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16 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Guadeloupe

Written by Karen Hastings
Nov 17, 2020

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Guadeloupe's evocative blend of lush natural beauty and rich Creole and French culture make it a magical place to visit. The archipelago is an overseas region of France, and Guadeloupe's food, language, and culture reflect this strong tie.

If you look at a Guadeloupe map, the main landmass resembles a butterfly in shape, with two main islands: Grande-Terre in the east and Basse-Terre in the west, separated by a narrow mangrove channel called the Rivière Salée.

Aerial view of Guadeloupe
Aerial view of Guadeloupe

Palm-fringed beaches rim the coastline, and the interior is lush and mountainous, with waterfalls, hot springs, and an active volcano. Most Guadeloupe hotels and resorts and many of the islands' tourist attractions dot the golden shores of these main islands, and Guadeloupe's largest city and cruise port, Pointe-a-Pitre, lies on the southern shore of Grande-Terre.

Guadeloupe also encompasses the smaller islands of La Desirade, Les Saintes (also called Îles des Saintes), and Marie-Galante, which also offer beautiful beaches and quaint villages. All Guadeloupe's islands boast excellent opportunities for birding; photography; hiking; and water sports such as snorkeling, swimming, and diving. Guadeloupe also hosts many colorful carnivals and festivals, including the five-day Mardi-Gras Carnival ending on Ash Wednesday.

Wondering about the best places to visit on your trip? Consult our list of the top tourist attractions and things to do in Guadeloupe.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Guadeloupe National Park, Basse-Terre

Guadeloupe National Park, Basse-Terre
Guadeloupe National Park, Basse-Terre

Nature lovers of all kinds will find something to love at Guadeloupe National Park (Parc National de la Guadeloupe). Designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, the park often draws more than a million visitors a year.

Among its many attractions are 300 kilometers of hiking trails; La Soufrière volcano at 1,467 meters; Col de la Matéliane at 1,298 meters; and a wide range of plants and animals, including 100 species of orchids and 11 species of bats.

Bird-watchers will enjoy the diversity here, with resident species such as the black woodpecker, pearly-eyed thrasher, and Lesser Antillean pewee.

A good way to take a sightseeing tour of the park is via Route de la Traversée (D23). This scenic trans-coastal highway winds through the tropical forest of majestic mahogany trees and bamboo. Along this route are lookouts, picnic areas, jungle waterfalls, and a staffed roadside center at Maison de la Forêt. You can also stop for a cooling swim at Cascade aux Ecrevisses, a small waterfall spilling into a pond.

One of the unique things to do in Guadeloupe is hike up La Soufrière volcano. You can also take another trail in the park to a series of waterfalls on the lower slopes of the volcano, known as Les Chutes du Carbet (Carbet Falls).

Address: Habitation Beausoleil Montéran, 97120 Saint Claude

Official site: http://www.guadeloupe-parcnational.fr

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Guadeloupe

2. La Soufrière Hike, Basse-Terre

La Soufrière trail
La Soufrière trail

The highest peak in the Lesser Antilles, La Grande Soufrière is an active volcano, which hikers can ascend on the Chemin des Dames trail. This approximately two-hour strenuous climb offers panoramic views from the highest points of the massif - as long as the weather is clear.

Along the way, you'll see a diversity of otherworldly landscapes. Hot springs, mud pools, and fumaroles punctuate the volcano's barren, black sides, and the triple waterfall of Chutes du Carbet flows down the eastern face of La Soufrière massif from a height of 115 meters. You can view the falls from lookouts.

Hikers who follow the trail to Etang As de Pique will find one of the largest of the mountainside lakes formed in craters on the volcanic massif, surrounded by lush hillsides.

Completing this hike requires sturdy hiking boots, plenty of water, and a reasonable level of fitness. Make sure you bring a rain jacket, too.

Interesting fact: The volcano has erupted eight times since 1660, with the last eruption in 1977.

Address: Habitation Beausoleil Montéran, 97120 Saint Claude

3. La Pointe des Châteaux, Grande-Terre

La Pointe des Châteaux, Grande-Terre
La Pointe des Châteaux, Grande-Terre

La Pointe des Châteaux is a photographer's dream. This scenic isthmus lies at the easternmost point of Grande Terre, with castle-like rock formations jutting out of the sea. The windy, wave-battered point exudes a rugged beauty reminiscent of Brittany.

