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  • beach-basse-terre-guadeloupe - One of the beautiful beaches in Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe.
  • beach-guadeloupe - A beach on Guadeloupe in the Caribbean.
  • fort-louis-delgres-guadeloupe - Fort Louis Delgrès in Basse-Terre, capital of Guadeloupe.
  • bridge-river-galion-guadeloupe - The bridge over the river Galion on the tropical island of Guadeloupe.
  • Guadeloupe-reef-beach.jpg - Beaches on Guadeloupe feature snorkeling and warm blue waters. Raisins Clairs’ Beach is located on the southern coast of Grande-Terre.
  • Royal-Clipper-Star-Clipper-Iles-Des-Saints - Royal Clipper leads the way for Star Clipper in exploring the Îles des Saintes near Guadeloupe in the Caribbean.
  • riviere-grand-carbet-guadeloupe - Rivière du Grand Carbet, at one of the Carbet Waterfalls, Guadeloupe.
  • Guadeloupe-reef-turtle.jpg - Get up close and personal with marine life while snorkeling on Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe.
  • La-Trace-des-Falaises-Guadeloupe - The cliffs of La Trace des Falaises on Grand Terre, Guadeloupe.
  • beach-guadeloupe - A beach on Guadeloupe in the Caribbean.
  • Guadeloupe-Dampierre-cliffs.jpg - See the dramatic Dampierre Cliffs in Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe.
  • Guadeloupe-ecrevisses-waterfall.jpg - Visit tropical waterfalls in Guadeloupe National Park on Basse-Terre.
  • Guadeloupe-parade.jpg - Join the festivities in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe.
  • Guadeloupe-rainforest-walk.jpg - Choose a rainforest hike while visiting Basse Terre, Guadeloupe.
  • Guadeloupe-red-Alpinia.jpg - The gardens of Guadeloupe feature a myriad of flowers, like the red ginger, or Alpinia Purpurata.
  • Guadeloupe-seafood.jpg - Plan a leisurely lunch of seafood and fine wine at Saveurs Kreyol in Baie Mahault, Guadeloupe.
  • Guadeloupe-woman.jpg - A young woman wears a traditional Creole costume at La Grivelière on Basse Terre, Guadeloupe.
  • guadeloupe-kayaking.jpg - A French couple kayaks in Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe, in the Caribbean.
  • guadeloupe-lagoon.jpg - A spectacular turquoise lagoon in the French archipelago of  Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe.
  • hobie-cats-in-guadeloupe.jpg - Hobie Cat watercraft in Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe.
  • les-des-saintes-guadeloupe-3.jpg - Pretty red-tiled houses line the waterfront of Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe.
  • les-des-saintes-guadeloupe-4.jpg - A Mediterranean vibe infuses the French territory of Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe.
  • les-des-saintes-guadeloupe-5.jpg -  Guadeloupe, a French overseas territory, is an island group in the southern Caribbean.
  • les-des-saintes-guadeloupe-6.jpg - Water sports on a spring morning in Îles des Saintes (Isle of Saints), Guadeloupe.
  • les-des-saintes-guadeloupe.jpg - The pretty, classic waterfront of Les Saintes Bay, Guadeloupe.
  • water-sports-in-guadeloupe.jpg - Wind Surf passengers go for a spin in a speedboat in Guadeloupe.
  • wind-surf-in-guadeloupe-2.jpg - The 310-passenger Wind Surf in Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe.
  • wind-surf-in-guadeloupe.jpg - A closeup of the sleek premium ship Wind Surf in Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe.
  • seabourn-odyssey-in-guadeloupe.jpg - The luxury ship Seabourn Odyssey anchored in Guadeloupe.
  • michele-seabourn-sojourn.jpg - A millennial cruiser from Chicago during a shore excursion in Guadeloupe on Seabourn Sojourn.
  • beach-basse-terre-guadeloupe - One of the beautiful beaches in Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe.
  • bridge-river-galion-guadeloupe - The bridge over the river Galion on the tropical island of Guadeloupe.
  • fort-louis-delgres-guadeloupe - Fort Louis Delgrès in Basse-Terre, capital of Guadeloupe.
  • great-pond-guadeloupe - The Great Pond in the town of Capesterre, Guadeloupe.
  • view-of-montserrat-guadeloupe - View of the island of Montserrat from Guadeloupe.
  • La-Toubana-Hotel-and-Spa-Grande-Terre-in-Guadeloupe.jpg - An idyllic setting for a Caribbean wedding: La Toubana Hotel & Spa in Grande Terre, Guadeloupe.
  • Guadeloupe-cocktails.jpg - Relax on Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe, with a cold "Planteur" cocktail.
  • Guadeloupe-fruit-market.jpg - Find the freshest produce at Saint-Antoine’s market in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe.
  • Guadeloupe-market-seller.jpg - Locals bring their produce to Saint-Antoine’s Market in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe.
  • Guadeloupe-iguana.jpg - The local wildlife on Guadeloupe includes colorful iguanas.
  • Guadeloupe-windmill.jpg - Take an excursion to Marie-Galante, known as “island of 100 windmills,”  while visiting Guadeloupe.
  • Guadeloupe-pointe-noire-shore.jpg - Enjoy a gentle breeze and setting sun on Basse Terre, Guadeloupe.

