La Guadeloupe is an underrated French Caribbean island in the Lesser Antilles that beckons adventure travelers and nature lovers to its golden and charcoal-colored shores.
While many come for the promise of rum cocktails (ti-punch) and sunny beach days, there’s more to this butterfly-shaped island than meets the eye.
Much more, actually.
After living on the islands for two months, I came to discover a laundry list of epic things to do in Guadeloupe—from hiking on the active Soufrière volcano and scuba diving to island hopping and waterfall chasing, and more.
In this guide, I’m sharing the best activities, attractions, hikes, and things to do in Guadeloupe that you won’t find anywhere else. Read more below (and don’t forget to bookmark) this ultimate Guadeloupe France bucket list!
The Best Things to Do in Guadeloupe
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First-Timer Tips & Resources
🚗 Rent a car to get around Guadeloupe’s main islands (a must!!)
✈️ Snag cheap round-trip deals on flights on KAYAK
🏖 Find the best hotels & resorts in Guadeloupe on Booking.com
📸 Don’t forget your camera gear (I use a Sony A7II and 24-105mm lens)
🎒 You’ll need a day bag for your adventures! (my favorites: REI, Fjallraven, & Wandrd)
Before we jump into this bucket list, I want to share with you a bit more about Guadeloupe and what to expect.
First, Guadeloupe is an island in the Caribbean that belongs to France. It’s one of France’s overseas departments (DOM). Therefore, Guadeloupe is a part of the French West Indies, along with the island of Martinique.
Second, Guadeloupe is actually made up of several different islands, five of which are inhabited:
- Grande-Terre — considered the “main” island, where most of the population resides.
- Basse-Terre — the lush, volcanic, jungly island connected to Grande-Terre.
- Les Saintes — a subset of 9 islets south of Basse-Terre, but only two are inhabited (Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas).
- Marie-Galante — large, circular island south of Grande-Terre with old windmills and gorgeous beaches.
- La Désirade — a mostly wild island (acutally, three in total if you include the two deserted islets of Petite-Terre) with one commune and one road (11km).
Is Guadeloupe Safe?
For the most part, Guadeloupe is safe and its breathtaking nature and landscapes will blow you away. But the cities and coastal towns aren’t as cute as you’d expect, with evident poverty, political clashes/protests, drugs, and petty crime.
Don’t get me wrong—it’s a safe Caribbean destination, but you don’t want to stroll the streets alone or attract too much attention to yourself as a foreigner.
Seeing as Guadeloupe suffered massively from colonialism and the Triangular Slave Trade, the locals, especially in the more populated towns, can be a bit “apprehensive” by tourists, particularly of European descent. (I was often catcalled and glared at, unfortunately.)
Lastly, you’ll absolutely need to brush up on your French (or Creole), as many locals don’t speak English. Knowing a bit of the language can really help to just be aware of your surroundings.
Now that you have a better idea of Guadeloupe, let’s jump into all the best things to do!
1. Hike in the Rainforest to Carbet Falls
If you do one waterfall and only one hike in Guadeloupe, let it be to Les Chutes du Carbet. These three waterfalls are just incredible.
- 1st fall — the most rewarding hike with amazing views (3 hours roundtrip)
- 2nd fall — the closest and most visited waterfall (20-25 minutes roundtrip)
- 3rd fall — only open to advanced hikers (last section is closed off permanently…)
From the lush greenery to the roar of the falls and all the bits of scenery in between, visiting Carbet Falls is a must-do in Guadeloupe! Read my guide to hiking Carbet Falls for details about getting there, entrance cost, and more.
2. Do an Artisanal Rum Tasting & Tour
You can’t travel to Guadeloupe and not do a rum tasting. (When in Rome, right?)
Guadeloupe and sugarcane go hand-in-hand, so expect dozens of rum distilleries. But don’t go to just any distillery you see—some are better than others.
One, in particular, that you should visit is called GwadiNina. It’s the only family-owned and operated rum distillery where the family does everything by hand.
🍹 Fun fact: While other high-functioning rum distilleries (the big-dog exporters of rum to the world) can produce 10,000 bottles of rum per day, GwadiNina produces about 12,000 bottles per year. That’s the difference in quality and craftsmanship you’ll find here.
You can find this distillery located just 10-minutes outside of Saint-François. A tour with a tasting of their award-winning rums costs only €10.
3. Watch Sunrise at Pointe des Châteaux
One of the most popular things to do in Guadeloupe is to visit the rocky peninsula at Pointe des Châteaux.
