Mangroves, Manatees and Deserted Beaches
How to best discover the magic of the Guadeloupe Islands lagoons? Canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddling will enable you to venture through the unique environment of the Grand-Cul-de-Sac-Marin’s mangrove, the largest of the Lesser Antilles, as well as the coastline without damaging it. The perfect balance between sport and nature exploration. Between the north shores of Guadeloupe’s main islands and the Caribbean Sea lies a transition zone, a place of bright shallow bays and shaded mangrove forests. Now recognized as a UNESCO Global Biosphere Reserve, the expansive lagoon of the Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin is a water playground for paddlers and pedal boat tours. More than 250 varieties of colorful tropical fish swim in the clear shallow water, birds perch in the green oases of the mangroves, and endangered manatees once more call these waters home. More adventures await in the Pigeon Islands. Here, the waters of the Cousteau Reserve hold shipwrecks and coral reefs awaiting discovery, and deserted beaches that invite you to stop and relax or take a swim.
- Best for: Solos, couples and families, beach lovers and adventurers
- Best season to visit: Year round
- Weather: Steady trade winds account for relatively minor differences in seasonal air temperatures, which range from the 70s into the mid 80s. Rain showers are less common from December to May
Guadeloupe Islands Information
Paddle Sports in the Guadeloupe Islands Overiew
A small number of experienced paddlers challenge the open waters between the islands of Guadeloupe, but most kayak and paddle boat activity takes place in around the Pigeon Islands and in the sheltered bay known as Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin, which is located on the northern coast of Basse-Terre and the west coast of Grande-Terre islands.
Paddle Sports in the Guadeloupe Islands Tips
When paddling or peddling, keep an eye out for manatees. After years of decline, these gentle “sea cows” are now returning to the coastal waters of Guadeloupe. For a guaranteed glimpse, head to the manatee breeding center at the village of Lamentin.
Best Places for Paddle Sports in the Guadeloupe Islands
Near the northern terminus of the Salt River, a network of mangrove islands and channels provides hours of exploration. A coral reef runs across the mouth of Grand Cul De Sac Marin, creating calm water for paddling and excellent snorkeling stops. In the center of the bay, a pair of shallow shipwrecks can be seen from the surface. The Pigeon Islands are an easy paddle from Malendure Beach.
Paddle sports are the perfect activities to go at your own pace whether in the beautiful lagoon of Saint-François or in the Grand-Cul-de-Sac Marin. Do not miss the mangrove! Bouillante, in Basse-Terre, also offers more kayaking options in the stunning Cousteau reserve diving site.
What to Pack for Paddle Sports in the Guadeloupe Islands
Wear something that can get wet, but also provide sun protection. A wide brim hat will provide both cooling and shade for the face. Use a waterproof dry bag for valuables, and rather than fold it tight, leave enough air space so that it will float, just in case.
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Passport and/or Visa Requirements
Entry Requirements: U.S. citizens must have a valid Passport and a return or ongoing ticket. Passport must be valid for 6 months beyond date of entry and 1 page required for entry stamp.
No vaccinations or preventative medications are required for travel to Guadeloupe Islands. Yellow Fever is not a problem here. Check with the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at cdc.gov.
Culture and Customs
The Guadeloupe Islands are a department of France, but they are also very much a part of the Caribbean. In bustling Pointe-à-Pitre, a stroll along Rue Frébault provides boutiques stocking perfumes, haute couture and delicacies straight from Paris. The scene shifts at Rue Duplessis when shoppers are immersed in the sights, sounds and scents of the St. Antoine Spice Market. In this open-air celebration of micro-capitalism, animated vendors hawk handicrafts, seafood and produce, and the smells of exotic spices permeate. Similar dualities abound across the islands. One can linger over buttery croissants and cafe au late at a sidewalk cafe, or duck into a corner rum shop for a bokit sandwich washed down by a Ti Punch. A local favorite, bokit is similar to fried naan bread stuffed with delicious hams and cheeses. Guadeloupe's dining scene is among the most celebrated in the Caribbean, with island chefs drawing on both French and Creole traditions. Lively dance traditions such as zouk, quadrille and toumbélé are enjoying newfound popularity in a culture that celebrates its roots, but also enjoys fusion jazz and dancehall music. The islands also support a vibrant arts community and have produced some of the region's most respected writers. For an immersion in island culture, plan a visit to the lively market days staged on alternating Sundays at the towns of Le Moule, Sainte-Anne and Saint-Claudeon. Grande-Terre's magnificent beaches host a number of upscale hotels, while the green slopes of Basse-Terre are home to nature preserves and parks where hiking trails lead to hidden waterfalls. Harbors on the island's western shore are launching points for whale watching excursions, and as many as 15 species of marine mammals are known to frequent the area. A network of excellent roads facilitates land travel while an efficient ferry system making island hopping easy. Favorite destinations include postcard-quaint bays of Les Santes and the quiet island of Marie-Galante, which provides a glimpse of old-school Caribbean life. When on Les Saintes, be sure to try a Tourment D’Amour -a pastry that resembles a height- challenged cupcake flavored with coconut and tropical fruits.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
Electricity is 220 Volt, 50 cycle with European standard wall plugs. U.S. appliances will require an adapter. WiFi is available at many hotels.
Guadeloupe Island's country/area code is 590. It is recommended that you check with your local provider to see what data plans are available or roaming charges will apply.
The water is safe to drink Guadeloupe. Many brands of local and imported bottled water is available for purchase at most restaurants and stores if preferred.
Language & Currency
French is the official language of the Guadeloupe Islands. You will hear locals speaking Creole. While at the hotels and tourist areas, English may be spoken, but outside of these areas very little English is spoken. A French translation book is recommended.
The Euro is the currency in the Guadeloupe Islands. U.S. Dollars and sometimes traveler checks may be accepted. It is a good idea to rely on your credit cards for purchases. Please let your credit card company know that you will be travelling out of the country to make sure your card is available while on vacation and see if they charge any foreign transaction fees due to the currency exchange.
Guadeloupe Islands is on Atlantic Standard Time (AST) and does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Guadeloupe Islands are 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT).
Location, Size and Population
Guadeloupe Islands are located in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean and are part of the Lesser Antilles. The islands encompass nearly 630 square miles including the 2 connected main islands of Basse-Terre and Grand-Terre and the smaller islands of Les Saintes, Marie-Galante and La Desirade.
The population of the Guadeloupe Islands is 470,755 (2016).