Six populated islands comprise the archipelago of Guadeloupe. Alongside the uninhabited islets, the two main islands of Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre form the most significant land masses. The shape this pretty pair makes is often likened to a butterfly. Meanwhile, to the south you’ll find Marie-Galante, Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas (which together make up Les Saintes) and La Désirade.
Scattered throughout this French overseas region are many fine stretches of sand. For many, they provide a compelling reason to visit. We’ve compiled a list of our favourites so if you’re keen to do the same, here are what we consider the best beaches in Guadeloupe.
The best beaches on Grande-Terre
Grande-Terre is the flatter of the two largest islands. Beachgoers will notice a big difference between the rolling breakers of the Atlantic coast and the calmer, reef-protected waters to the south.
The swaying coconut palms of Bois Jolan Plage are a brochure-worthy sight. This family friendly beach in Sainte-Anne is popular for its laid-back vibe and shallow water. On the other side of town is Caravelle, bagged by guests of Club Med but open to anyone. Experienced surfers flock here because of a left reef break boosted by swells.
Close by, centrally located Bourg beach is convenient for the many restaurants, beach bars and market stalls that line the waterfront. Meanwhile further west, kite surfers dominate the white sands which line Anse du Belley.
Saint-François is another of Grande-Terre’s established resorts. Close to town, check out the Plage des Raisins Clairs, where warm, clear waves gently lap sugar-soft sand. Heading east, you’ll soon reach windswept Pointe des Châteaux, where a beach backed by limestone cliffs overlooks the island of La Désirade, a short ferry ride away.
On the north coast, intrepid travellers can follow a set of steps leading down to a sandy cove, called the Porte d’Enfer, meaning Gates of Hell. In fact, the sight of waves breaking in this secluded spot is more accurately described as heavenly, though take care if swimming as the current is strong.
Datcha Beach is the main port of call here, with a lively atmosphere and plenty of opportunities for water sports. The views are splendid; this beach overlooks Gosier Island and its landmark lighthouse. Swim across to see its resident iguanas or take the easy option with one of the frequent shuttle boats. It too boasts lovely beaches which are considerably quieter than those on the mainland.
The best beaches on Basse-Terre
Mountainous Basse-Terre is better known for the verdant Parc National de la Guadeloupe with its lush vegetation and cascading waterfalls, not to mention La Soufrière volcano. But there are also plenty of incredible beaches if you know where to look.
This corner of Basse-Terre is home to the longest beach in Guadeloupe. A little more than a mile out of town, the golden sands of Grand Anse beach attract many visitors. Sea grape trees and palms provide welcome shade, while beach vendors supply refreshing handmade coconut sorbet. The area is also where you’ll find Plage de la Perle, protected by a coral reef.
Plage Malendure is one of this volcanic island’s black sand beaches. The bay attracts snorkellers. If you’re lucky, you might spot a green turtle or two, though conditions haven’t fully recovered after the battering it took from Hurricane Maria a few years ago. Divers set off from here to the nearby Cousteau Reserve and Pigeon Islands.
The warm orange sands (and sometimes wild waves) of Cluny Beach provide a bit of drama to Basse-Terre’s north coast. The distinctive colour results from the intermixing of sand from the limestone reef of Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin and the volcanic bedrock. Sea turtles nest here in the shady low dunes, unperturbed by the highway that flanks the beach.
The best beaches on the southern islands
Vieux-Fort Beach dominates the north coast of Marie-Galante. Yellow sand meets the emerald of the ocean at this colourful spot and kayakers explore mangroves at a leisurely pace. Though the sea can sometimes be a little too rough to take a dip, the view’s to die for and well worth the trip.
On the opposite coast, travellers should make a beeline for Feuillère Beach. Pear trees, coconut palms, and sea grape trees, known locally as raisiniers, line almost a kilometre of gorgeous white sand. Offshore is a small coral reef which ensures the cerulean sea is calm enough for swimming or water sports.
Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas
The Roches Percées (Pierced Rocks) protect the Plage de Pompierre, creating a pronounced cove. It’s popular with day-trippers who come to picnic and hang out at this attractive spot on Terre-de-Haut.
Over on Terre-de-Bas, Grande-Anse Beach nestles beneath the forested hills, providing sun seekers with a superb view of Pain de Sucre Mountain and Cabrit Islet. The swells can make swimming a bit hit and miss, though surfers will love the tubes. In contrast, Back Cove is a little off the beaten track. Fishermen mend their nets and traps or work on their boats while holidaymakers relax beneath coconut palms.
The calmer southern flank of the skinny, finger-like island of La Désirade boasts several excellent beaches. Begin with Fanfan Beach, close to Beauséjour, where fishermen astride colourfully-painted boats stretch wire netting across wooden frames to fashion fish traps.
To the east, beyond the unspoilt sands of Fifi Beach, you’ll come to Blower Beach. This is a snorkellers’ favourite thanks to its corals teeming with tropical fish. The coral extends to pretty Little River Beach, whose natural spring enables coconut palms to flourish on this arid island.
No matter whether you like your sand beside a loud and lively resort or firmly off the beaten track, Guadeloupe’s varied beaches will be just the ticket. Thanks to the local ferries that provide affordable and frequent connections, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t indulge in a little island-hopping. After all, how will you know these are the best beaches in Guadeloupe if you don’t see for yourself?