Best Things To Do in Guadeloupe
Sunbathers are attracted to the secluded sunny shores scattered around Les Saintes, Marie-Galante, and La Désirade. But adventurous types looking to make the most out of a day at the beach can find some awe-inspiring scenery in Guadeloupe National Park. When night falls, savor Creole cuisine and listen to the soothing sound of zouk (African-influenced Caribbean music) flowing through your hotel.
Updated July 29, 2020
- #1View all Photos#1 in GuadeloupeNatural Wonders, Free, Parks and Gardens, HikingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Free, Parks and Gardens, HikingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Tucked amid Basse-Terre's verdant mountain landscape sits the Parc National de la Guadeloupe (Guadeloupe National Park), a 74,100-acre rainforest filled with picturesque traces (walking trails). The park's trails brush past lush forest foliage, magnificent waterfalls and the summit of La Soufriere volcano. The trails range from short- to long-distance routes that vary in difficulty. Before you strap on your hiking gear, you'll want to pick up a "Guide to the National Park" brochure from the Guadeloupe tourism office (located in St. Claude, Basse-Terre) to map out your journey. If you would prefer to admire the park's natural splendors from behind the wheel, drive along the Route de la Traversee, a scenic 16-mile road that cuts through the forest.
Recent travelers recommended packing bug spray and snacks for the trip and said there is plenty to see and do in the park. Reviewers also warn that the park is muddy – plan to wear shoes with good traction.
- #2View all PhotosfreeLes Saintes#2 in GuadeloupeFree, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Les Saintes consists of a group of islands (most of them uninhabited) skirting Guadeloupe's southern coast. The picturesque cluster gets its name from explorer Christopher Columbus who, after discovering them in the 15th century, named them Los Santos (translated to Les Saintes in French). Terre-de-Haut, the main island – and the biggest of the bunch – features a variety of bistros, shops and sunny beaches. If you don't mind stripping off layers, head to Anse Crawen, a tranquil, clothing-optional beach on Terre-de-Haut often overlooked by tourists.
Recent travelers said it's fairly easy to see all of Terre-de-Haut in a daytrip, but that doesn’t mean it's boring; there are plenty of things to see and do.
- #3View all PhotosfreeLa Désirade#3 in GuadeloupeFree, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
It's no wonder Christopher Columbus and his crews were awestruck by the unspoiled beauty of La Desirade (meaning "the desire" in French). Legend has it that Columbus caught sight of the island after days without fresh drinking water, and hence named the island after his desire to behold landfall (and clean water). On the island, you'll find cacti, coconut palms and sea grape trees dotting La Desirade's sunny beaches, like Souffleur and Fifi Beach. When you need a break from soaking up the rays, pick up a scooter to explore the winding, main road that stretches up to Grande Montagne, the island's tiny village. From Grand Montagne, you'll behold spectacular panoramic views.
According to many travelers, La Desirade serves as an excellent place to unwind and its beauty is soothing.
- #4View all PhotosfreeMarie-Galante#4 in GuadeloupeFree, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Ever since Christopher Columbus caught sight of Marie-Galante and named the island after his ship, the Maria Galanda, visitors have been captivated by this enchanting isle. Today, Marie-Galante's unspoiled scenery can be found everywhere, from its quaint chateaus to its isolated beaches. And its rolling hills – frosted with powdery sands, sugar plantations, and 19th-century windmills – add to its rustic ambiance.
Your first stop should be Grand-Bourg, the island's main settlement (located at the southwestern tip of the island) where you'll find a helpful visitor center. From there, head south to tour the Chateau Murat, a famed 19th-century plantation that features an exhibit detailing the island's history of sugar cane cultivation and rum-making. The chateau welcomes visitors from around 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and admission is free. From here, continue south to Petite-Anse, a golden beach sheltered by sea grape trees. When it's time for a meal, treat yourself to the seafood dishes at La Playa – a restaurant favored for its French-Caribbean menu.
