We love scuba diving, and when we travel, we are always in search of the best diving spots. With its reputation for crystal-clear waters, diverse marine life, and a range of dive sites suitable for all levels, Guadeloupe is often described as a paradise for scuba divers. So we really wanted scuba diving to be a focus when we travelled to the French archipelago in the Caribbean.
We had the pleasure of experiencing numerous dives around Guadeloupe and wanted to share our insights and research to help you plan your own scuba diving adventure in Guadeloupe.
Are you covered for scuba diving by your travel insurance? It’s worth double-checking. If not, I recommend DAN (Divers Alert Network) for those who dive regularly. WorldNomads* and Covermore* also make it easy to add adventurous activities like scuba diving to your plan.
Top dive sites in Guadeloupe
We did more than a dozen dives in different places in Guadeloupe. While not every dive met our high expectations, we were never disappointed.
We’re so lucky to live in Brisbane with fantastic dive sites near home that, even if we always have a good time, we’re not easily impressed. However, one location in Guadeloupe turned out to be one of the best scuba diving sites we’ve ever experienced!
The numbers in brackets correspond to the numbers on the map at the end of the article.
Located in the channel between Basse-Terre and Les Saintes, Sec Pâté (1) is renowned as the most famous and breathtaking diving site in Guadeloupe. This site is accessible only to experienced divers with deep specialty (40m) due to its depth and potential strong currents.
The underwater pinnacles covered in colourful corals and sponges are very beautiful and attract a variety of fish and turtles, while the surrounding big blue makes it a great spot to find pelagic fish.
Does Sec Pâté deserve its reputation as one of the best diving sites in the world?
Exploring the pinnacles, navigating through the chimneys and arch, and encountering abundant marine life in this stunning setting left us truly amazed. Sec Pâté undoubtedly made it to our list of best dives ever and was the highlight of our dives in Guadeloupe.
We dived Les Saintes with Pisquettes, and we’d happily recommend them for their reliable services and friendliness. Dive Bouteille, the other dive shop on the island, was closed during our visit. Dive shops don’t go to Sec Paté every day, so plan your itinerary in Guadeloupe accordingly.
You can organise a day trip to Les Saintes and dive Sec Pâté if you arrive before 11 am and catch a ferry back after 3 pm (always double-check with the dive shops for timing). However, we recommend considering a longer stay in Les Saintes as they have much more to offer. Dive shops around Basse-Terre also occasionally organise trips to Sec Pâté.
We were impressed by the fish life, colourful sponges, and corals in all our dives around Les Saintes. While Sec Pâté stood out as the highlight, other sites such as La Vierge near Les Augustins islet (2) and Pointe Cabrit (3) were also lovely and more suitable for beginners. Don’t miss the opportunity to go for a night dive at Pain de Sucre (4) as well.
Consider saving Les Saintes for the end of your trip, as other sites might not match up to its beauty.
Îlets Pigeon, located within the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Reserve, is always listed as a must-visit dive site in Guadeloupe. Named after Jacques Cousteau, the French underwater explorer and inventor of the scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus), the spot was discovered in 1959 during new equipment testing. Charmed by its beauty and marine life, Cousteau advocated for the protection of the area.
This site offers a perfect environment for beginners and training courses. We chose to complete our Deep Dive PADI specialty here to be able to dive Sec Pâté later. While our dives in Îlets Pigeon were easy and enjoyable, we personally preferred the dives around Les Saintes.
We only dived near Îlets Pigeon during our time in the Réserve Cousteau. We later met a fellow scuba diver who preferred a site closer to the coastline, the Japanese Garden (5), so we recommend enquiring dive shops about this location if you’re planning dives in the area. You can see a map of Cousteau Marine Park and Îlets Pigeon from the Bouillante tourism destination website.
If you’re interested in something different or if you’re a macro lover, also consider doing a shore dive near Malendure with Letifish. Although we didn’t have the chance to try it ourselves, Letifish was recommended to us by fellow scuba divers. They offer a slow, shallow and long dive to look for small critters.
We dived with Atlantis, a reputable training centre in Guadeloupe. While they provided a good experience for our deep dive certification, we couldn’t help but wonder if other dive shops would offer a possibly more enjoyable experience for fun dives since the requirements of training courses wouldn’t influence the choice of dive locations.
Often considered the best wreck dive in Guadeloupe, L’Augustine Fresnel (6) is a sunken shipwreck covered in colourful corals and sponges. It is home to a variety of marine life, including schools of fish and barracudas. Located south of Bouillante, this site seems to be a must-visit for wreck diving enthusiasts.
Unfortunately, we missed out on diving L’Augustine Fresnel and were a bit disappointed not to manage to make it fit in our itinerary. You’ll have to plan ahead with the dive shop to make it happen, and keep in mind some may not allow two deep dives in one day.
