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 October 15, 2012
- #1View all Photos#1 in GuadeloupeHiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
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 Soufrière 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 Traversée, a scenic 16-mile road that cuts through the forest.
Recent travelers recommend packing bug spray and snacks for the trip. One TripAdvisor user notes, "The area is kept very natural and the hiking trails are well-marked [...] Remember to bring proper foot wear as the trails can be muddy if it has been raining."
- #2View all PhotosfreeLes Saintes#2 in GuadeloupeSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Les Saintes consists of eight islands 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 beach on Terre-de-Haut often overlooked by tourists.
Recent travelers say it's fairly easy to see all of Terre-de-Haut in a day trip. "We rented a scooter […] The scenery is gorgeous all around and beaches are fairly quiet," says one TripAdvisor user.
- #3View all PhotosfreeLa Désirade#3 in GuadeloupeSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
It's no wonder Christopher Columbus and his crews were awestruck by the unspoiled beauty of La Désirade (meaning "The Desired One" in French). Legend has it 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, coco-palms, and sea grape trees dotting La Désirade's sunny beaches, like Souffleur and Baie Mahault. 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 Désirade serves as an excellent place to unwind. "This island is very quiet with friendly people. We felt that the day and a half spent there was appropriate. Overall, we were quite pleased with our visit," comments one TripAdvisor user.
- #4View all PhotosfreeMarie-Galante#4 in GuadeloupeSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
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 sands. 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 Château Murat, a famed 18th-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 and Le Touloulou, a favored Creole restaurant.
- #5View all Photos#5 in GuadeloupeSightseeing, Wineries/Breweries, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Wineries/Breweries, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
For your chocolate, coffee, and rum fixes all in one, 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. One TripAdvisor user raves, "Bielle is a high quality rum and they produce a variety of white rum […] and old rum (rhum vieux). Possibly the best rum in Guadeloupe and […] the Caribbean." Make sure to call ahead to confirm hours of operation (590/97-93-62).
La Bonifierie, a coffee mill, gourmet chocolate producer, and café located in St-Claude, Basse-Terre serves as one of the island's leading chocolatiers, with divine dark and milk chocolates made with 100-percent locally grown cacao. You can reserve a tour of the complex, which includes a buffet and rum tasting. The combined plantation/café welcomes visitors from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Its confections and tours will cost you, but roaming through its cozy complex is free of charge. Call 0590/80-06-05 to confirm hours.
- #6View all PhotosfreePointe-à-Pitre#6 in GuadeloupeShopping, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDShopping, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Shoppers looking for discounted French wares—including perfumes, scarves, and cosmetics—should head straight to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe's fashion hub and Grande-Terre's largest city. 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 Marché 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 Cathédrale de St-Pierre et St-Paul. The cathedral showcases elaborate metal buttresses that look as though they could've been taken off the Eiffel Tower.