It’s one of the most beautiful places to watch the sunrise, too, as it peeks up over the Atlantic.
From atop the hill, you can get awesome panoramic views of Grande-Terre’s coastlines and the surrounding islands of La Désirade and Petite-Terre.
4. Hike Up Soufrière Volcano
Soufrière Volcano has got to be the number one adventure activity in Guadeloupe!
While Soufrière is an active stratovolcano, its last eruption was in 1967-77. Though you probably have nothing to worry about, you should stay cautious and be careful of active fumaroles and toxic gas.
There are several trail hikes you can do to experience Soufrière. However, the only access is by the town of Saint Claude.
From here, hike from Bains Jauns up to the crater via the Traces du Pas-du-Roy and Chemin des Dames. This hike takes around 1h45m (one way). You can do the loop of the crater by returning via the east side of the volcano on the Col de l’Echelle trail.
Don’t forget your bathing suit to soak in the thermal waters at Bains Jaunes!
For easy access to the Soufrière Volcano hike stay at Gîte de la Vielle Sucrerie in Saint Claude.
5. Scuba Dive in the Jacques Cousteau Reserve
Guadeloupe is a diver’s paradise. Captain Cousteau—the founding father of scuba diving—even dove here, in a spot that is now protected as the heart of Guadeloupe National Park: the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Reserve.
Whether you’re a totally newbie or a pro diver, there are plenty of opportunities to discover life under the Caribbean sea.
Where else to go diving:
- Réserve Cousteau — read my experience diving at Pointe Lézarde!
- Les Saintes — Sec Pâté dive spot is the holy grail of Caribbean diving
- Saint-François — venture out into the windy Atlantic to explore calm sandy bottoms
What’s so awesome about diving in Guadeloupe is that it’s fairly cheap. You can expect to pay around €45 to join a group dive (PADI Open Water or other certification required). Discovery dives for beginners and accreditation courses are also available at most dive shops.
6. Road Trip the North of Grande-Terre
What? A road trip on an island? You betcha!
While many tourists will flock to the golden sand beaches of Grande-Terre, there’s much more to this island than that.
In fact, on a road trip around the north of the island, you’ll feel like you’re driving alongside the cliffs of Ireland or on the coast of Brittany.
The landscape from the southern coast to the northern coast changes drastically; from beaches and palm trees to rough Atlantic waves and steep, jagged cliffsides.
Along these backcountry roads are sugarcane fields, abandoned windmills, and quaint small towns. Here are a few to take note of:
- Le Moule — cute town with colorful Hôtel de Ville
- La Porte d’Enfer Lagoon
- Anse Bertrand community + public beach
- Plage du Souffleur (Port Louis)
- Lac de Gaschet
- Pointe de la Grande Vigie — the northernmost point of Grande-Terre
- Anse du Canal & Les Marches des Esclaves
7. Hike to the Porte d’Enfer Lagoon
One of the must-see attractions this side of Guadeloupe is none other than the Porte d’Enfer or Hell’s Gate Lagoon. (It’s not as scary as its name, promise.)
Hiking to Porte d’Enfer is a fun and thrilling outdoor activity you can’t miss on a road trip in Grande-Terre.
You can opt to do the short version, which takes around 20 minutes and takes you out to the Trou de Madame Coco (blow-hole/enclave), or the long version, which follows the coast south down to the Trou du Souffleur.
8. Visit a Black Sand Beach on Basse-Terre
Golden and white-sand beaches are to Grande-Terre as black-sand beaches are to Basse-Terre—yet another reason why Guadeloupe is such a fun island to visit.
Black sand beaches are especially alluring, and Basse-Terre has several thanks to its volcanic rock and soil from Soufrière.
My two favorite black sand beaches are Grande-Anse (pictured, near Trois-Rivières) and Plage de Malendure in Bouillante.
9. Day Trip to Terre-de-Haut (Les Saintes)
One of the highlights from our two months in Guadeloupe was spending the day exploring Terre-de-Haut—the main island of Les Saintes.
Here, you can roam the quaint streets on foot or adventure out to the beaches and castle by scooter or bike. There are no cars.
These islands are what you probably imagine when you think of Guadeloupe. At least, for us, seeing Les Saintes finally fulfilled that “dreamy French Caribbean island” image we had burned into our brains.
There are brightly-painted Creole houses, cute pedestrian streets loaded with shops, pristine beaches with wild palm trees—a stark contrast from the capital city of Pointe-à-Pitre on Grande-Terre filled with burnt cars, run-down buildings, and naked, homeless men in public plazas.
