On Guadeloupe’s Grande-Terre island, Sainte-Anne is a lively tourist enclave in a peaceful agricultural region. The restaurants and bars are open ’til late, and the beaches on Sainte-Anne’s waterfront are convivial and fun. But you can ditch the crowds too by finding other immaculate beaches along the coast. Nearly all are swimmable as there’s a long reef shielding the ocean currents.
You can look for a beach sheltered from the trade winds, or catch these breezes windsurfing or kite-surfing. The rest of Grand-Terre island has rolling farmland, old colonial plantations reborn as museums and invigorating seascapes on the coast.
Lets explore the best things to do in Sainte-Anne:
1. Plage Caravelle
As close to perfect as a beach can get, La Caravelle is an arc of soft white sand bathed by turquoise waters.
Sun loungers are under the shade of coconut trees with slender, bending trunks.
The surf here is low and the water is almost transparent as the waves break on that reef a hundred metres or so offshore.
The beach is next to a Club Med Resort, but that shouldn’t put you off as La Caravelle is spacious and stays pretty quiet in peak season.
2. Plage de Sainte-Anne
A fun, sociable beach, the Plage de Sainte-Anne is right on the town’s waterfront and is the first place tourists and residents go to laze by the ocean.
On weekends things can get quite busy and parking can be difficult, but the upside of a popular beach like this is a big choice of bars of restaurants, while shops are just a few steps away.
Plage de Sainte-Anne is another good one for children as it shelves low and long seawalls create glistening turquoise shallows to paddle or float in.
3. Marché de Sainte-Anne
Sainte-Anne’s daily market trades near the beach.
Like the best tropical markets it’s almost a sensory overload: You’ll be enticed by a whole medley of aromas like vanilla, spices and Creole street food cooking on the spot (think deep-fried cod balls and barbecued chicken). There are stalls loaded with meat and fresh fruit and vegetables, some of which everyone will know, and others like breadfruit and cassava that are a bit more exotic.
The market is also where you can buy some rum punch to take home, and it’s sold in beautifully presented bottles with fruit and spices inside.
4. Plage de Bois Jolan
A few kilometres east of Sainte-Anne, you can get to the Plage de Bois Jolan along a bumpy forest track.
The beach well out of the way, and there’s plenty of room to spread out.
There are far fewer vendors working here, and tourists are thin on the ground so some days you’ll feel like you have this long, ribbon of white sand to yourself.
As with Sainte-Anne’s other beaches the waves break far out, leaving clear and shallow pools of water for snorkelling and bathing. Kids and non-swimmers will love it.
5. Anse Gros Sable
Further east towards Saint-François is an even wilder beach that draws the watersports fans.
If you’re coming from Sainte-Anne you can reach on a trail that weaves through sandy beach, dry forest and even mangrove, so you get a little taste of Guadeloupe’s nature before you get there.
And because of the reef, Anse Gros Sable is one of the best places to surf in Guadeloupe.
The reef creates two separate waves that meet near the shore for a low and very forgiving beach break, perfect for newcomers but also fun for experienced surfers and paddleboarders.
6. Les Grands Fonds
In Sainte-Anne nearly all of your activities will be coastal or water-based.
But there’s a very different world waiting inland on Grand-Terre.
The island is a large limestone plateau, without the extreme peaks found on neighbouring Basse-Terre.
Instead, Grand-Terre is agricultural and decked with sugar cane plantations, bread trees and other food crops.
Les Grands Fonds at its heart is a region of deep, green valleys and low hills, with an environment that is tropical but also looks like pastoral farmland in Europe.
Come for a drive or go on a walking trip over hills that are never higher than 100 metres.
7. Cruise to Petite-Terre
There are a few companies (Patou, Tarzan, Authentique to name three) in Guadeloupe that will take you on a trip to the Petite Terre Islands, off the southeast coast of Grand Terre.
This pair of islands is protected as a natural reserve.
Trips there are adventures over ocean and land, filled with unforgettable moments; you’ll get to go snorkelling and mingle with colourful tropical fish, stingrays, sea turtles and small sharks (larger sharks you can see from a distance). Afterwards you can laze on heavenly deserted beaches on Terre-de-Bas and have a barbecue and a glass of rum punch.