- #5View all Photos#5 in GuadeloupeMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Located on the site of a former sugar factory, this cultural center is part of UNESCO's Slave Route Project, a global initiative that aims to explore the causes, forms of operation, stakes and consequences of slavery in the world. Though France abolished slavery in its colonies in 1848, it wasn't until 2015 that Memorial ACTe debuted. With the help of art installations and multimedia displays, the museum chronologically explores the evolution of the slave trade in the Caribbean, starting with Christopher Columbus extending all the way to modern-day slavery and trafficking across the globe.
Though the museum's interior is where the bulk of your time should be spent, you'll also want to admire the silver-latticed exterior.
- #6View all PhotosfreeSt. Anne Beach#6 in GuadeloupeBeaches, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
This long, golden beach on the south coast of Grande-Terre is pretty peaceful during the week, but can get crowded on the weekends. Visitors like to collect shells on the beach and swim in the shallow waters.
Recent visitors praised the clean, white sand beach and the calm, clear waters. Plus, since it is located quite close to town, it's easy to find places to eat and drink. Toilets and shower facilities are also available. Access is free. If you're driving and hoping to easily score a parking spot, plan to arrive early in the day.
- #8View all PhotosfreePlage Caravelle#8 in GuadeloupeBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
On Grande-Terre's southern edge, just southwest of the quaint town of Sainte-Anne, you'll find Plage Caravelle's long, sunny stretch. A preferred spot for snorkelers (the reef-protected waters are typically calm) and travelers with kids (thanks to the shallow waters), this lovely beach features brilliant turquoise waves and blindingly white sand fit for lounging. When you need a break from the lazing along Caravelle's sparkling sands, check out the nearby Club Med resort, which offers day passes for non-guests who wish to take advantage of the resort's water equipment and restaurant.
Recent beachgoers agreed Plage Caravelle is a pleasant sunning area, particularly for families. Some cautioned that the beach can get quite busy, but it doesn't seem to deter anyone from flocking there. Past visitors also reported vendors selling refreshing drinks.
- #9View all Photos#9 in GuadeloupeNatural Wonders, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Pointe des Chateaux's striking cliff formations define Grande-Terre's easternmost edge, marking where the Atlantic Ocean collides with the Caribbean Sea. You'll notice a cluster of hollowed limestone coves, sculpted over time by turbulent winds and rough waves. Once you've hiked to the top to admire the eye-catching cliffs, retreat to Pointe des Chateaux's small beach or visit one of the sandy stretches lining the island's southern shoreline. Plage Tarare is another popular sunning spot for those who like sporting minimal swimwear and sprawling across heaps of white sand. You'll find Plage Tarare on Pointe des Chateaux's northern side.
Recent travelers highlighted Pointe des Chateaux's dramatic scenery, though they do say it can get quite busy on days when cruise ships are in port.
- #10View all Photos#10 in GuadeloupeNatural Wonders, Recreation, Tours, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Recreation, Tours, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
These two small unihabitated islands provide a popular daytrip for Guadeloupe visitors in search of crystal clear waters and superb snorkeling. If you'd rather explore the beach, you'll find ideal sunbathing conditions thanks to the soft sands. You'll likely visit Terre-de-Bas, as the other island is a protected conservation area.
Recent visitors raved about the excellent snorkeling and abundance of sea life, including turtles, stingrays and even lemon sharks, in the clear waters. Travelers typically visit the island with a tour company, such as Uhaina or Tarzan Excursion Guadeloupe, which earns great reviews. You'll find the islands a few miles southeast of Grande-Terre. Boat tours typically depart from the marina in Saint-François. Access to the islands is free, but you'll have to pay to take a boat to reach them.
- #11View all Photos#11 in GuadeloupeBeaches, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
You'll find this stretch of sand Grand-Terre within Sainte-Anne. Recent visitors called Plage de Bois Jolan beautiful, with calm, clear waters, and best of all, not too many crowds.
Other reviewers praised the shallow waters (perfect for little swimmers) and the plentiful shade. Access to the beach is free. According to past travelers, there are a variety of food carts near the perimeter of the beach and plentiful parking – a rarity near Guadeloupe's beaches.