🏝 Plan your visit to Les Saintes with my 1 Day Terre-de-Haut Itinerary.
10. Stroll the Fishing Town of Saint-François
Marked by its upscale marina, ferry port, and local fisherman, a visit to the town of Saint-François is definitely worth adding to your Guadeloupe bucket list.
While it’s not as cute as Les Saintes, by a long shot, it’s one of the most tranquil coastal towns on Grande-Terre.
There are just a handful of things to do, but the peaceful vibes will make you want to kick your feet up and stay for a while.
Not to miss:
- Raisins Clairs Beach: a beautiful beach underneath which are hundreds of graves (no joke)
- Pointe des Châteaux peninsula with its beaches and viewpoints
- GwadiNini rum distillery
- Saint-Francois Marina
You can even rent a floating tiny home in the Saint-François lagoon — how cool is that! SUP and windsurfing, anyone?
11. Kayak & Snorkel at Pigeon Islands
Kayaking and snorkeling are two more fun things to do in Guadeloupe you can’t pass up! The Pigeon Islands, in particular, are an awesome location where both kayaking and snorkeling go hand-in-hand.
What’s more, you can only reach the Pigeon Islands by kayak. Boats are not allowed, so if you want to walk on the land itself, you can only do so if you go by kayak.
You can rent kayaks and snorkel equipment on Malendure Beach in Bouillante. From here, it takes around 20 minutes to cross the bay to reach Pigeon Islands inside the Réserve Cousteau.
Other fun kayaking opportunities in Guadeloupe:
- Kayaking to Le Gosier Islet & Lighthouse
- Kayaking in the Mangroves of the Grand-Cul-de-Sac Marin (book your tour with Matt here)
12. Swim in Turquoise Water in Sainte-Anne
The town of Sainte-Anne is perhaps the most popular spot for vacationers because the beaches here are picturesque as they are aplenty.
While you risk enjoying the turquoise shores with other tourists, it’s simply one of the best locations on Grande-Terre to stick your toes in its buttery-soft white sand. Caravelle Beach and the Plage du Bourge Sainte-Anne are two beaches you won’t want to miss.
🍨 Tip: If you go to Sainte Anne, treat yourself to organic, homemade açai at Les Givrés. It’s delicious!
13. Stand at the “Northernmost” Tip of Guadeloupe
Don’t you love geography? I do too, which is why, when I heard that you could visit the northernmost point of all of Guadeloupe, I hopped in our rental car and set the GPS to Pointe de la Grande Vigie.
So far, I’ve been to the northernmost point of South America (Punta Gallinas) and the westernmost point of continental Europe (Cabo da Roca, Portugal). Now I can add Pointe de la Grande Vigie to that growing bucket list fetish of mine. Neat, huh?
The hiking here is beautiful—similar to what you’ll see if you do the Porte d’Enfer hike, though (but on way higher cliffs and more panoramic vistas).
14. Soak in Bouillante’s Natural Hot Springs
If you’re still reading this, good—because you’re in for a treat. Guadeloupe has dozens of naturally-heated geothermal hot springs and yes, you can soak in them!! 🧖♀️
Where can you find hot springs in Guadeloupe?
You’ll find hot springs mostly on Basse-Terre, which makes sense because it’s the island with the active volcano. 🌋 The town of Bouillante (“boiling water” in French) is the perfect place to relax in hot springs (both free and paid).
- Thomas Bains Chauds
- Bains Chauds du Bourg (pictured)
- Bain du Curé
Fun fact: The geothermal factory in Bouillante produces about 8% of Guadeloupe’s electricity, the only and first of its kind in all of France.
15. Visit Iguanas on the Deserted Petite-Terre Islet
Petite Terre is a protected nature reserve comprising two deserted islands named Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas. (Whoever named the islands of Guadeloupe must not have been a very colorful or inventive character, seeing as they named all the islands either “high” and “low” or “big” and “small.”)
You can only reach Petite Terre via catamaran or speed boat. Tours typically cost around $100 per person and last either for a half-day or all-day excursion.
There isn’t much to do on the deserted island, of course, except for being on a deserted island for a day! There is a small walking trail you can do to reach the Petite Terre lighthouse. Other than that, the best thing to do is to bask in the sun alongside the many wild iguanas! 🦎
16. Tour the Memorial ACTe (Slave Trade Museum)
Another thing to do in Guadeloupe, that I believe all locals and foreigners should do, is the Slave Trade Museum, also known as the Memorial ACTe.*
It’s a contemporary museum showcasing historical exhibits of the Caribbean’s indigenous population and the horrors of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. If you’re breezing through Pointe-à-Pitre, you can’t miss it.
