Guadeloupe Islands are a French archipelago of five Caribbean islands, with Montserrat and Antigua to the north and Dominica to the south. The official language of Guadeloupe is French, although most of the population can also speak Creole. In tourist areas, you will be able to find some English speakers as well. Guadeloupe has a tropical climate with a temperature between 26 and 30 degrees Celsius, so it’s nice all year long. Each of the Guadeloupe islands has a distinct landscape and varied biodiversity, so it’s a good idea to visit all of the islands if you can.
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The Guadeloupe Islands
There are five islands in total, or should I say, five island regions: Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Marie Galante, La Desirade, and Les Saintes. Les Saintes is actually an archipelago of nine islets, and just two of them are inhabited (Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas). Here’s a basic overview of the things to do in Guadeloupe on each island or municipality.
The two main islands of Guadeloupe, Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre, look like the wings of a butterfly from above. Basse-Terre is mountainous, volcanic, and has lots of places to go hiking and waterfall chasing. This is where you’ll find the Guadeloupe National Park, and protected marine areas that are fantastic for diving, like Reserve Cousteau. Chocolate and coffee are also produced in Basse-Terre (two of my favorite things!).
Grande-Terre has a diverse landscape, comprised of lush hills, humid mangrove forests, stark cliffs, flat plains, and white sand beaches. You’ll find a lot of amenities, hotels, and beach resorts here, but there’s vast rolling countryside beyond the popular attractions.
Marie Galante is a peaceful place with beautiful natural attractions and rural traditions. You can visit a former sugar plantation and old sugarcane mills, one for every day of the year.
La Desirade has a central mountain, long stretches of white sandy beaches, and a protected geological national nature reserve. It’s a great place to escape the crowds.
The two inhabited islands of Les Saintes, Terre-de-Bas and Terre-de-Haut offer a taste of history and nature. You’ll find Fort Napoleon on Terre-de-Haut, and the Terre-de-Bas hiking loop has brilliant scenery along the way. There are no cars on Terre-de-Haut, so you can explore by scooter or bike.
Ferry Service Between the Islands
With ferry service between each place, it’s easy to hop around the Guadeloupe islands. Here’s how to get to the smaller islands from Grande-Terre (from Point-a-Pitre or Saint-Francois) and Basse-Terre (from Trois-Riveires):
- Ferry to Les Saintes: Departure from Trois-Rivieres to Terre de Haut or Terre de Bas with CTM Deher, and Valferry. Departure from Saint-Francois with Comatrile. Departure from Point-a-Pitre with Jeans For Freedom (Saturdays only).
- Ferry to Marie-Galante: Departure from Pointe-a-Pitre with Valferry and Express-des-Iles. Departure from Saint-Francois with Comatrile.
- Ferry to La Desirade: Departure from Saint-Francois with Babou One.
- Ferry to Petite Terre: Departure from Saint-Francois with Babou One.
Relax on the Beautiful Beaches
There are many sandy beaches all over the Guadeloupe Islands in a variety of colors: white sand, black sand, red sand, and pink sand beaches. Here are a few spectacular Guadeloupe beaches to get you started, although there are no shortage of pretty beaches in Guadeloupe.
Grande Anse Beach
Grand Anse Beach in Basse-Terre is thought to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Guadeloupe. It is a red sand beach that’s over one kilometer long, surrounded by lush vegetation.
Plage Du Souffleur (Souffleur Beach) in Grande-Terre is another gorgeous beach in Guadeloupe with light yellow sand and azure waters. You can go snorkeling near the rocks here, and there are lots of sunny and shady spots to lay down your towel.
De la Feuillere Beach
In Marie-Galante, De la Feuillere Beach is a long stretch of white sands. While there are lots of calm water here, there are also places to try kite surfing and wind surfing in the lagoon. You can also find restaurants here that are right by the water.