- #12View all PhotosfreeLa Grande-Anse#12 in GuadeloupeBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
For a slice of the French Riviera without a long overseas flight, head straight to La Grande-Anse. Draped in soft, khaki-colored sands and tall, swaying palm trees, La Grande-Anse stands as one of Guadeloupe's finest (and longest) beaches, according to many recent visitors who raved about its beauty. Reviewers also reported a nearby beach club renting lounge chairs for 10 euros (around $11) and a variety of vendors selling food and drinks. However, a few were disappointed with the lack of public facilities like bathrooms and showers.
The beach fills up quickly during the weekends, so arrive early if you're hoping to snag a primo sunning spot (and a place to stash your car). If you would rather lay your towel on more isolated sands, head to the powdery shores skirting Les Saintes.
- #13View all Photos#13 in GuadeloupeNatural Wonders, Free, Recreation, Swimming/PoolsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Free, Recreation, Swimming/PoolsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
This protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserve sits in the center of "wings" that make up Guadeloupe's butterfly (between Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre). This chain of coral islets located along a long coral wall is a beautiful place to snorkel, with lots of tropical fish to see. There's also a mangrove forest and opportunities for bird-watching.
The easiest way to visit is through one of many tour operators found on the island; most depart from Sainte-Rose. Recent travelers who booked with Ti-KATA Caraibes highly recommend getting out on the water and said it was a highlight of their visit.
- #14View all Photos#14 in GuadeloupeParks and Gardens, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Deshaies Botanical Garden shelter a wide range of plants and trees, with bougainvillea, hibiscus, orchids and many other flowers and birds. The garden, which sits on a more than 10-acre property once owned by a French comedian, was designed by Michel Gaillard, a well-known landscape designer.
According to recent visitors, the gardens are beautiful, rain or shine, and worth spending a couple of hours exploring. Different collections at the park include Asian tropics, palm trees and arid plants. In total, the garden boasts 15 different themed areas, with an array of tropical flowers and plants representing more than 1,000 species. There are also some animals, including koi, lorikeets, pink flamingos, hummingbirds and more.
- #15View all Photos#15 in GuadeloupeRecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDRecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Guadeloupe's brilliant waters cast magnificent hues of green and blue, luring seafarers to set sail. But before you hoist anchor, you should note the strong winds and currents can be challenging for novice sailors, to say the least. If you would rather relax aboard and let someone else take the helm, there are plenty of luxury yacht charter operators that cruise around Grande-Terre, Les Saintes, La Desirade and Marie-Galante. A day on the water is highly recommended by recent travelers. Before you seek out independent companies, check to see if your hotel can arrange a day cruise of sunset sail for you, or if it has a list of reputable companies to get you started. Your resort may also have a sailing center where you can schedule lessons with an instructor.
- #16View all Photos#16 in GuadeloupeFree, Sightseeing, Wineries/BreweriesTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Sightseeing, Wineries/BreweriesTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
For your chocolate, coffee and rum fixes, you will want to devote some time to touring the islands' plantations and distilleries. You'll find centuries-old plantations peppering the rolling hills of Marie-Galante and the hillsides of Basse-Terre. Among the three distilleries found near Grand-Bourg (Marie-Galante's main town), Distillerie Bielle stands apart as one of the finest, according to recent visitors. On a tour, you'll learn about the process, check out their exhibits and, of course, taste the products. Visit the distillery's website for more information. Distillerie Bologne, which is also located in Basse-Terre, is another popular choice for its scenic location and informative guides. Visit the website (in French) to learn more.
For chocolate, head to La Maison du Cacao, located in Grand Plaine. Visitors can enjoy a walk through the cocoa plantation on a tour, see the chocolate laboratory, then enjoy demonstrations and chocolate tastings. You can also pick up tasty souvenirs to take home in their shop.
- #17View all Photos#17 in GuadeloupeNatural Wonders, Recreation, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Recreation, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Head to this deserted islet for snorkeling, sunbathing and great views. Located in front of the Datcha beach in Gosier, the islet is accessible via a shuttle you can catch at the end of the pier by Tabarin beach, or you can simply kayak or swim there. There is a lighthouse located on the islet, which makes for scenic photos, and one bar/restaurant if you get hungry or thirsty.