A botanical path leads from the village to a vantage point among great black rocks. Here, you have a clear view to the islands of La Désirade, Petite-Terre, and Marie-Galante.

Nearby, you can walk to a wild and wind-whipped white-sand beach. The surf is rough here, though, so swim at your own risk.

4. Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin Natural Reserve Boat Tour

Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin Natural Reserve Boat Tour
Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin Natural Reserve Boat Tour | Michel Craig / photo modified

Cradled between the northern shores of Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre, Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin Natural Reserve (Réserve Naturelle du Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin) is a great place to soak up the wild side of Guadeloupe on a boat tour.

This 15,000-hectare reserve is a mosaic of mangrove forests, mudflats, coral reefs, seagrass meadows, turquoise lagoons, and tiny islets. It also encompasses transitional zones where sustainable human activity is permitted. Together with Guadeloupe National Park on Basse-Terre, it forms the UNESCO-listed Guadeloupe Archipelago Biosphere Reserve.

The reserve's diverse ecosystems harbor a wealth of wildlife. Turtles, sea urchins, giant sponges, and an impressive diversity of fish number among the many marine species. Birders can spot species such as kingfishers, herons, pelicans, and frigate birds.

You can visit the reserve on a guided boat tour. Usually called the Blue Lagoon tour, the excursion explores the mangroves and the Moustique River and allows time for snorkeling on the coral reefs and a stop at the tiny white-sand island of Ilet Caret, ringed by luminous turquoise water. If you don't speak French, make sure you request an English-speaking guide.

5. Plage de Grande Anse, Basse Terre

Plage de Grande Anse
Plage de Grande Anse

On the northeast coast of Basse-Terre, near Deshaies, Plage de Grande Anse is a picturesque slice of palm-lined sand and clear waters. This is one of the most beautiful beaches in Guadeloupe. Flanked by lush headlands, the beach stretches for more than a kilometer, with soft golden sand and plenty of shady trees.

Plage de Grande Anse is a wonderful beach for a stroll, and the waters are usually great for swimming, although the surf can be a little rough on windy days. It's not the best place for young children to swim, as the sea floor drops off suddenly beyond the shoreline.

A bonus here is that you can rent kayaks to paddle around the mangrove-fringed lagoon behind the beach.

After a morning of sunbathing and swimming, head over to the little cafés and food trucks near the parking lot, which sell mouthwatering crepes and other snacks.

Farther north, Plage de la Perle is another popular beach near Deshaies, with cafés and restrooms, and it tends to be a little quieter than Plage de Grande Anse

6. Jacques Cousteau's Underwater Reserve

Jacques Cousteau's Underwater Reserve
Jacques Cousteau's Underwater Reserve

Off the coast of Basse-Terre near Bouillante, the waters surrounding Pigeon Island comprise the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Reserve (Réserve Cousteau). Dive operators cater to all skill levels, and you can snorkel along the shallow-water reefs or view the coral and marine life from a glass-bottom boat.

The health of the reef here has declined in recent years, but you can still see fairly large schools of fish, as well as some colorful coral. Turtles, parrotfish, trumpetfish, and barracuda swim among the coral gardens here, and the area offers good wall and wreck dives. You can also kayak over to the reserve from the mainland.

7. Sainte-Anne Beach, Grande-Terre

Sainte-Anne Beach, Grande-Terre
Sainte-Anne Beach, Grande-Terre

Palm-fringed Sainte Anne is one of the most popular beaches in Guadeloupe. The seaside promenade skirting the shore is a lovely spot for a stroll, and the beach is busy but beautiful, with white sand and shallow water in dreamy shades of blue.

Basking on this beach is one of the top things to do in Grande-Terre. It's also a great spot for a swim, with typically calm waters. Near the beach is a selection of restaurants and market stalls selling local crafts.

To the west, fronting Club Med La Caravelle, Plage Caravelle is another beautiful beach with an offshore reef.

If you prefer a little more serenity, Plage de Bois Jolan, to the east, is less crowded than Sainte-Anne, but you need to bring your own food and refreshments, as the beach lacks amenities.