Port Louis offers numerous diving sites with intriguing arches and caves to explore. We liked the dive descriptions, so we ensured we could include scuba diving in Port Louis in our itinerary. The two sites we visited, l’Oeil (7) and Le Souffleur (8), were both fun to explore. We saw many spotted drums (adult and juvenile), a species we had never seen before.
Once again, the dives were easy and enjoyable, but we preferred our dives in Les Saintes.
We dived with Eden Plongée and Seacret Dive, and both offered great experiences. They took time to explain the sites and what makes them so special. We could really feel their passion for underwater life and appreciated how they shared their local knowledge.
Other diving locations
Although we had heard that the scuba diving sites near Pointe de la Grande Vigie (9) were stunning and accessible from May to October, but the dive centres in Port Louis primarily offered dives in closer locations. To explore these specific sites, it would be best to inquire directly and specifically about these sites and see how you can plan your itinerary around their schedule.
Our friends also dived from Saint François (10), and some dive shops can take you all the way to La Désirade island (11).
You’ll also find an impressive number of dive centres along the west coast of Guadeloupe, from Bouillante to Deshaies (12).
Tips for scuba diving in Guadeloupe
Best time to dive in Guadeloupe
We often hear the optimal time for scuba diving in Guadeloupe is during the dry season, which typically lasts from December to May. This period offers calm waters, excellent visibility ranging from 15 to 30 meters (50 to 100 feet), and favourable diving conditions.
The rainy season in Guadeloupe runs from June to November. During this time, the weather can be unpredictable, with occasional storms and heavy rainfall. The currents can also be stronger during this time, making it more challenging to dive.
However, even outside the peak season, like in late May and early June when we visited, we still had a pleasant diving experience. Keep in mind that businesses may have limited availability or be closed during certain months, so it’s advisable to book your dives in advance.
Scuba diving training
We were quite surprised by the cost of diving in Guadeloupe. We were surrounded by qualified professionals and given good, safe equipment like we’re used to when diving in Australia. In comparison, scuba diving in Guadeloupe was a lot cheaper than in Australia.
This also applied to scuba diving training. We opted to complete our PADI Deep Dive specialty in Guadeloupe and saved a significant amount of money compared to doing the course in Brisbane.
All the dive shops we visited had qualified professionals who seemed to be able to accommodate English speakers for both fun dives and courses. If you’re planning to take a course, it’s recommended to inquire in advance about instructors who can teach in English, as it’s more complicated than just giving a dive brief.
Rules for scuba diving in France
As Guadeloupe is a region of France, the same rules and regulations apply to scuba diving as in European France. The diving regulations in France are relatively strict, more than in many other places in the world.
For PADI and SSI divers
When you are PADI or SSI certified, you may be surprised by the many restrictions you face when diving in France. To be considered autonomous divers in France, you and your buddy must have completed a series of exercises, some of which are only included in the PADI Rescue certification (or the SSI equivalent). If you haven’t reached this level, you’ll need to follow a guide during your dives. I always find it more relaxing and interesting to follow someone who knows the site anyway, so even when we dived as an autonomous pair, we followed a group led by a local.
Number of dives
It’s worth noting that dive shops in Guadeloupe typically organise single dives twice a day and have restrictions on the number of dives allowed per day and deep dives. However, with plenty of other activities to enjoy in Guadeloupe, these limitations are usually not a problem, but it’s something to keep in mind if you were hoping to dive a lot.
Gear hire for diving without a shop
Also, we didn’t manage to hire gear for shore dives or night dives. The commercial shops are responsible for divers when they hire gear, so they wouldn’t let us go by ourselves.
Overall, we were satisfied with the equipment we rented in Guadeloupe. We always bring our own masks and fins to have our snorkel gear.
Even if the water temperature is warm (around 28°C or 82°F when we visited), I like bringing my Sharkskin*. It allows me to avoid using sunscreen when I snorkel. I was glad to have it, as many dive shops only had shorties available for hire. Most people were warm enough with a shorty, but I always get cold underwater.
Marine life in Guadeloupe
From big and small fish to majestic sea turtles, the waters around Guadeloupe are teeming with life. We always see more critters when we know what to look for. Here are some of the most common or fascinating marine creatures you can expect to see on your scuba diving adventures:
Reef fish come in all shapes, sizes, and colours, adding a dash of excitement to every single dive we did in Guadeloupe. It was fascinating to spot familiar species, like the French angelfish with its striking black and yellow stripes, in a completely different ecosystem from Australia. The vibrant parrotfish, with their beak-like mouths, the funny-looking trumpet fish, the cute boxfish, and the colourful rainbow wrasse and filefish made many appearances. But it wasn’t just the big stars stealing the show – there were countless small, brilliantly coloured fish, some gathering in mesmerising schools that danced in front of us.
The waters around Guadeloupe are inhabited by various pelagic fish species. One common sight is the barracuda, known for their sleek bodies, sharp teeth, and impressive size, reaching up to 1.5 meters in length. The biggest ones look intimidating, and we never approach too closely a lonely barracuda.