Guadeloupe travel guide: Top things to do & see

our guide

The vibe

For a taste of France mixed with Creole flair, Guadeloupe has become a breathtaking mainstay in the eastern Caribbean. A French colony since 1635 (and still under the French government), it is composed of two main islands linked by a bridge, Grande Terre and Basse Terre, which form the shape of a butterfly, as well as five outer islands.

Guadeloupe (“Gwada” to the locals) is not an island for the timid. The best attractions are hidden, and take time and effort to unearth. Although there is fun to be had, a day spent only in Pointe-à-Pitre will do little to educate you on Guadeloupe's true beauty. However, if you take the ferry trips to Guadeloupe's smaller satellite islands, Îles des Saintes and Marie-Gallante, you will sure to be enchanted. Les Saintes Bay (pronounced lez SAWNTS) was named the third prettiest bay in the world behind Rio and Ha Long Bay.

Guadeloupe was badly damaged by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Be sure to check into the current state of services if you're planning to visit the island in the near term.

Cruise ships that call on Guadeloupe

Top reasons to go

  • The Cousteau Reserve is located around the Pigeon islets in the Bouillante commune. Today the reserve is a must-see site for divers exploring the Guadeloupe archipelago.
  • Guadeloupe National Park is the seventh-largest French National Park. Don't miss Carbet Falls, which has three cascades, one of which is just a 20 minute walk from the parking lot of the park.
  • Trois Riveres on the southern tip of Basse-Terre features a collection of rock engravings from the Arawaks, the island's original inhabitants.
  • Scuba dive and snorkel for beautiful tropic fish, sometimes even in shallow waters.
Rivière du Grand Carbet, at one of the Carbet Waterfalls, Guadeloupe.
rachel_thecat / Creative Commons BY-SARivière du Grand Carbet, at one of the Carbet Waterfalls, Guadeloupe.

Things to see & do on Guadeloupe

Pointe-à-Pitre

As the largest city and economic center of Guadeloupe, Pointe-à-Pitre is located on the island of Grand-Terre. Here, visitors can sip some rum punch and learn to dance to the joyful rhythms of biguine, zouk and mazurka, or in January see the elaborate Carnival procession. 

Many visitors start with a walk along La Darse, the inner harbor road. You'll see the charming market, full of fruits, flowers, fish, spices and crafts. Be sure to head to Place de la Victoire, the town center. The park's history is more vibrant than its current condition. After defeating the British in 1794, Victor Hugues established a dictatorship, and the guillotine he used stood here for years. Now, you find a pretty park framed by palm trees. Explore Guadeloupe's past at Museum Schoelcher, dedicated to the activist Victor Schoelcher,  who worked to  abolish slavery in Guadeloupe. Get a glimpse of colonial creole life at the Museum Saint John Perse, memorializing the poet-laureate's life and times.

Marie-Galante

There are many little islands off of the main coast to visit in Guadeloupe via ferry, but one of the prettiest is the circular island of Marie-Galante. Named for Christopher Columbus' boat, the island is only sixty square miles, but it is full of surprises. Visit the local beaches, including Anse Canot and Petite Anse, the 19th century windmills and the sugar plantations.

Parc National de la Guadeloupe

On Basse-Terre you'll find the 74,000 acre National Park of Guadeloupe, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The park is at the base of La Soufriere active volcano and has 188 miles of marked trails leading into the rainforest to see raccoons, agoutis (huge rodents), waterfalls and bubbling hot springs. Be sure to visit the Cabret Falls while you're there for a spectacular view.