Visit Protected Nature Reserves
The Guadeloupe archipelago is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve because it has one of the highest rates of biodiversity in the world. It has 300 species of trees, 270 varieties of ferns, and 90 types of orchids. There are also 11 different mammals, 28 bird species, 11 species of bats, and its indigenous bird, the Black Woodpecker.
Les Iles de Petite Terre
Les Iles de Petite Terre (Petite Terre Islands National Nature Reserve) is a gem in Guadeloupe that you can reach by ferry boat or private excursion. They are two small uninhabited islands southeast of Grande-Terre, and it’s the perfect day trip in Guadeloupe. You can walk around the islands, visiting a lighthouse and spotting numerous iguanas. You can also go snorkeling around the islands to witness colorful fish, turtles, and small sharks.
Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin
The Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin Nature Reserve are a chain of coral islets, protected by the longest coral reef in the Lesser Antilles (25km long). It’s off the coast of the northern portion of Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre. There’s a wide variety of marine life, coastal mangroves, and both snorkeling and bird watching opportunities. There’s an astounding variety of ecosystems and terrain there, including marshes, mangroves, prairies, desert islands, sandbanks, and two wrecks for drivers to explore.
Explore the Botanical Gardens
Some of the most popular Guadeloupe attractions are its gorgeous gardens. Here are two notable gardens in Guadeloupe, the Desert Botanical Garden and the Deshaies Botanical Garden.
Jardin Botanique du Désert
On La Desirade, the Desert Botanical Garden is the largest cacti and succulents garden in the Caribbean. There are 3500 plants here, featuring over 800 species of plants from around the world. It’s one of the most unique Guadeloupe attractions and one of the top things to do in Guadeloupe, especially if you’re spending the day on La Desirade.
Jardin Botanique de Deshaies
In Basse-Terre, the Deshaies Botanical Garden is a peaceful place in the French Caribbean to take in the delightful sights and sounds. Designed by landscape artist, Michel Gaillard, you can wander around this 7 hectare park to discover beautiful trees, plants, and flowers. There are palm trees, native Caribbean flowers, a Japanese garden, and so much more.
History and Culture of Guadeloupe
When you visit Guadeloupe, there are lots of historical places, museums, and aspects of local culture that you can check out. Here are a few suggestions for cultural and historical places. Be sure to scroll down a little further to festivities and events for even more local happenings.
Fort Napoleon, on Terre-de-Haut (Les Saintes) is located on the top of a hill with panoramic scenery all around. There’s a small museum where you can learn more about the history and nature of the island. Take the time to walk around the grounds and browse the museum, taking part in a guided tour if you’d like to learn more information.
Memorial ACTe, in Point-a-Pitre, is a cultural center devoted to the history of the slave trade. It is part of UNESCO’s Slave Route Project, which serves to showcase the stories, the difficulties, and the struggles of those forced into slavery in the Guadeloupe Islands. This museum preserves the memory of those who suffered and creates a productive dialogue around this dark history.
The Moule Market in Basse-Terre takes place every Wednesday, starting at 2:00pm. It’s one of the most authentic markets that you’ll visit with many local products, locally made handicrafts, and you’ll hear the sounds of the Gwo Ka.
Things to Do in Guadeloupe: Go Hiking
Guadeloupe is a very lush and green island, meaning that it’s a very natural destination to take hiking trips. There’s the national park, nature preserves, and waterfalls. In addition to those protected spaces, here are a few popular places that hiking enthusiasts will want to check out on their adventures to Guadeloupe.
Terre de bas Hiking
There are over 10 kilometers of hiking trails on Terre de Bas island, featuring stunning views and a great variety of flora. There are four clearly marked trails that take anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours to hike.
Pointe de la Grande Vigie
Pointe de la Grande Vigie is the northernmost point of Grande-Terre and the Guadeloupe Islands. You can admire the vertical limestone cliffs and panoramic sea views. There are several marked long distance hiking trails there, too.