*Currently closed due to the ongoing global health situation.
17. Do a Multi-Day Trip to Marie-Galante Island
Marie-Galante is the big oval-shaped island you see on the map south of Grande-Terre. Why should you visit it and include it on your list of must-see places in Guadeloupe? Here are a few things to see and do there.
- Visit and photography “Le Geule Grand Goffre” and the Devil’s Hole
- Tour the Bellevue Rhum Distillery
- Explore historic castle ruins and windmills from the 18th and 19th centuries
- Ride on a traditional ox cart
- Enjoy live music at the Terre de Blue International Music Festival (month of May)
- Lounge on pristine white-sand beaches (argued to be some of the “best in the Caribbean”)
Fun Fact: Apparently, Christopher Columbus, upon sighting the island for the first time, decided to name Marie-Galante after his ship, the Maria Galanda.Source: U.S. News Travel
Don’t make the mistake, as so many tourists do, of trying to visit Marie-Galante on a day trip. Otherwise, your day will be absolutely packed and a little overwhelming—everything that the island is not.
There are so many awesome things to do in Marie-Galante in Guadeloupe, so if you can, plan at least two days. The ferry cost to get there is €28 one-way or €46 return with Val Ferry (duration: 1 hour).
18. Visit “Roches Gravées” Archaeological Park/Trail
History buffs and hikers will love this next thing to do in Guadeloupe (that’s definitely off the beaten path!).
The Engraved Rocks Archaeological Park, located on the southern coast of Basse-Terre, is a park featuring preserved engravings from the island’s original inhabitants — the indigenous Taino, or Arawak Indians.
Beyond the park is a hiking trail called Grande Pointe you can take that skirts the southern coastline. It can be a little hard to find, so I’ve put the trail’s start and endpoints on Google Maps for you here.
19. Chase Waterfalls in Guadeloupe National Park
Waterfalls are synonymous with the island of Guadeloupe! While Carbet Falls is perhaps the most remarkable and popular waterfall to visit, there are many others you should seek out.
- Crayfish Waterfall (Cascade aux Écrevisses)
- Saut de la Lézard
- Saut de Matouba Falls
- Acomat Falls
- La Cascade Paradis
- Le Saut des Trois Cornes
- Bassin Bleue
- Bras de Fort Falls
Many of these waterfalls—and even some hot springs—can be found along the Route de la Traversée that crosses Basse-Terre and Guadeloupe National Park from east to west.
20. Spend the Day in Deshaies
If you’re thinking, “Deshaies… that rings a bell”, then you might be right! After all, Deshaies is the real-life filming location of the famous old-fashioned murder mystery show Death in Paradise.
While there’s not much to do in the town itself, except stroll its quaint streets and marvel at the red-colored roofs, there are a few popular beaches and hikes and even a botanical garden not too far away worth exploring.
🌺 Looking for the best places to stay nearby Deshaies? Click here to review the top accommodation options!
21. Escape to La Désirade Island
If the main islands are becoming too saturated, there’s always La Désirade.
Inhabited by only 1300 people (more or less), La Désirade (meaning, “The Forgotten”) is one of the wildest and minimally-developed islands of Guadeloupe.
It’s also the oldest island in the entire Lesser Antilles! How neat is that?
Because of this, La Désirade is a protected Nature Reserve, just like its two uninhabited, deserted sister islands of Petite Terre.
Getting there takes around 45 minutes by ferry from Saint-François and costs €35 roundtrip.
22. Boat Ride to the Clear Waters of Caret Islet
Are you keeping up with all the islands of Guadeloupe?! I hope so because here’s another one to add to the bucket list: L’Îlet Caret.
This tiny, remote, and uninhabited island is a popular day trip activity to do in Guadeloupe. With crystal clear waters home to sea turtles, it beckons snorkelers and beach-goers to its sandy shores.
There’s only one pop-up restaurant serving the fresh catch of the day, but if you go with a tour you can have food and drinks included.
The protected coral reef is a stunning spot to snorkel at. There’s also a sunken ship perfect for snorkeling, too!
23. Do a Responsible Whale Watching Tour
Whales, dolphins, sperm whales, and other cetaceans visit the warm coastal waters of Guadeloupe. A whale-watching tour is a perfect way to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.
