Discover the Best Things to Do in Les Saintes, Guadeloupe
Thinking about heading to Les Saintes in Guadeloupe? We’ve put together an exciting list of things to do on this gorgeous Caribbean archipelago, where picture-perfect bays and splendid beaches await you. While many visitors opt for a day trip, you won’t regret extending your stay. We had an absolute blast during our five days there: this place is a haven for nature lovers, food enthusiasts, and anyone looking to unwind.
The numbers in brackets correspond to the map at the end of the article.
Getting to Les Saintes in Guadeloupe
If you’re planning a trip to Les Saintes in Guadeloupe, the first thing you need to know is that the only way to get there is by passenger ferry. Don’t be fooled by any pics showing an airstrip on the main island – no commercial airlines fly there.
The ferry ride from Pointe-à-Pitre (the main city in Guadeloupe and where the international airport is located) to Les Saintes takes around one hour, with multiple trips available each week. Alternatively, you can hop on a daily ferry from Trois-Rivieres (south of Basse-Terre), and in only 20 minutes, you’ll find yourself in the stunning bay of Les Saintes. If you’re coming from Martinique, the journey will take around three hours. Timetables vary with the season, and additional transfers can be added during the peak season.
Make sure you book your ferry tickets ahead of time to grab early bird deals and secure your spot if you’re going during peak season. And it’s recommended to arrive well in advance to park your vehicle and walk to the port. We easily found a free spot not far from the paid parking, but we spent the night in Trois Rivieres* near the port, to catch the first boat to Les Saintes in the morning.
Getting around Les Saintes
You won’t be able to bring a car to the archipelago, but don’t worry, getting around Les Saintes is surprisingly easy. The main island, Terre-de-Haut, is pretty small, and you can walk to many attractions. But it’s also hilly, and walking around in the hot weather might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
For those interested in a guided tour experience, there are minibus rides to explore the island’s best spots. However, if you’re like us and prefer the freedom to set your own pace and choose activities, renting an electric golf cart or scooter is popular and convenient.
For solo travellers on a budget, electric bikes offer a more affordable option. There’s not much traffic, but you’ll spot plenty of people and goats walking on the side of the road, so be cautious when you admire the views while driving!
One of the top-rated hotels in Les Saintes is the Hotel Bois Joli*. This hotel is located just after the famous Pain de Sucre beach and offers stunning views of the Caribbean Sea. The rooms are spacious and well-appointed, and guests can enjoy a range of amenities, including a swimming pool, restaurant, and bar. However, you won’t be at easy walking distance from the heart of the village.
We opted for Chez Claire et Eric*, an apartment at the top of a hill for splendid views of the famous bay from our dining table. We didn’t mind climbing up the hill in the evening after dinner in town!
One of the top attractions in Les Saintes is Fort Napoleon (1), a historical landmark that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding islands. The French built this 19th-century fort to protect the archipelago from invaders, and it now serves as a museum (5€ fee) showcasing the island’s history to learn about the island’s first people, its colonial past, and its current way of life. We were lucky to be right on time for the guided tour, which made the visit a lot more interesting, but it seemed only available in French.
From the top of the hill where the fort is located and from the gardens around it, you can enjoy panoramic views of the sea, the surrounding islands and the lush vegetation.
Pain de Sucre
Pain de Sucre (2) is undeniably one of the most breathtaking beaches in all Guadeloupe, making it a top destination for every visitor to Les Saintes. If you want this paradise all to yourself, arrive early (not later than 9 am) before the day trippers get there.
Pain de Sucre is about three kilometres away from where the ferry docks, but the road is quite hilly. Once you arrive, a short walk down a rocky path reveals the stunning beach. Pain de Sucre is not just a pretty sight but also a fantastic spot for snorkelling and even scuba diving.
You can also explore Pain de Sucre from the water. We hired a glass-bottom kayak from Loisirs aux Saintes near the Hotel Bois Joli*. While we hoped to catch glimpses of the marine life we spotted while snorkelling, it wasn’t quite as impressive from above the water, but it was a fun way to see Pain de Sucre from a different angle. They also offer doughnut boat rentals to have a scenic barbecue on the water, surrounded by the stunning beauty of Pain de Sucre.