8. Zoo de Guadeloupe, Parc des Mamelles, Basse-Terre

Jaguar at Zoo de Guadeloupe
Jaguar at Zoo de Guadeloupe

Bordering Guadeloupe National Park, Zoo de Guadeloupe is a popular hilltop garden and nature reserve on the banks of the Rivière aux Hérbes. Around 85 species of animals are represented here, including many rare and endangered species.

What makes this zoo special is the setting. Hiking trails and hanging bridges weave through the tropical rain forest, making you feel as though you are deep in the jungle as you view the animals.

Among the many species of animals you can see here are tortoises, raccoons, monkeys, jaguars, snakes, and parrots, and you will also be surrounded by lush palms, plants, and vibrant tropical blooms. The rope bridges also offer spectacular views over the mountainous terrain.

Address: Route de la traversée, D23

Official site: http://www.zoodeguadeloupe.com/

9. Jardin Botanique de Deshaies, Basse Terre

Jardin Botanique de Deshaies, Basse Terre
Jardin Botanique de Deshaies, Basse Terre

Brimming with beautiful tropical flora and many colorful species of birds, Jardin Botanique de Deshaies is a peaceful botanical garden on Basse-Terre's northwest coast. Paths lined with bright splashes of bougainvillea wind throughout the grounds, where you can stroll among cascades, lily ponds, and gazebos.

Children will love feeding the fish, as well as the rainbow lorikeets, which descend on outstretched arms. A hilltop restaurant provides beautiful views of the gardens and the sea.

Address: Deshaies 97126, Basse Terre

Official site: http://www.jardin-botanique.com/

10. Mémorial ACTe, Grande-Terre

Memorial ACTe
Memorial ACTe | Bagolina / photo modified

Anyone who wants a thorough understanding of the history of Guadeloupe, and indeed the history of slavery and colonialism around the world, should visit this important museum.

You can't miss the building. Topped with a tangle of crisscrossed metal on a black granite base, the striking structure sits on the waterfront in Pointe-a-Pitre, and is one of the city's top attractions. At night the building is evocatively lit, its colored lights reflecting on the water.

The museum seeks to cover the entire history of slavery, from plantation slavery to the post-abolitionist era to the present day. Multilingual audio guides add context and detail to the powerful exhibits, and temporary exhibitions present Caribbean artists' perspective of slavery through painting, sculpture, film, and photography.

If you're wondering what to do in Guadeloupe on a cruise, add this to your itinerary - it's a short stroll from the cruise terminal - and try to allow at least two or three hours to fully absorb all the exhibits.

Address: Darboussier, 97110, Pointe-à-Pitre

Official site: http://memorial-acte.fr/the-founding-acte-memory-holds-the-future

11. Terre-de-Haut Island, Les Saintes

Terre-de-Haut Island, Les Saintes
Terre-de-Haut Island, Les Saintes

Terre-de-Haut Island, the eastern island of Les Saintes, exudes a more European character than its western counterpart, Terre-de-Bas. The terrain and climate were unsuited to raising sugar, so the settlers were mainly fishermen.

Today, the pastel-colored houses and brightly painted fishing boats (saintoises) provide picturesque photo opportunities, and the island is a peaceful place to simply wander around and soak up a slice of local life.

Most visitors catch the 30-minute ferry from Point-a-Pitre or Trois-Rivière on Bass-Terre, and rent a scooter or golf cart to explore the island.

At the island's main village, Bourg des Saintes, "Sugarloaf" volcanic hill overlooks a curved blue bay fringed by white sand. The houses here are European in character, with whitewashed walls, red-tile roofs, and colorful gardens dotted with tropical flowers. After strolling around the village, stop by a boulangerie (bakery) for a special treat.

If beach time is your main mission, Plage de Pompierre is a calm, curvaceous bay, with picnic benches and swaying palms, and Crawen has a wilder feel.

On a hill overlooking the bay, 17th-century Fort Napoléon, with its historical museum and Exotic Garden, is one of the island's main tourist attractions.

Morne du Chameau, the highest point on the island, takes around two hours to ascend from Terre-de-Haut village.

Across the bay, Ilet à Cabrit is a small island where the ruins of 19th-century Fort Joséphine still stand.

12. Terre-de-Bas Island, Les Saintes

Terre-de-Bas Island, Les Saintes
Terre-de-Bas Island, Les Saintes

Much bigger, yet sleepier, than Terre-de-Haut, Terre-de-Bas is the western island of Les Saintes. Considered one of the most natural and wild islands in the Guadeloupe archipelago, it features small fishing villages, swimming beaches, and lush hiking trails.