Sometimes mistaken for barracudas, you’re likely to also see wahoo, which can be recognised by their distinct horizontal line across their elongated bodies. Trevallies hunting in schools and large tarpons gracefully navigating the currents are also among the marine life you may encounter.
Encountering sea turtles is a highlight of scuba diving in Guadeloupe. These gentle giants can often be seen gliding gracefully through the water. Green turtles are common species in Guadeloupe, but we mostly spotted hawksbill turtles during our dives.
Sponges and coral
The waters around Guadeloupe are home to a wide variety of sponges and corals, which provide shelter and food for many different types of marine life. You’ll discover an assortment of colourful sponges in shades of pink, orange, and purple. Both hard and soft corals, as well as gorgonians, can be found in various shapes and sizes. The sea plumes and wire corals, in particular, offer a unique sight that we rarely encountered while scuba diving in Australia.
Additionally, keep an eye out for the fascinating basket star, which may appear parasitic at first but is actually hiding during the day and reveal its stunning beauty during night dives.
Remember to be mindful of your buoyancy to avoid touching these delicate structures. Plus, there are big fire corals that can be very painful if you get too close!
Guadeloupe’s coral reefs are also home to a wide variety of invertebrates. Crabs, shrimps, lobsters, and sea stars can be observed as you explore the underwater landscapes. We were particularly interested in the Flamingo tongue snail (monnaie des Caraibes in French, meaning Caribbean cash), arrow crabs and Pederson shrimps that we do not see on the reef in Australia.
Moray eels and snakes
We spotted moray eels on almost every single dive we had in Guadeloupe, as well as a few snake eels. Take the time to explore under overhangs and crevices to have a chance of spotting them. Some were particularly remarkable due to their impressive size (at Sec Pâté, where everything seems to be bigger) or their distinctive patterns.
Tips to plan your Guadeloupe scuba diving trip
If you’re planning a scuba diving trip to Guadeloupe, here are some important tips to help you plan your adventure:
Getting there and around
The most common way to reach Guadeloupe is by flying into Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport on the island of Grande-Terre. From the airport, you can easily reach your accommodation and dive centre by taxi or by renting a car.
Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre are the two main islands of Guadeloupe. These islands are connected by a bridge, allowing for easy travel between them. If you plan to explore other islands in the archipelago, ferries operate from the main ferry terminal in Pointe-à-Pitre to destinations such as Marie-Galante, Les Saintes, and La Désirade. There are also regular ferries going to Les Saintes from the south of the main island of Basse-Terre (Trois Rivières) and other destinations during the high season.
You’ll find many easily accessible dive shops on the main islands (Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre).
There are plenty of accommodation options in Guadeloupe, including hotels, guesthouses, and apartments. You can also rent a villa or apartment, which can be a good option if you’re travelling with a group.
If you’re planning to dive, it’s a good idea to stay close to your dive centre. Keep in mind that traffic can be congested in the morning, especially when heading towards Pointe-à-Pitre. Here are a few places we stayed at during our trip:
Les Saintes | Chez Claire & Eric*
The apartment offers splendid views of one of the world’s most beautiful bays. It was a delight to sit at the dining table with a refreshing drink, thinking of what we could do next on this slice of paradise. Eric was our guide for most dives we did around Les Saintes and Sec Pâté. We loved having stunning underwater photos taken by Claire around our accommodation. The Dive Bouteille dive shop is located at the bottom of the hill, and the Pisquette dive shop is a 20-minute walk. If you have gear or struggle with walking uphill, it is recommended to hire an electric golf cart or scooter to move around the island.
Port Louis | Gites Kaladja*
The small comfortable chalet is located in a stunning garden, and the hosts can prepare delicious fresh bread for breakfast, the best we had during our stay in Guadeloupe. It’s only a short drive to Port Louis, where the dive shops are located.
Reserve Cousteau | Tropical Soul* (Pointe Noire)
If you can afford the two-bedroom villa (not the one-bedroom), you’ll get a stunning view from Tropical Soul*. There’s no better way to relax after diving than watching the sunset from the suspended chair on the balcony. The villa is situated in Pointe Noire, between Bouillante and Deshaies. This location provides easy access to the charming town of Deshaies and is only a short drive to Reserve Cousteau in the mornings.
Reserve Cousteau | Paradis Tropical* (Basse-Terre)
Depending on the time you have in Guadeloupe and the activities you plan, staying in Basse-Terre may work better in your itinerary than Pointe Noire. You will be closer to La Soufriere and the waterfalls Chute du Carbet, and not too far from the Reserve Cousteau. Our chalet at Paradis Tropical* was comfortable and quiet, with lovely views of the mountains (including the famous Soufriere) and the sea.
Map of our favourite scuba diving spots in Guadeloupe
The locations displayed on the map are approximate and intended to provide a general indication of where the sites are located. However, please note that they should not at all be relied upon for navigation purposes.