Guadeloupe archipelago, one of the best snorkeling destinations in the Lesser Antilles

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.

Aerial view of Petite Terre
Petite Terre channel, off Saint-François, is a not-to-be-missed snorkeling location in Guadeloupe.

The best snorkeling spots in Grande Terre

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.

Green iguana at Plage de Petit Havre
In Plage de Petit Havre, green iguanas are frequently seen in the water.

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.

Aerial view of Plage du Souffleur
Aerial view of Plage du Souffleur and its coral reef.

Other good snorkeling locations in Grande Terre include Plage du Souffleur in Port-Louis and Anse des Salines near picturesque Pointe-des-Châteaux.

The best snorkeling spots in Basse-Terre

Basse-Terre, lush and natural, is the second “wing” of Guadeloupe. On its west coast is the Bouillante region, the archipelago’s snorkeling hotspot.

Green sea turtle in Malendure
If swimming with sea turtles is on your bucket list, head to Malendure, with offers the best chances (almost 100%) to spot them.

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.

Barracuda in the Pigeon Islands
Large barracudas call the Pigeon Islands home. They are usually seen close to the reef areas.

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.

Frogfish at Vieux Fort
Rare encounter with a longlure frogfish in Vieux-Fort Lighthouse.

The best snorkeling spots in Les Saintes archipelago

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.

Aerial view of Pain de Sucre Beach, Les Saintes
Idyllic Plage du Pain de Sucre, nestled in Les Saintes lush coastline.

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.

Snorkeling over Anse Mire wreck
Anse Mire wreck, in Les Saintes.

The best snorkeling spots in Petite Terre

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.

Lemon shark in Petite Terre
Petite Terre is one of the best locations in the Caribbean to swim with lemon sharks.

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.

The best snorkeling spots in Marie Galante and La Désirade

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.

Stingray in Petite Terre
Petite Terre offers the best chances of spotting rays in Guadeloupe.

What will I see while snorkeling in Guadeloupe?

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.

Caribbean cushion sea star in Malendure
A Caribbean cushion sea star in Malendure.

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.

School of Atlantic spadefish at Anse à la Barque
A small school of Atlantic spadefish in Anse à la Barque.

When to go snorkeling Guadeloupe?

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).

Vieux Fort lighthouse snorkeling area
Snorkeling conditions are most of the time great in Guadeloupe.

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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