The tour departs from Pointe Noire, and is led by Captain Näel who has been a “child of the ocean.”
His tour company, Soleil Excursions, is AGOA certified; meaning, their operation adopts sustainable practices in respect of the animals and the environment.
24. Visit the Colorful Spice Market in Pointe-à-Pitre
Even though Pointe-à-Pitre isn’t the prettiest city in Guadeloupe to visit, there are a few cool things to check out, like the Memorial ACTe, the colonial home of Saint-John-Perse, and Place de la Victoire.
But, if anything, you should come here to observe the vibrancy of local life at the Sainte-Antoine Spice Market located in the Central Market downtown.
Here (or at any other market in smaller towns), you can get a whiff of the Creole aromas and flavors. Don’t leave without taking home some Colombo spice and fresh vanilla pods!
25. Watch Sunset at the Vieux Fort Lighthouse
Finally, the last thing I recommend you do in Guadeloupe is to watch the sunset at the Phar du Vieux Fort (lighthouse). I can tell you this sunset was truly magical!
If you do go, you can say you’ve seen sunrise and sunset over the Atlantic! (In fact, you could do both on the same day!)
Plus, this spot is hardly on the tourist trail. From what we saw, only locals really know about this place. We only found it thanks to our hosts who we stayed with for two weeks in Trois Rivières.
Tip: Go a tad earlier to snag a spot and enjoy dinner at the bar and restaurant Le Phare.
La Guadeloupe — Final Travel Tips
Best Time to Go to Guadeloupe
Since Guadeloupe is in the Caribbean, the best time to visit is sometime between December and May.
The shoulder months of November and June may also be ideal, but it depends on the weather. Go too early or late, and you risk your travel plans clashing with the wet, humid season and even the hurricane months (August–October).
You also want to be wary of holidays, and peak travel days. Guadeloupe’s hotel and rental car prices spike just before and after the holidays. The earlier you can reserve, the better.
What to Pack
What should you pack for Guadeloupe? Here is a quick list of items you may want to bring with you (others you can find once there).
- Bathing suit (or 2 or 3…)
- 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 hiking Soufrière and other rocky trails)
- Scuba dive / snorkel mask (optional — all dive shops will include equipment in their excursions)
- Day bag (REI, Fjallraven, & Wandrd)
- Reusable water bottle
- Microfiber towel or beach towel
What you need will ultimately depend on your style of travel, and whether or not your here to backpack the island or spend most of your time at your hotel in Guadeloupe.
Driving in Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe is not a very well-connected island, and you will absolutely need to rent a car for the duration of your trip. (Unless you’re staying in one resort the entire time, but that’s unlikely.)
Tips for driving in Guadeloupe and road safety:
- Signs are just like the ones in France
- Expect lots of speedbumps!!
- Round-abouts are everywhere
- People drive fast and furious, so be careful!
- Avoid renting a scooter to cross the main islands
- Never leave your valuables in sight in the car
- Employees at gas stations will fill up your tank for you
- Rent and return at Pointe-à-Pitre airport for the best prices
🚗 Click here to reserve your rental car for Guadeloupe!
Backpacking VS Moving to Guadeloupe
Finally, if you’re still reading this (thank you!) then you should know that backpacking and traveling around Guadeloupe for vacation is not the same as moving to Guadeloupe to live as a digital nomad for a short-term stay.
Why? Well, for several reasons:
- Rental car prices per day seriously add up after a month
- It’s very hard to find decent Airbnbs or hotels for short stays (of 1-2 weeks) that don’t cost a fortune (even “local” housing was typically more than €800-1200 for one month).
- Wifi is unreliable and slow
- There is rampant water shortages and cuts
As a backpacker or vacationer visiting Guadeloupe, you rent a car for one week or ten days at most and can afford to splurge a little on your vacation. You also won’t face water cuts in hotels as a tourist.
But if you want to keep a relatively low budget, then staying in Guadeloupe “like a local” for more than two weeks is just too expensive. We thought prices might be closer to that of living as a nomad in Mexico, but we were so wrong. It was more like living in Paris—even a basic meal in a local restaurant cost around €15–22+ per person!
Bottom line? Book your car/hotel/guided activities far in advance, and plan out your stay beforehand. Guadeloupe is not the place to just show up without reservations unless you want to empty your pockets.
If you have any questions at all about traveling in Guadeloupe or on any of its islands, please let me know in the comments below.
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