Basse-Terre island in Guadeloupe is wild, lush, and teeming with adventure! There are so many things to do and see from chasing incredible waterfalls like the Chutes du Carbet to scuba diving in the renowned Jacques Cousteau Reserve in Guadeloupe National Park.
Unlike the Grande-Terre—the main island of Guadeloupe—Basse-Terre is so green and tropical! 🌴 Between the Soufrière volcano and the palm-tree-covered hills, Basse-Terre feels like a jungly paradise.
The contrast of the black beaches with the golden ones you’ll find in Grande-Terre is just beautiful; it’s like yin and yang.
Read on to discover everything you need to know to plan your epic trip to Basse-Terre island in Guadeloupe in search of the islands’ many amazing natural gems and wonders.
How to Visit Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe
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✈️ Find cheap flights to Guadeloupe on KAYAK from $67+
🚗 Book your rental car well in advance on Discovercars.com
🏠 Stay at one of these top-rated hotels in Basse-Terre
💧 Remember to hydrate—fill a reusable water bottle and take 1L per person
📸 Bring your travel camera and drone gear for epic shots
🛡 Protect your adventures with SafetyWing, the global travel medical insurance for nomads
☀️ Sunset in Guadeloupe is around 18:00 (6 PM), turn around on any hikes before dark
Getting to & Around Basse-Terre Island in Guadeloupe
The Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport (PTP) is the only international airport that serves the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe.
The airport is located in the western part of Grande-Terre, nearby Le Gosier and the highway connecting Grande-Terre to Basse-Terre island.
Once you land in Grande-Terre, your only option for getting to and around Basse-Terre is by rental car. It’s wise to go ahead and rent a car at Pointe-à-Pitre airport at least 2-3 months in advance before your trip dates. With the pandemic, car rentals in Guadeloupe are experiencing a surge in demand yet a shortage in available cars. It was such a struggle to rent a car when we were there—nothing was left! (And this was off-season.)
A rental car in Guadeloupe is simply a must for vacationers! If you don’t have a rental car for your time in Guadeloupe, you’ll find it very difficult to get around and do anything.
Where to Stay on Basse-Terre
Basse-Terre isn’t very big, and you could road trip it within a matter of days. But to really appreciate the island and partake in its many adventurous outdoor activities, consider staying for at least a week. You won’t run of things to do—promise!
That said, not everywhere in Basse-Terre is ideal for a week-long stay.
While the location of your accommodation doesn’t matter that much if you have a rental car, you will save heaps of time driving around and getting stuck in traffic delays if you localize yourself somewhere on the west coast or the “Côte du Vent.”
If you base yourself around Bouillante, you’ll be only 45 minutes drive from the cute seaside town of Deshaies, and only 55-ish minutes from the base of Soufrière Volcano.
The waterfalls in Guadeloupe National Park are scattered about, so you’ll need to do a bit of driving for those regardless.
I’d recommend spending 5-8 days in Basse-Terre divided into these destinations:
- 3-4 days in Bouillante for Malendure beach, diving, snorkeling, restaurants, hot springs, and Guadeloupe National Park waterfalls!
- 1-2 days in Deshaies.
- 1-3 days in the south of Basse-Terre near Trois Rivières for an overnight trip/day trip to Les Saintes Islands and excursion to hike Les Chutes du Carbet Falls.
Looking for the perfect place to stay? We use Booking.com to find top-rated apartments and hotels wherever we go! ✨
Book by activity and location:
- For easy access to the Soufrière Volcano hike — Gîte de la Vielle Sucrerie (St Claude)
- Bouillante town, Cousteau Réserve, hot springs — Gîte La Nantillaise
- Deshaies town, Grande Anse beach, more beaches — Mangoplaya or Langley Resort Fort Royal
- Trois-Rivières (town with ferry to Les Saintes islands) — Bel Z’Iguane
- Terre-de-Haut (islet of Les Saintes Islands) — Villa Le Sucrier
Best Things to See & Do on Basse-Terre
Scuba Dive in Jacques Cousteau Reserve
Dive pioneer and adventurer Jacques Cousteau once dove around the Pigeon Islands, an area now known worldwide as the Jacques Cousteau Marine Reserve (or Réserve Cousteau). It was integrated into the Guadeloupe National Park and was eventually declared as the “heart” of the park.
It’s here you can witness some of the most beautiful dive spots in Guadeloupe. Read more about what it was like to dive at the Pointe Lézarde inside the protected marine park in my guide.
Hike Soufrière Volcano
Hiking Soufrière, the only volcano in Guadeloupe and the highest peak in the Lesser Antilles (1467 m)—was at the tippy-top of my bucket list. But, due to protests over the vaccine and several roadblocks, we couldn’t go.
If you do get the chance to do this awesome hike, prepare for incredible views and an intense workout. Soufrière is rarely clear, so if it’s an exceptionally clear day, stop what you’re doing and head up the mountain.