Recent visitors appreciated how inexpensive it is to take the shuttle (5 euros, or about $6) and said the snorkeling in the crystal clear waters is great. Others were careful to note that there is no bathroom on the island.
- #18View all Photos#18 in GuadeloupeRecreation, Swimming/Pools, Tours, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRecreation, Swimming/Pools, Tours, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The Réserve Cousteau is a protected natural maritime area surrounding the Pigeon Islands. You'll find vibrant coral reefs and gardens, lots of marine life and several wrecks. The reserve is named after Jacques Cousteau, a French naval officer who is best known as a pioneer of marine conservation. He brought international attention to these waters in Guadeloupe after filming a documentary here highlighting its rich marine life. Today, there is a statue of Cousteau resting near the ocean floor.
Recent visitors loved the reef, though many said it can get quite crowded, especially when cruise ships are in town. There are many outfitters on the island that offer boating, snorkeling and dive packages for both beginners and seasoned divers. You can find more information about the reserve on its website (in French).
- #19View all Photos#19 in GuadeloupeZoos and Aquariums, HikingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDZoos and Aquariums, HikingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
A wildlife-lover's paradise, Basse-Terre's Zoo de Guadeloupe au Parc des Mamelles boasts rare and endangered species, including Ti raccoons, iguanas, red pandas and parrots. In fact, more than 450 animals are spread across its nearly 10 acres. For a bird's-eye view of tropical flora and fauna, stroll across the park's treetop walks (suspended bridges elevated 65 feet above the ground). This was a particular highlight for recent visitors. If you would prefer to stay grounded, stroll through the serene botanical garden, which features wild orchids and flamboyant tropical trees.
Most recent travelers agreed Guadeloupe National Park is Basse-Terre's main attraction, and the zoo serves as an extra bonus for hikers.
- #20View all PhotosfreePointe-à-Pitre#20 in GuadeloupeFree, Neighborhood/Area, ShoppingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/Area, ShoppingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Shoppers looking for discounted French wares – including perfumes, scarves and cosmetics – should head straight to Pointe-a-Pitre, Grande-Terre's largest city. If you're arriving in Guadeloupe via cruise ship, you'll likely stop here first as Pointe-a-Pitre is the main port of call for many cruise ships. The streets are narrow and almost always jam-packed during the day, so you'll want to arrive early to beat the rush of fellow shoppers. Apart from perusing the eclectic array of stores lining the waterfront, you'll also want to stop by the Marche Couvert, a vibrant marketplace surrounded by Rue Frebault, Rue St-John Perse, Rue Schoelcher and Rue Dublessis. The colorful market stalls sell everything from aromatic spices, to fresh papaya to locally woven fabrics.
If you have any interest in French architecture, you'll also want to stop at Rue de l'Eglise to admire the bright yellow Cathedrale de St-Pierre et St-Paul, which recent visitors said is worth a look. The cathedral showcases elaborate metal buttresses that look as though they could've been taken off the Eiffel Tower. Pointe-a-Pitre is also home to Memorial ACTe, a history museum that showcases exhibits on the Caribbean slave trade and indigenous people.
- #21View all Photos#21 in GuadeloupeRecreation, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDRecreation, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Overlooking the bay of Les Saintes nearly 400 feet above sea level, this 18th-century fort offers incredible views. Comissioned by King Louis XVI as a military fort, it was never used for defense purposes. However, it was later used as a military jail and then transformed into a museum showcasing the history of Les Saintes. Also of note is are the botanical gardens surrounding the fort, which are famous for their collection of cacti species and resident iguanas.
Recent visitors appreciated the views and the well-preserved fort, but warned that it is a steep climb if you are walking. Some suggested renting an electric scooter or electric bike to get up the hill. Others were also disappointed that many of the informational placards within the museum are only displayed in French. If you are more interested in the museum displays than the views, reviewers suggested hiring a guide to help you translate.
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