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Seek the Unseen in Guadeloupe: 3 Islands Away from the Crowds

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Embark on a journey to these Guadeloupe islands and discover a world beyond the usual tourist paths. From hidden beaches to unspoiled natural beauty, these three lesser-known islands offer a chance to travel differently, immersing you in unique experiences and breathtaking landscapes. 

Whether you’re admiring the world-class bay in Les Saintes, snorkeling in La Désirade, or rum tasting in Marie-Galante, you’re bound to come back changed, with stories that sparkle brighter than the Caribbean sun. Ready to explore Guadeloupe like never before?

What is Guadeloupe best known for? Its islands!

Guadeloupe, an enchanting French Overseas Territory, lies amidst the captivating beauty of the Lesser Antilles. Known for its distinctive butterfly shape, the archipelago consists primarily of two main islands – Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre – which form the left and right wings of this natural wonder. But beyond these well-trodden shores, three other islands emerge as hidden jewels in the Caribbean, each offering a unique slice of tropical paradise.

Planning a day or multiday-trip to these paradise islands is truly one of the best things to do in Guadeloupe if you’re looking to really see the destination for what it is.

The most common way to get to and from any of these three Guadeloupe islands is by boat. It’s worth noting that although the service is operated on a regular basis, the frequency varies depending on the season. Traveling by boat is a great way to enjoy the beautiful views over the crystal clear waters and to admire the open sea! On a clear day, you may even be able to see the peaks of neighboring Dominica in the distance…

Les Saintes

Just 10 kilometers southeast of Basse-Terre, nine islets stand proudly. The two largest rocks are inhabited, while the seven others remain untamed: together they make up Les Saintes, discovered and named by Christopher Columbus in 1493. For many, the charm of this archipelago lies in its magnificent landscapes and the contrast between its two centers.


Ah, Terre-de-Haut, the vibrant star of the Les Saintes archipelago. Only 6 kilometers long and 2 kilometers wide, it’s easy to explore on foot if you’re in good shape, or better yet, rent a scooter or bike for the day. 

Stroll through its streets and you’ll be enchanted by the quaint beachside restaurants, each telling the story of a rich cultural tapestry. And then there’s the magnificent Bay of Les Saintes, a jewel in the crown of UNESCO’s World’s Most Beautiful Bays. History buff? Visit the well-preserved Fort Napoleon for a glimpse of the area’s historical significance as the “Gibraltar of the Antilles”.

Whether you’re enjoying a ti-punch with scenic views,lounging on the world-class sand beaches, or diving into the crystal clear waters for a snorkeling adventure, Terre-de-Haut promises experiences that are as delightful as they are memorable!


Then there’s Terre-de-Bas, the rugged, less-traveled path with just 1000 inhabitants. This tranquil island is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, boasting a network of hiking trails that weave through rocky hilltops, offering breathtaking views.

Terre-de-Bas is home to two neighborhoods: Grande-Anse and Petite-Anse, which are linked by a ferry service. Whatever you choose, know that there is very little to do here! Except of course take in the breathtaking views, meet the locals and learn about the traditional island way of life. The lack of a million sights and landmarks makes it a good opportunity to sit back, relax, and truly appreciate the experience.

How to get to Les Saintes

The main ports for connections to Les Saintes are St-François (via Marie-Galante, roughly 90 minutes) and Trois-Rivières (nonstop and in just 30 minutes) with service to Terre-de-Haut. There are three operators to choose from for the crossing: CTM, Val’Ferry and Karu’Ferry. L’Express des Îles also offers connections to Les Saintes from Pointe-à-Pitre, but only once a week.

It’s worth noting that it’s perfectly possible to make a day trip to Les Saintes without having to stay overnight. It is one of the easiest ways to discover the archipelago of Guadeloupe!

A return ferry ticket costs an average of 40 euros per adult.

La Désirade

Located northeast of Pointe des Châteaux, just east of Grande-Terre, La Désirade island resembles a mountain whose peaks have been cut off. It’s an elevated atoll with a peak of 275 meters, consisting of an immense, very flat plateau covered by dense forests.

Between the Creole villages where the 1,700 Désiradiens live, wild nature and heavenly beaches, this is the perfect place to be if you’re looking for utter peace and quiet in nature. First, hire a bike or a scooter. Second, plan stops at the Pointe Doublée lighthouse, the ruins of the Leprosarium, visit the colorful beach huts in Beauséjour, and admire the view from the Notre Dame du Calvaire chapel.

And because you’re inevitably going to ask, here are the best beaches in La Désirade:

  • Plage FanFan
  • Plage Fifi
  • Plage du Souffleur
  • Plage de Petite-Rivière

Whether you enjoy kitesurfing, windsurfing or scuba diving, with such easy access to the sea, water sports are a must in this area.

How to get to La Désirade

The only way to get to La Désirade is by Comadile ferry from the port of Saint-François. The ferry ride takes about 45 minutes and offers a scenic (although quite choppy) route to the island. It’s advisable to check the ferry schedules in advance as they can vary seasonally and are subject to weather conditions.

There are plenty of charming, locally owned and operated accommodations on La Désirade. This makes it easy to stay for a few days and really take the time to explore this stunning island.


Welcome to “the big galette”, as it’s called here because of its round shape. Here, every turn reveals one of its ten stunning beaches, where the azure waves kiss the shore.

When it comes to beaches, Marie Galante is unsurpassed. Endless stretches of fine white sand rub shoulders with turquoise lagoons and coral reefs…a true Caribbean postcard!

This round island offers a tapestry of experiences. 10 breathtaking beaches, art museums that tell stories through vibrant colors, and centuries-old sugarcane plantations that stand as silent storytellers of a bygone era. Vast fields of sugar cane occupy most of the land. Three distilleries still operate on the island. It’s not uncommon to see ox carts pulling alongside the distilleries. These strange carts are still in use to transport curious tourists looking for a ride (though not much in the way of comfort!).

Interested in truly diving in the traditional Antilles way of life and learn more about their rich heritage? Marie-Galante is then one of the best Guadeloupe islands to discover.

How to get to Marie-Galante

From Pointe-à-Pitre, three companies will take you to Marie-Galante: Express des îles, Jeans for Freedom and Val Ferry. From Saint-François, a daily shuttle service operated by Comadile leaves the port at 7:15 am.

It’s easy to plan a multi-day stay here! That’s thanks to the many local accommodation options, from homestays to large, fully staffed villas. There’s something to suit every taste and budget!

Îlets de la Petite-Terre

Keen to visit a low-key destination on your Guadeloupe vacation where fauna reigns supreme? Îles de la Petite-Terre, a duo of smaller islands, offers an untouched paradise for nature enthusiasts. They are uninhabited and have been declared a nature reserve; only designated reserve rangers are allowed to stay overnight.

These protected nature reserves boast crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and diverse marine life, making them ideal for snorkeling. In the lagoon, turtles, all kinds of colorful fish, dozens of bird species and magnificent corals are easy to spot. You can also see iguanas, hermit crabs and majestic agaves. The islands’ unspoiled beaches and lighthouse add to their allure.

How to get to Îlets de la Petite-Terre

Departing from Saint-François, you’ll cast off for a crossing lasting around 1h30. 

Unlike the previous islands, and due to the protected nature of the island, excursions are organized according to specific programs offered by various tour operators. Most of the excursions include transportation, a guided tour, a small lunch, as well as the rental of palms and masks for snorkeling.

These Guadeloupe islands can only accommodate a limited number of visitors per day, so advance reservations are strongly recommended.

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