The trail difficulty is marked moderate-hard and takes around 3 hours. You can read more about the trails on Basse-Terre, including the ascent up to Soufrière and the Soufrière Loop trail on AllTrails.
Explore the Waterfalls in Guadeloupe National Park
Guadeloupe National Park is just incredible. It’s so lush, so wild, and bubbling over with raw beauty (sometimes, quite literally thanks to its natural hot springs!).
There are dozens of waterfall hikes to go on, but the jewel of them all just might be the tiered Carbet Falls deep in the rainforest. It’s even said they were logged in the journal of Christopher Columbus when arriving at the shores of Basse-Terre. (Can you imagine?)
Many other falls and springs can be found along the Route de la Traversée that cross the national park (and cuts cross the island of Basse-Terre so you don’t have to loop around from north to south).
Other waterfalls in Basse-Terre to take note of are:
- Crayfish Waterfall (Cascade aux Écrevisses)
- Saut de la Lézard
- Saut de Matouba Falls
- Acomat Falls
- La Cascade Paradis
- Saut des Trois Cornes
- Bassin Bleue
- Bras de Fort Falls
Day Trip to Les Saintes Islands
One of the highlights of our time in Guadeloupe was our day excursion to Les Saintes — another subset of islets located just south of Basse-Terre. You can get there in 35 minutes by ferry.
Exploring Terre-de-Haut in one day was so much fun. No cars are on the island, as it’s so small and remote, so people only get around on foot, bike, or scooter!
If you have one or two days to spare, you must visit Terre-de-Haut (Les Saintes). It’s the traditional and well-kempt slice of Guadeloupe paradise with colorful Creole-style houses, cobbled streets, beachfront restaurants, and beaches galore!
Hike the Sentier Grande Pointe / Roches Gravées
Hiking in Basse-Terre isn’t quite like what you experience hiking around Grande-Terre. While Pointe des Châteaux and Porte d’Enfer feature craggy cliffs and strong Atlantic winds and waves, the hikes on Basse-Terre are wet and wild.
I particularly loved the hike “Grande Pointe” south of Basse-Terre in Trois-Rivières.
This hike skirts the southern coastline and features an archaeological park with engraved rocks by the Arawak indigenous peoples who resided across South America and the Greater and the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean.
The river La Coulisse rejoins the ocean along this hike and actually leads you to another hidden waterfall. It’s best to go during the summer months, though, when there has been enough rainfall to hike up the river. I wouldn’t recommend doing it alone, so go with a group or find an outdoor guide who can safely take you.
Chill on Malendure Beach
Malendure Beach is a popular black-sand beach just beyond the town of Bouillante. It’s the gateway to the Cousteau Reserve and the Pigeon Islands.
You can rent kayaks and SUP boards straight from one of the shops on the beach, eat cheap bokit sandwiches and churros from the beachfront shacks, or just watch the sun go down over the Caribbean Sea. It’s such a beautiful spot to relax (can get crowded, though).
Bathe in Natural Hot Springs
You can’t come to Basse-Terre and not steep in its thermal waters. Natural hot springs are aplenty on Basse-Terre, particularly in the town of Bouillante (thanks to the volcano!).
The “Bains Chauds du Bourg” is one of my favorite (free) hot springs; just simply wade in the sea and you’ll feel the incredibly hot water from the geothermal factory in Bouillante.
In fact, the natural hot water is so hot that the factory actually has to cool it before it sends it out into the sea! Les bains chauds de Thomas are also popular.
Visit Sleepy Deshaies
Deshaies is one of the most popular towns to visit in Basse-Terre, besides Bouillante.
Apparently, it’s the traditional meets modern town of the island with enough restaurant options and beaches to keep tourists happy, while remaining down-to-earth and typical.
Chances are you’ve heard of it before if you’ve ever watched BBC’s hit show Death in Paradise, as Deshaies is the real-life filming location for it.
We didn’t get to visit during our time, so, along with Soufrière, I’m re-adding it to the list!
What to Pack for Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe
If you are getting excited about traveling around Basse-Terre, amazing! Before you go, make sure to review this quick packing list to help plan your trip!
- Bathing suit
- Waterproof shoes for waterfall hikes
- Biodegradable mosquito repellent (get some before you get here)
- Reef-friendly sunscreen
- Sunglasses and sun hat
- Beach cover ups
- Hiking trousers or shorts
- Breathable shirts and tanks
- Hiking sandals or boots (for Soufrière)
- Scuba dive mask
- Day bag
- Reusable water bottle
- Microfiber towel or beach towel
Basically, pack for tropical weather, hiking, beach adventures, and swimsuits for waterfall dips, hot spring soaks, and ocean dives! 🐠
If you have any questions about traveling in Basse-Terre, send me your questions in the comment section below. Bon voyage!
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