One of the beautiful beaches in Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe.
Daniel Jolivet / Creative Commons BYOne of the beautiful beaches in Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe.

Beaches

Guadeloupe offers hidden gems for those who are willing to look for them. Some of the better beaches can be found in and around Gosier, on the southern coast of Grande-Terre. If you're feeling a bit risqué, take it all off at Îlet du Gosier, a popular nudist beach. For the more conservative beach bum, a visit to nearby Plage de Tarare will do just fine. Other good beaches on mainland Guadeloupe include Grande Anse, on Basse-Terre's northwest coast, and the beautiful Caravelle Beach, near Ste-Anne.

Shopping

Pointe-à-Pitre has plenty of great shops all around the city, many clustered around the town center. Duty free purchases allow for prices to be around 25-30% less than prices in the United States, especially on French products. For the traveler who can't live without an exquisite French perfume, visit Phoenicia (8 Rue Frébault, 590-83-50-36). Use traveler's checks and the discounts go even further. Rum connoisseurs will find their discerning palates quite pleased at Distillerie Bellevue (590/97-31-26) on Abymes Road. They offer samples, although you will probably buy it once you taste it — this is some of the best rum in the Caribbean.

Best bets for dining

In addition to drinking rum, be sure to try Colombo — a chicken, rice and curry dish with Indian flavor. It's a very popular regional dish. If you're looking for some true French flair in Pointe-à-Pitre, the undisputed dining leader is Le Big Steak House (590-82-12-44). Located near the piers, you won't have to travel far to taste steak imported from France, prepared in one of five delicious sauces.

Best time to go

Guadeloupe is warm and dry between December and May. However, although June through November is rainy, it's also very beautiful on the islands.

Fun & useful facts

  • Christopher Columbus named the island Santa María de Guadalupe in 1493 after the Virgin Mary, venerated in the Spanish town of Guadalupe, in Extremadura.
  • Guadeloupe is one of three French islands in the Caribbean, along with Martinique and half of St. Maarten. 
  • The Amerindian inhabitants called Guadeloupe Karukera, which means Island of Beautiful Waters. It is widely regarded as having some of the best dive sites in the world.
  • Be sure to protect yourself from Guadeloupe’s swarms of aggressive mosquitoes.
  • Basse Terre is a lush, mountainous island with volcanic terrain; Grande Terre has rolling hills and flat plains.
View of the island of Montserrat from Guadeloupe.
rachel_thecat / Creative Commons BY SAView of the island of Montserrat from Guadeloupe.

When you arrive

Docking information

Cruise ships dock at the port of Pointe-à-Pitre, a five-minute walk from town.

Getting around

You will find taxis waiting when you depart ship in Pointe-à-Pitre. Taxis are a popular and easy choice, but be advised that they are expensive. Unlike cabs on many Caribbean islands, many taxis in Guadeloupe are metered. If the cab is driven by the owner, no tip is needed. Otherwise a 10% tip is recommended. 

Pointe-à-Pitre serves as the main hub for bus travel throughout the island. The posted directions are all in French, so brush up before hopping aboard.

Need to know

Documents: U.S. and Canadian citizens will need passports to enter.

Language: French

Store hours: Most shops are open 9 am to 6 pm with a two hour break about 1 pm.

Internet: Internet is faster in Guadeloupe than elsewhere in the Caribbean because of a direct underwater cable to France. 

Tipping: Always check your bill to see if a 15 percent service charge was included; if a service charge was not included, an average tip would be 10 to 15 percent.

Safety: Crime is not a major issue, but it is always good to stay alert and leave valuables on the ship so you can relax. At night, stay in groups while walking through town.

Your take

Have you been to Guadeloupe? Please share a story, tip or discovery. What was the highlight for you? Please share in the comments below.

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Overheard

“It doesn’t look like much from the sea, but Pointe-à-Pitre is a pleasant and safe place to walk around during the day. Try some innovative cooking at the glamorous La Canne à  Sucre restaurant, with the best views over the busy harbor.”

Lonely Planet

“Some of my favorite places to eat on the island are Le Spot in Le Moule, where the chef, Francois, makes delicious Creole and French food. Julien Colmar's Beach Paradise is where to go for local seafood.”

Islands magazine

“The Jacques Cousteau Reserve in Bouillante, on the western part of Basse-Terre, is a famous place for snorkeling and diving. The Carbet Falls are the best waterfalls in Gwada.”

Islands magazine

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