradise in Guadeloupe?
During filming for season 10, there was a lot less socialising than usual – thanks to the pandemic. But in a usual year, it sounds like the place to be. Apart from the heat, that is.
“Until you’re actually there and you’ve experienced it yourself, you really don’t know,” Ardal O’Hanlon previously said. “The heat and humidity can be overpowering, especially in the middle of the day: “Nothing really prepares you for that.”
“Sometimes people think you’re on holiday because you’re filming in Guadeloupe,” said Tobi Bakare, who plays Sergeant JP Hooper. “But filming on a beach is not that easy – just so people know!
“When you’re in swimsuits and having a cocktail it’s just perfect being on the beach, but when you’re filming it’s very hard, it’s very long, it’s five months away from family and friends. But the thing is we have so many beautiful beaches and the place is amazing and the crew is like a small family, you get to see year after year. So it’s long, it’s difficult, but it’s very enjoyable.”
Not that it’s all hard graft: there’s still time for a dip in the pool or some time on the beach. Bakare added: “In Guadeloupe there’s so much to do, there’s a waterfalls and volcanoes and all sorts of things there that you can explore. And then on top of that there’s a hotel that has a bar! With alcohol!
“The people in the country are fantastic as well, they also employ a lot of Guadeloupeans, local people, so the way they will have fun or their past-time will be fishing. So you find yourself fishing in the Caribbean with a local who happens to be on the same crew as you and you think, God this is fantastic…'”
Death in Paradise season 10 airs on Thursdays from 7th January 2021 at 9pm. Check out what else is on via our TV guide.