Snorkeling & Scuba Diving at Reserve Cousteau
At the Pigeon Islands, the Cousteau Reserve is a protected underwater reserve with schools of colorful fish and impressive coral reefs. It’s about 400 hectares in size, and an amazing place to go scuba diving or snorkeling. You could spot turtles, eels, crayfish, seahorses, and coral reef sponges.
I highly recommend booking a snorkeling tour at Reserve Cousteau. If you’re interested in trying scuba diving, there are opportunities to try diving here for first timers. For the more experienced divers in the crowd, you can book a tour to visit two dive sites at Reserve Cousteau.
Looking for more snorkeling sites around Guadeloupe? You’ll find fantastic snorkeling at The Salines of Saint-Francois, The Cabrit Islet, Pain de Sucre, Petit Malendure, and Petite-Terre.
Water Activities in Guadeloupe
Beyond snorkeling and scuba diving, there are so many opportunities to try unique water sports in Guadeloupe. They are among the best things to do in Guadeloupe. Spending time in the water on a kayak, boat, or board are some of the best reasons to visit Guadeloupe. Here are some new activities to try in Guadeloupe, French Caribbean.
- Kayaking: Embark on a glass bottom kayak tour through the waters of Le Gosier for the chance to view wildlife in these crystal clear waters.
- Stand Up Paddleboarding: Take a SUP tour through the mangroves of Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin
- Sailing: One of the best things to do in Guadeloupe is to go sailing, whether you’re drifting on the waters of a sunset cruise or booking an eight day catamaran adventure.
- Surfing: Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned surfer, Guadeloupe is a great place to practice this exhilarating sport! You’ll find some of the best beginner surfing spots at Le Helleux, Le Souffleur, and Bananier Beach. For experienced surfers, check out La Chapelle, Damencourt, Petit-Havre, or La Bouelle.
- Kitesurfing: There are several schools to try kitesurfing in Guadeloupe. Visit Guadeloupe between December and June if you’d like to go kitesurfing. Some of the best sites are around Grande-Terre.
Visit the Guadeloupe National Park
Guadeloupe National Park is the seventh largest national park of France. It’s the biggest forest in the Lesser Antilles. One of the main goals of the national park is to return the Antilles Manatee to its native habitat. This manatee is nearly extinct and disappeared from the bay of the Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin in this past century.
La Soufriere is the highest point in Lesser Antilles, and you’re able to hike this volcano within a few hours. It’s a relatively young volcano at 100,000 years old, and it’s located in the southern part of the Guadeloupe National Park. Take a hiking tour of La Soufriere with an experienced guide to safely climb to the top, enjoying a dip in natural hot springs at the end of your hike.
Cascade aux Ecrevisses
The Cascade aux Ecrevisses in the Guadeloupe National Park is a must visit natural Guadeloupe attraction. This jungle waterfall cascades down the side of the mountain into a natural pool where you can go swimming. It’s right off the main road, so it’s very accessible. Naturally, it can get busy there, especially on weekends.
Chute du Carbet
The Carbet Waterfalls are a series of three cascading waterfalls on the lower slopes of the volcano, La Soufriere. The second waterfall is only a 20 minute walk from the parking lot, so it’s the most accessible and visited of all three. Both the first and third waterfalls can be reached by foot, although the third waterfall is the trickiest one to visit (only for experienced hikers).
Travel to Guadeloupe During a Festival
There are festivals and events in Guadeloupe all year long, so you can always plan your visit around the festivities. Here are a few festivals in Guadeloupe to base your itinerary around:
- Carnival: The vibrant and energetic Carnival celebrations in Guadeloupe take place for three months, from January to March. You’ll witness a dazzling rainbow of colors in the Carnival parades.
- Tour Cycliste de la Guadeloupe: This cycling competition takes place in August every year, and you can watch from various points all over the island.