Le Chameau hike
Le Chameau (3) is the highest point in Les Saintes, standing at 309m above sea level, and offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding islands and turquoise waters. The trail is often listed as a must-do activity in Les Saintes.
It starts at the main road between Pain de Sucre and the town and is well-marked, so it’s easy to find your way. However, be prepared for a steep climb. It’s a bitumen path almost all the way, but the heat makes it difficult for many visitors. The hike can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on your fitness level and how many breaks you take along the way. It took us around one hour.
You don’t have to wait until you reach the summit to start enjoying breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea and the neighbouring islands.
Ilet à Cabrits kayak and snorkel
If you’re looking for a small adventure in Les Saintes, kayaking and snorkelling at Ilet à Cabrits, a small island just off the coast, is a must-do activity.
We rented a kayak from one of the rental shops on Terre-de-Haut to paddle to Ilet à Cabrit. Be cautious of the big passenger ferries as they can create waves you may find impressive if you’re not used to kayaking. We were lucky with the weather and the boat traffic, and crossing from the main island to the islet only took us about 15 minutes.
Once we arrived, we landed our kayak on the beach and went on a short walk to the top of Pointe Cabris (4), but ended up skipping the famous Fort Josephine (5) as we were more tempted by a refreshing snorkelling session. We were very impressed by the huge schools of fish we spotted on the north side of the bay; it’s really a top spot for snorkelling in Guadeloupe. Later during our stay, we returned to Pointe Cabrits for scuba diving and loved it.
Fort Caroline and Pointe Zozio hike
I found that one of the best things to do in Les Saintes is to hike up to Fort Caroline (6) and around Pointe Zozio (7). It’s less reputed than Le Chameau and a bit more challenging, but I really enjoyed it more. If you only have time for one of the two, I recommend going to Fort Caroline. The views at the fort and during the hike were breathtaking, and we got to see different bays and beaches. In comparison, the views from Le Chameau are over the same bay that you see from Fort Napoleon, albeit from a different angle.
Don’t expect much about the fort itself, as there are only ruins there. It’s all about the scenery during the hike.
Water-based activities in Les Saintes
Snorkelling in Les Saintes is a must-do activity for anyone who loves to explore the underwater world. Here are some of the best snorkelling spots in Les Saintes:
- Pain de Sucre – one of the most popular snorkelling spots in Les Saintes. We spotted very diverse marine life, including squids and moray eels, but also many arrow crabs.
- Pointe Cabrit – you’ll have to get to the island Ilet à Cabrit to explore this one. We saw multiple schools of fish and beautiful plume corals.
- Anse du Bourg (8) – we went snorkelling at the end of the beach in the village, near the house that looks like a boat before the road goes up to Fort Napoleon. We spent a lot of time checking out the moorings to try to spot elusive seahorses and frogfish, as our scuba diver guide mentioned they live around, but we mostly found moray eels and crabs hiding. The walls are covered by colourful Christmas Tree worms.
- Shipwreck – just a bit further away from the beach and the boat house, there’s a shipwreck that we were told makes a good spot for snorkelling. We didn’t have time to go this far as we spent too much time looking for seahorses.
- Anse Rodrigue (9) and Anse Crawen (10) – we didn’t have time to go snorkelling there, but they were regularly mentioned as good snorkelling spots in Les Saintes.
Responsible travel tip: Did you know that your sunscreen could harm the fragile ecosystem of the coral reef? It’s essential to be mindful of what you’re applying to your skin when snorkelling or swimming near the reef. The best way to protect your skin from the sun is to cover up with long sleeves and pants. If you must use sunscreen, choose a mineral-based one to avoid harmful substances (see the full list here). Mineral ingredients are less harmful to the environment and provide excellent protection. Apply the sunscreen at least 20 minutes before entering the water to ensure maximum effectiveness.
We are avid scuba divers, and we couldn’t imagine a trip to Les Saintes without trying to dive one of the most famous sites in the Caribbean – Sec Paté, located in the channel between Basse-Terre and Les Saintes. It was the highlight of our dives in Guadeloupe.
