Hosting the largest coral reef in the Lesser Antilles, the islands of Guadeloupe boasts some of the Caribbean's most abundant marine life. This French archipelago comprises seven islands, each with great snorkeling spots, in particular in the tiny Îles des Saintes and the Pigeon Island, that captivated Jacques Cousteau and inspired his underwater research. Whether you are dreaming about swimming with lemon sharks in less than 3 feet of water, exploring crystal-clear rocky coves covered with sea fans, or snorkeling with sea turtles over seagrass meadows, Guadeloupe offers you a lot of choices for your next snorkeling adventures.
Guadeloupe is a small archipelago comprising mainland Guadeloupe (made up of two islands, Grande Terre and Basse Terre, separated by an inlet), Marie-Galante, Les Saintes, La Désirade and several uninhabited islets.
Around the island, a diversity of marine ecosystems is found, including coral reefs, extensive seagrass beds, as well as mangroves. Each of them hosts at shallow depths fascinating sea life to discover.
Grande Terre is the eastern “wing” of butterfly-shaped Guadeloupe. It is home to the archipelago’s most famous beaches, but snorkeling there is not spectacular.
If you are staying in Sainte-Anne, Grande Terre’s renowned seaside village, there’s decent snorkeling in the lagoon bordering the beach. In the shallows, you may spot urchins, queen conch, and lots of small fish. Not far from Sainte-Anne, Plage de la Caravelle and Plage de Bois Jolan offer more or less the same experience.
Some 5 kilometers south of Sainte-Anne, you may have the chance to spot green iguanas in the water at Plage de Petit-Havre, although the sea bed there is quite poor in sea life.
Further south, busy Plage du Gosier has no good snorkeling, but you can rent a kayak on the beach and reach tiny Ilet du Gosier, some 500m offshore.
Other good snorkeling locations in Grande Terre include Plage du Souffleur in Port-Louis and Anse des Salines near picturesque Pointe-des-Châteaux.
Basse-Terre, lush and natural, is the second “wing” of Guadeloupe. On its west coast is the Bouillante region, the archipelago’s snorkeling hotspot.
Malendure, a 10-minute drive north of Bouillante, is a great spot for swimming with green sea turtles, which come to feed and rest on the bay’s seagrass meadows. They are easily spotted in the bay shallows, which also host vibrant reef areas.
From Malendure, do not miss the snorkeling trip to the Pigeon Islands, two small islets located right off the beach. Also known as the Cousteau Reserve, this spot has the best coral reefs in Guadeloupe. Around the small islands, you may spot barracudas, turtles, elkhorn coral and reef fish in crystal clear water.
Along the southern section of Basse-Terre western coast, Anse à la Barque, hosting cannons and several shipwrecks from the Napoleonic era, and Vieux-Fort Lighthouse, home to a vibrant reef drop-off, are also very recommended snorkeling locations.
Off the north coast of Basse Terre, you can also explore the Grand Cul-de-sac marin, a vast lagoon including mangroves, islets and reefs. This protected area can be snorkeled during boat trips, usually departing from Sainte-Rose.
The Saintes archipelago, about ten kilometers south of the main island, is home to several great snorkeling spots.
In Terre-de-Haut, the main island, Plage du Pain de Sucre is a piece of heaven. This small beach lined with coconut palms opens onto a colorful reef covered with sea fans and sponges, home to hundreds of Caribbean fish species.
Other good options for snorkeling in Les Saintes are Anse Mire, just north of the village of Terre-de-Haut, and Anse Crawen, some 700m past the path descending to Plage du Pain de Sucre.
Two good snorkeling spots will reward those who make the short boat trip from Terre-de-Haut to Terre-de-Bas: Grande Baie, a sheltered cove popular with green sea turtles, and Anse à Dos, with coral beds inhabited by colorful reef fish.
Whether you are a snorkeling beginner or a seasoned snorkeler, do not leave Guadeloupe without having a boat trip to the islets of Petite Terre.
This marine reserve is home to a shallow channel where you can see spotted eagle rays, green sea turtles, barracuda, and dozens of small lemon sharks, which are the main attraction of Petite Terre.
On land, you will also spot dozens of Lesser Antillean iguana, a native and endangered species. Most day trips to Petite Terre leave from Saint-François, on the south coast of Grande Terre.
Off the beaten track, Marie-Galante and La Désirade do not have any top snorkeling spots. In Marie Galante, there is average snorkeling at Anse Feuillard and from Capesterre Beach. At La Désirade, the reefs in the south of the island, sheltered by small coral reefs, can also lend themselves to short snorkeling sessions.
The shallow reefs of Guadeloupe are home to a great diversity of Caribbean fish. Butterflyfish, parrotfish and surgeonfish are easy to see in most locations, while occasional encounters with the French angelfish, rock beauty or moray eel are possible. Much rarer, the longlure frogfish and the spotted scorpionfish are fascinating sights.
Green turtles, hawksbill turtles, eagle rays, stingrays and barracudas are also common in specific locations. To spot turtles, head to Malendure, Grande Anse, or Petite Terre. It is also in Petite Terre that you’ll have the best chances of spotting rays. For barracuda encounters, Pigeon Islands is the place to go.
Guadeloupe, where cushion sea stars, queen conches, small lobsters and colorful flamingo tongue snails are common, is also a good destination to spot invertebrates.
If you are planning a snorkeling trip to Guadeloupe or anywhere else in the Caribbean, we recommend the excellent Reef Fish Identification: Florida Caribbean Bahamas (also available in ebook), the reference guide to ID the fish you will encounter snorkeling the islands.
Guadeloupe enjoys a tropical climate tempered by oceanic influences and trade winds. In the region, a dry season, known as “lent” (from January to June) can be distinguished from a humid season (“wintering”, from July to December).
With an average temperature of 80°F/27°C (77-90°F/25-32°C in the dry season and 75-85°F/24-29°C in the humid season), and an average water temperature of 82°F/28°C, snorkeling can be enjoyed all through the year. The hurricane season, which may prevent sailing and swimming for several days, runs from May to November.
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ADD A SPOT
Can’t miss them in the channel of Petite Terre, sometimes a few meters only from the beach.
Frequently seen at Malendure Beach; occasional sightings in Petite Terre and the Pigeon Islands.
Common in Petite Terre.
Mainly found in the channel of Petite Terre, rare elsewhere.
Present on all spots, sometimes in large schools in the deeper areas.
Pretty common around the Pigeon Islands and in Petite Terre.
On all spots, including at Sainte-Anne shallow flats.
On all spots.
Common on sea fans, particularly at the Pain de Sucre beach.
Protected shallow channel with lemon sharks, rays, sea turtles and reef fish
Wreck and fringing reef with fish and coral
Free shore access
Marine reserve with seagrass meadows and sea turtles
Marine reserve with coral reefs, turtles and barracudas
Fringing reef with a vibrant marine life
Vibrant coral reef with a great diversity of fish
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