The islands of Guadeloupe: what to do, what to see…

There's no such thing as one Guadeloupe—this archipelago between the Atlantic and the Caribbean includes Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, Les Saintes and La Désirade. From the sky, they look rather like a floating butterfly. Guadeloupe is a paradise from ground level as well, from the summit of the La Soufrière volcano to its geological and cultural treasures, the endless varieties of sand and rum and its spectacular underwater world. The islands of Guadeloupe are a never-ending revelation.

Not to miss sights in Guadeloupe

• The active volcano of La Soufrière

The highest point in the Lesser Antilles at 1.467 meters (4812.99 feet) of altitude, La Soufrière is one of Guadeloupe's most visited sites, with nearly 100,000 visitors a year. "The Old Lady" belongs to a volcanic ensemble that includes five other volcanoes that emit sulfur and acid vapors as well as hot springs.

• The Écrevisses waterfall

Located in the village of Petit-Bourg, the Écrevisses waterfall is a natural basin of the Corossol river. The waterfall is one of the most visited tourist places in Guadeloupe due to its easy access. But, unfortunately, the crayfish (écrevisses) that gave it its name have almost disappeared.

• The Carbet Falls

The Grand Carbet River has its source in the eastern flank of Soufrière. Its sulphurous waters clear after three falls of 115 meters (377.29 feet), 110 meters (360.89 feet) and 20 meters (65.61 feet). These are, among the most impressive waterfalls of the Lesser Antilles ultimately babbling into the sea 11 kilometers (6.83 miles) below.

• The ACTe memorial

The ACTe Memorial of Guadeloupe opened its doors in July 2015. Here you can discover the history of slavery in Guadeloupe and around the world, from antiquity to 1492, from post-Colombian slavery to its abolition, from colonial times to independence and its sad present.

• The Parc des Mamelles zoo

The Mamelles Zoological and Botanical Park is located in Basse-Terre, 30 minutes from Pointe-à-Pitre. On more than 2 hectares (5 acres) in the heart of the rainforest, it is home to the entire animal kingdom: turtles, mongooses, raccoons, iguanas, snakes, parrots, bats, monkeys, jaguars and many more.

• The wild mangrove swamp of Grande Terre

Located at Grand Cul de Sac Marine, not far from the coral reef, the mangrove spreads over more than 5,000 hectares (12,355 acres). The swamp is a magical place that you can travel through by motorboat or kayak (with a guide). Some tours offer a dive, with masks and snorkels—an exotic and unforgettable excursion!

• The black sand beach of Grande Anse

Located on the road to Vieux Fort, close to Trois-Rivières, this vast beach of black sand, fine and soft, is a popular spot for surfers and bodyboarders—it is also a nesting site for sea turtles, protected by a prefectural decree.

• The town of Pointe-à-Pitre

Pointe-à-Pitre has retained its colonial 18th century charm, with a sheltered harbor and bar-and-restaurant-lined marina. Every four years, the capital city welcomes the arrival of the famous solo transatlantic race, the Route du rhum.

• Saint-François Bay

Formerly the mecca of the cotton trade, then sugar cane, Saint-François today lives mainly on tourism. Thanks to the coral reef protecting the Désirade and the Petite-Terre islands from the Atlantic currents, the beaches here are pristine and calm.

• Marie-Galante, La Désirade and Les Saintes

With its white sand beaches, mangrove swamps and jaw-dropping cliffs, Marie-Galante remains a very authentic island that tourism has not overrun.
The Desirade is a similar case, mostly an island of fishermen. Tourism is developing a bit more here around the cottages and beaches, but a walk in the quiet desert area is worth the detour.
The archipelago of Saintes is composed of two inhabited islands and islets. Terre-de-Haut is the most touristic island, for just cause: its bay is one of the most beautiful in the world.

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Things to do in the Guadeloupe Islands

• Bathe in the Dolé hot springs at Gourbeyre

The many hot spring pools that bubble around Dolé Gourbeyre continue to be a romantic attraction—the main basin has been baptized the "Bath of Lovers."

• Take a trip to the island of Marie-Galante

This little piece of paradise of 158 km²(61 miles²) of the Caribbean offers a technicolor rainbow of white sand beaches, crystal blue lagoon water lined with orange coral reefs, and verdant vegetation. Tastings of local specialties, visits to rum distilleries, oxen-drawing competitions all set to Caribbean music: the rhythm of Guadeloupe can be found on Marie-Galante!

• Greet the sun on Pointe des Châteaux

The most visited site in Guadeloupe owes its name to the religious community of the Capuchins who, in 1683, established the Parish of Castles here. The point is 11 kilometers (6.83 miles) from Saint-François, which is under the patronage of St. Francis of Assisi. In the spring, you will have the chance to see whales cresting off its shores.

• Visit the iguanas on the island of Petite-Terre

Petite-Terre is an archipelago made up of two islands, located 18 kilometers (11.18 miles) southeast of Saint-François, once inhabited by the Arawak and Caribbean Indians. In 1998, the archipelago was classified as a "Nature Reserve", in order to protect the species that live here now, including about 10,000 Iguanas.

• Be intoxicated by the heady aroma of spices in Pointe-à-Pitre market

The Saint-Antoine market is a must-visit of the capital. An explosion of scents emanates from colorful stalls covered with spices, tropical fruits and vegetables, as well as local handicrafts. This is the perfect place if you are looking for a little souvenir to bring back from your stay on Papillon Island.

• Visit the traditional rum distilleries of Marie-Galante

At Marie-Galante, you can visit three distilleries of agricultural rum from the 18th and 19th centuries: the Bielle distillery, the Bellevue estate and the Poisson distillery. Come discover the technique of sugar cane distillation and taste various rums: white, amber, and aged.

• Find peace of mind on the islet of Gosier

This paradise island of Guadeloupe, located off Grande-Terre, is only one kilometer (0.5 miles) long and a few hundred meters (less than 1000 feet) wide. It takes its name from the everpresent pelicans (gosier indicates gullets, or big throats). This deserted island is covered in greenery fenced in by fine sand and turquoise water...paradise doesn't even cover it.

• Marvel at the colorful inhabitants of the Cousteau Reserve

This protected natural marine environment is the heart of the Guadeloupe National Park, encompassing more than 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) of exceptional seabed. Coral, tropical fish, turtles and even humpback whales flit about without fear in a Caribbean sea at 26°C (78.8°F).

• Go green in the Guadeloupe zoo

The animal route through the Parc des Mamelles Zoo's rainforest, on footbridges suspended at 20 meters (65.62 feet), takes about 2 hours. All the wildlife of the French West Indies is found here: monkeys, lizards, parrots, as well as jaguars from French Guiana!

• Explore the Bay of Les Saintes by catamaran

To reach the Saintes from Point-à-Pitre, take a boat or ferry to Trois Rivières, or a speedboat to Saint-François. Stroll through the streets of Terre-de-Haut, visit Fort Napoléon and swim or take glass-bottomed kayaks around the seabed.

Getting to the Guadeloupe Islands