This site is accessible only to experienced divers with deep specialty (40m) due to its depth and potential strong currents. But the rewards are worth it. The pinnacles look stunning, and the marine life is huge. We saw the biggest moray eel ever, a hawksbill turtle, and we even spotted wahoos and trevallies in the surrounding big blue. Dive shops don’t go to Sec Paté every day, so plan your itinerary in Guadeloupe accordingly.
We also loved our night dive at Pain de Sucre.
If you’re new to scuba diving, don’t worry. There are plenty of beautiful dive sites that are suitable for beginners.
Sailing is a popular water activity in Les Saintes, and there are many sailing tours available. These tours offer a unique way to explore the islands and enjoy the beautiful scenery. You can choose from a variety of tours, including day trips and sunset cruises. Some tours even offer the opportunity to learn how to sail, so you can take the helm and navigate the waters yourself.
We unfortunately didn’t have time to sail around the archipelago, but we could see a few of the other islands from the scuba diving boat, and it was stunning.
Kayaking is another fun water activity to try in Les Saintes. You can rent a kayak and see the stunning bay from a different angle.
If you’re a beach lover, Les Saintes won’t disappoint. In addition to Pain de Sucre mentioned above, the island boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Guadeloupe.
Plage de Pompierre
Plage de Pompierre (11) is a beautiful beach with very calm waters. It’s perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying a picnic. The beach is surrounded by palm trees and has plenty of shade, making it a great spot to cool off on a hot day.
Unfortunately, when we visited Les Saintes, Pompierre Beach was impacted by sargassum, a brown algae that turns paradisiac beaches into less attractive and somewhat smelly places. The seaweed follows the currents in the Atlantic Ocean and hits the eastern coastline randomly, so you may be unlucky when you visit Les Saintes (check predictions here). They had tried to counter the algae invasion from reaching the famous beach with nets, but just one spot damaged allowed the algae to cover part of the beach. While sargassum can occasionally affect some areas, Les Saintes will still offer many beautiful spots to explore and enjoy during your visit.
Anse Crawen (10) is a secluded beach that’s perfect for those who want to escape the crowds. We didn’t have time to go all the way there, but I read the beach is surrounded by lush vegetation, and I read it’s a good snorkelling spot.
A visit to the Anse Figuier (12) is an opportunity to see another side of Terre-de-Haut and other islands that are part of Les Saintes archipelago. We had a surprised visitor when we went there. A turtle exited the water to go up the beach and lay eggs. They usually nest between May and July, between sunset and sunrise. If you’re lucky enough to see one, make sure you keep your distance so as not to disturb it.
Plage de Grande Anse
While the golden sand beach and blue bay water of Plage de Grande Anse (13) are inviting, it’s important to note swimming isn’t allowed due to strong currents. You may see turtles nesting if you visit between May and July.
When we visited Les Saintes, we focused on Terre-de-Haut and didn’t spend time at all on Terre-de-Bas (14), the second inhabited island in the archipelago. We were told by locals that there wasn’t much to do there. If you’re staying for a while in Les Saintes and you’re looking for a secluded spot, this might be the place to go.
There are plenty of restaurants on the island with lovely sea views to try traditional French Caribbean dishes, such as accras (deep-fried fritters), boudin (blood sausage), and colombo (curry). The fresh grilled fish with a sauce made from local ingredients was always a good choice. We had lovely lunch breaks at Café de la Marine and Le Génois. We never booked in advance for lunch or dinner, but it’s recommended, especially if you’re travelling as a group.
If you’re after a quick bite for lunch, you’ll find a bakery in the town centre or bokits (a deep-fried sandwich) near Pain de Sucre. It’s also very easy to buy food and snacks at the multiple small supermarkets in town.
In the evening, we went for drinks and tapas at Les Balançoires, which had a lovely setting and was quite nice for a romantic time out.
The small cakes tourments d’amour are a local specialty you don’t want to miss. You can buy them in a shop, but you’ll also find street vendors selling them in the small town centre.
Another famous dish from Les Saintes are the crêpes de poisson (fish crepes). They are made with the same dough as crepes but deep-fried, so they look and taste different.
Have you visited Les Saintes? Share your experience in the comments below!
Map of the best things to do in Les Saintes
The map below offers a quick overview of the locations mentioned in the article. Please note that the markers are for reference purposes only and should not be used as a navigation tool.