Grande Anse on Terre-de-Bas features a small 17th-century church, a pretty bay, and a beach with huts for swimming and snorkeling. Hikers can also take the trail to the promontory of 273-meter-high Grande Montagne.

Gros-Cap is the main village of Terre-de-Bas with a ferry landing, restaurants, and places to stay nearby, as well as the starting points of roads and hiking trails.

Most visitors come here by ferry on a day trip from Terre-de-Haut Island.

13. Marie-Galante Island

Marie-Galante Island
Marie-Galante Island

Called the Big Pancake by its inhabitants, Marie-Galante is a round, flat island known for its gorgeous beaches. Sugar farming and tourism are the primary industries, and you can see the ruins of many windmills around the island.

Sunbathing, swimming, and hiking are popular things to do on Marie-Galante, and it's always fun to soak up the local vibe and attend community events.

Built in 1839, Château Murat was the biggest sugar plantation in Guadeloupe, and its eco-museum honors Marie-Galante's arts and culture, including the history of its sugar industry. Also on-site are a restored colonial mansion, windmill tower, the ruins of a sugar factory, and a medicinal garden.

Feuillere Beach and Anse Canot are two of the best beaches on the island, with pillowy-soft white sand and turquoise water.

14. La Désirade Day Trip

Aerial view of La Désirade
Aerial view of La Désirade

Meaning "The Desired One" in French, La Désirade certainly lives up to its name for travelers who want to escape the tourist crowds. This peaceful island lies about a 45-minute rocky boat ride from Saint-Francois on the southeastern coast of Grande-Terre.

Composed of tabular rock, La Désirade is the oldest island in the Lesser Antilles and was once a leper colony. Today, it's a geological nature reserve.

Alluring palm-lined beaches, such as Fifi and Souffleur, ring the island, and coral reefs protect its shores. Snorkeling, swimming, and diving are all popular activities here, and a hiking trail at Le Morne du Souffleur offers spectacular sea views. You'll also see plenty of iguanas and goats during your visit.

Not far from La Désirade, the Petite-Terre islands are two uninhabited island nature reserves known for their biodiversity.

15. Plage du Souffleur, Grande-Terre

Plage du Souffleur, Grande-Terre
Plage du Souffleur, Grande-Terre

One of Grande-Terre's prettiest beaches, Plage du Souffleur skirts the coast of Port-Louis, a small fishing village on the island's northwest coast. Sea grape trees and coconut palms fringe this picturesque stretch of white sand and aqua sea, offering plenty of shady patches to lay out your towel.

Depending on the conditions, you might find some decent waves here for body surfing, and when the water is calm, snorkeling can be fun. Food trucks sell Creole food and refreshments.

In nearby Port-Louis, brightly painted wooden houses and vintage iron lampposts give the town a cheery feel. A 20-minute drive through an area of desert vegetation leads to Pointe de la Grande Vigie, the northernmost point in Guadeloupe, with sweeping views across the sea to neighboring islands on clear days.

16. Pointe-a-Pitre Shopping

Peppers for sale in Pointe-a-Pitre
Peppers for sale in Pointe-a-Pitre

Shoppers will find Guadeloupe's best buys in the archipelago's largest town, Pointe-a-Pitre. French perfumes, jewelry, cosmetics, crystal, and fashion tempt shoppers at the Center Saint-John Perse, as well as the stores along Frébault, Nozières, and Schoelcher Streets.

Saint-Antoine market offers a zingy sampling of Creole flavors and Guadeloupe food products, and the colorful outdoor markets are fun places to visit, as much for their ambience as their merchandise, with many market vendors dressed in colors as bright as the tropical fruits they flaunt.

The harborside market sells spices, flowers, crafts, and clothing, and fishing boats tie up here to sell their catch.

Exploring the French West Indies

imageFor another taste of France in the tropics, Martinique sits south of Guadeloupe, with lush, mountainous terrain and fantastic opportunities for hiking. To the northeast, sublime St. Barts (Saint Barthélemy) also offers the alluring combination of Caribbean beauty and French culture, as well as some of the best beaches in the Caribbean.

Wondering where to stay on your next tropical adventure? Check out our article on the best luxury all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean.

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