Bright Reefs, Blue Waters and French Flair
Dive pioneer Jacques Cousteau was wowed by the Caribbean seascapes he discovered around the islands of Guadeloupe, and the marine reserve that bears his name includes some of the region's most popular dive sites. But that's just the start. Miles of shallow reefs hold colorful coral gardens and sponge beds at diver-friendly depths. Also on the menu are arches and swim-throughs, submarine canyons, a dramatic series of offshore pinnacles and a trio of wrecks. Small treasures await discovery, while whales gather in offshore waters. Complementing this rich underwater landscape are islands that combine natural beauty with French charm, adding an extra element to the dive experience.
- Best for: All divers
- Best season to visit: Year round. Summer rain showers may temporarily cloud near shore wreck sites, but provide calmer seas for trips to offshore sites
- 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
About Diving in the Guadeloupe Islands
The Guadeloupe Islands are surrounded by an extensive network of coral reefs and volcanic substrate. Dive sites can be found around all of the islands, with the most popular area being the western coast of Bass-Terre, which is the site of the Cousteau Marine Park at Pigeon Island. Also popular is the Saint-Francois area of Grande-Terre, which gives access to sites around Petite Terre and La Desirade. Most diving is done at depths of 30 to 60 feet on reefs known for colorful sponges and coral growths. Deeper and more challenging offshore dives are also available for those seeking greater variety. Water temperatures range from 79 to 86 degrees.
Diving in the Guadeloupe Islands Tips
Heavy rains can cause temporary drops in visibility to some near shore sites but leave other sites unaffected. Local dive operators may shift itineraries accordingly. Not all dive operators will speak English, so consult with your Caradonna dive travel professionals if planning side trips beyond the primary resort dive package.
Best Places to Dive in the Guadeloupe Islands
Sites around Pigeon Island remain in good health thanks to protected marine park status. Pointe Carangues and Pointe Barracuda offer dramatic slopes facing blue waters. The champagne dive at Bouillante is a fascinating example of underwater geothermal activity. Off Grande-Terre, Aquarium and Japanese Gardens provide broad swaths of colorful reefs. The Arches offer a fascinating landscape of caves and swim-throughs. The pinnacles of Sec Pate have been called one of the best open-water dives in the Caribbean.
What to Pack for Diving in the Guadeloupe Islands
All divers are from a boat, so include a soft day bag that can be stowed under cockpit benches and a dry box for sundries. Full-foot fins and a travel BC are well suited to the island's relaxed style of diving. Bring a logbook if planning to dive the wrecks, as some operators wish to see documentation of deep diving experience.
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Diving in Guadeloupe
The Guadeloupe Islands present a range of underwater landscapes that mirror the above-water topographies. The two major islands, Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre are separated only by a river-width channel but are very different in nature. Volcanic Basse-Terre is dominated by the 4,800-foot profile of La Grande Soufrière. The underwater landscape features slopes encrusted in hard and soft corals, punctuated by underwater headlands and valleys. The island's west coast sits in the lee of prevailing trade winds and swell and is home to a significant portion of Guadeloupe's diving activity. Most popular are the Pigeon Islands, which are the site of the Cousteau Marine Park. Despite sometimes heavy diver traffic, the reserve's no-take and no-anchor policies have resulted in thriving coral colonies that support healthy populations of reef fish. Deeper sites on outer slopes sometimes attract blue-water fish such as tuna and king mackerel. Nearby is a trio of artificial reefs. At depths of 75 feet, the twisted remains of the 165-foot Franjack have become a refuge for turtles, fish and moray eels. The 190-foot former lightship Augustin Fresnel sits nearby at a depth of 100 feet, and the 155-foot coastal freighter Gustavia completes the collection but is considered a deep dive at a depth of 120 feet. Another popular dive a few miles to the south of the Pigeon Islands is the champagne site at Bouillante, where geothermal activity creates streams of gas bubbles that rise from sand channels within the reef. In contrast to Basse-Terre's western slopes, the lower-lying limestone substrate of Grand-Terre extends seaward in a series of grass beds and shallower coral ridges. At Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin, a 24-mile expanse of reef lies within the Guadeloupe National Park. This area is home to dozens of dive sites where the focus is on the luxuriant coral and sponge formations growing at depths from 20 to 60 feet. Dive operations near the eastern tip of the island at Saint-Francois are positioned for trips to the outlying island of La Desirade. Rising from deeper Atlantic waters, this less-visited island offers more dramatic seascapes that include caves, canyons and boulder-strewn slopes, and it is known for abundant fish life. Also less visited but no less dramatic are the caves, arches and large coral formations found off the northwest coast of Grande-Terre at Port-Louis. For even more underwater variety, divers can schedule day trips to Les Saintes. Sites around this cluster of eight small islands range from protected coves rich in soft coral forests to points and outcroppings ideal for drift dives. One of the most storied dive sites in Guadeloupe lies several miles to the north. The submerged pinnacles of Sec Pate rise from depths of 1,000 feet to within 45 feet of the surface. This offshore oasis supports vibrant populations of sponges, sea fans and hard corals, and attracts large numbers of fish. Because the site is exposed to currents and swell, it is dive only when conditions are favorable.
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).