- La Toussaint, Festival of Dead and Lights: In October, the citizens of Guadeloupe visit cemeteries to celebrate those that they’ve lost. There is a light show at the Morne a l’Eau cemetery, famous for its black and white checkered patterns.
- Festival Terre de Blues: In June, there are numerous concerts in this jazz and blues festival at the Murat Castle in Marie Galante.
Stay at a Gorgeous Hotel or Resort
Make your stay in Guadeloupe extra special by choosing a stunning resort or hotel property. Many hotels have beautiful beaches, delightful restaurants, and rejuvenating spas. Here are my top picks for where to stay in Guadeloupe.
Club Med La Caravelle
I had the opportunity to visit Club Med La Caravelle with a day pass, and it was pretty easy to see why I’d love to stay there. It’s an all-inclusive resort with delicious food (lots of options for vegetarians and vegans!), a spectacular beach, tons of sports and activities, and so much more. The rooms look so clean and comfortable, and the staff are super friendly. We also loved the drinks – the mojitos are delicious! Read more reviews of the Club Med La Caravelle to see what fellow travelers think of this resort.
La Toubana Hotel & Spa
In Sainte-Anne, La Toubana Hotel & Spa is a five star property with gorgeous sea views, bright suites and bungalows, and a spacious spa. There’s a swimming pool, complimentary Wi-Fi, and a cocktail bar overlooking the azure waters. With a prime location and amazing facilities, you might never want to leave! Book your stay at La Toubana Hotel & Spa and read more reviews written by fellow travelers who have stayed there.
La Creole Beach Hotel & Spa
In Le Gosier, La Creole Beach Hotel & Spa offers four star luxury amidst a tropical setting. In the middle of tropical gardens close to the beach, you can enjoy sea or garden views from your room. There’s a swimming pool, an on site restaurant, and access to numerous cafes and bars in nearby Le Gosier. The location is perfect for those wanting to experience the island, yet you’ll have the perfect place to return to at the end of your adventurous days. Book your stay at La Creole Beach Hotel and read more reviews written by fellow travelers who have stayed there.
Want to see Guadeloupe attractions and sights visually represented on a map? Here’s a Guadeloupe travel map to help you with your vacation planning.
|Essential Guadeloupe Travel Guide|
|Getting There: If you’re looking for how to get to Guadeloupe, there are flights to Guadeloupe from many worldwide destinations. From Canada, Air Canada operates 2-4 non-stop weekly flights from Montreal throughout the year. In addition, Air Transat has two non-stop weekly flights from Montreal from December to April. Next, you can reach Guadeloupe by a daily ferry service from Martinique, Saint Lucia, and Dominica. It’s also possible to stop for the day in Guadeloupe on an ocean cruise.|
Getting Around: It’s possible to rent a car in Guadeloupe from several major car rental companies. Compare car rental prices in Guadeloupe to get the best rate. Pick up your rental car from the Point-a-Petre Airport or a few other locations on Grande-Terre. You can drive between Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre. For the other islands, there’s ferry service and it’s very easy to visit by boat.
Fast Facts: Euro is the currency. Power voltage is 220 V 60 Hz using Power Sockets C, D, and E.
SIM Cards & Mobile: You can rent a portable Wi-Fi device with unlimited data that works in 130+ countries worldwide. We’ve used our portable device all over the world and love how we’re always connected!
Travel Safety: Don’t forget to get travel insurance before your trip. Whether you have an accident, have a flight delay, experience a theft, or need to return home sooner than anticipated, it’s always best to cover your bases. Get a travel insurance quote now for the best rates.
|Browse all of our Caribbean photos and read more of our Guadeloupe travel blog posts.|
No matter which islands you decide to visit in Guadeloupe, you’ll sure to have an incredible vacation in the Caribbean. I recommend spending 7 to 10 days in Guadeloupe and island hopping so you can see them all. There are so many amazing things to do in Guadeloupe, especially if you love the great outdoors.
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