8. Pointe des Châteaux
On the eastern edge of the island, Grande-Terre sinks into the Atlantic in exhilarating fashion: Pointe des Châteaux is a narrow peninsula, pushing out into the ocean for several kilometres and rising sharply at the tip.
At the summit of this headland there’s a monumental cross and telescopes allowing you a closer look at the island of La Désirade a few kilometres to the east.
You can also look down on the rocky outcrops in the water, or back towards Grand-Terre, and it will hard to escape the sense that you’re at the edge of the world.
9. ACTe Memorial
At Pointe-à-Pitre on the western coast of Grand-Terre, the ACTe Memorial is as moving and thought-provoking a museum as you’ll encounter.
On the oceanfront site of the former Darboussier sugar refinery , the ACTe is dedicated to the collective memory of slavery.
The museum was inaugurated in 2015 and is a stunning building, with a kind of silver-tinted metallic lattice over a dark, glassy facade of granite and quartz.
Aided by contemporary art installations, the museum tracks the history of slavery from ancient times to examples that are still taking place today.
10. Maison Coloniale de Zévallos
A few minutes away in Moule is a snapshot of how the Grand-Terre countryside used to look.
The Habitation Zévallos is a the old manager’s house once ensconced in sugar cane fields and attached to a refinery, with the ruins of a rum distillery also on the grounds.
It was constructed at the turn of the 1870s and is on the official list of French “historic monuments”. With its first floor verandas and colonnade it wouldn’t look out of place in Gone with Wind.
The house is decorated with objects from the early years of the plantation, and after the tour you can sit in the shade and enjoy a cool fruit juice, topped up with some rum if you wish.
11. Plage des Raisins Clairs
Possibly the pick of the beaches in Saint-François, the Plage des Raisins Clairs is another beach that looks almost too good to be true.
It’s set just short of the centre of the town, and instead of coconut groves is backed by a grape plantation.
These are free-standing trees and not the vines that Europeans might be used to.
But something the Plage des Raisins Clairs shares with other beaches on the south coast is that offshore reef, blocking the ocean currents to leave smooth shallows that are crystalline on calmer days.
12. Porte d’Enfer
A little further away but worth every second of the trip is one of the most extraordinary natural settings in Guadeloupe.
On the craggy north coast of Grande-Terre, the Porte d’Enfer is a horseshoe of high cliffs topped with greenery and eroded at the base by the crashing waves.
Here the seascape is fierce and powerful, but just beside this headland is a creek that cuts deep inland until it arrives at a heavenly sandy beach.
The far-off view of the rocks from back here is astonishing, matched only by the transparent waters.
Right by the beach at Sainte-Anne there’s a lineup of companies competing to whisk you off for all kinds of ocean escapades.
Whether you’d like to try diving for the first time or are working though your certificates, the local reefs allow for fantastic underwater nature spotting.
There are strict environmental regulations too, so you can be sure that you’re doing it sustainably.
Above the waves you can hire all the gear you need for regular surfing, kite-surfing and windsurfing, and all you’ll be given all the tuition you need from experienced and qualified instructors.
See Arwak Surf Club, Turkoise’s Kite Coll, Easy Kite and Fun Kite Academy.
14. Rhum de Guadeloupe
This drink is such an institution in Guadeloupe that there’s almost no avoiding it.
Rum goes back to the first sugar cane plantations, and there are two types: Rhum agricole, made from sugarcane juice, and rhum industriel (white rum), which is distilled from molasses, a by-product of sugar refinery.
If you’ve fallen for Guadeloupe’s rum you can see how it’s made by crossing over to Basse-Terre where on the east side of the island (Capesterre) a host of distilleries are happy to show visitors around.
A bottle of infused rum punch makes an ideal gift to bring home with you, and if you’re at a bar try ti punch, which is white rum with some cane sugar and a twist of lime.
15. Creole Food
Something else that will make you desperate to return to Guadeloupe is the cuisine.
Street food is at the soul of dining culture here and you’ll be struck by how many specialities there are.
Try bokit, which is a kind of sandwich made with flaky fried dough filled with chicken, cheese beef, ham or tuna and a fresh vegetables.
Poulet boucané is marinated chicken grilled slow in a lidded barbecue over sugar cane, while accras are those deep-fried cod balls that you’ll eat with a toothpick and a spicy dip.
With so many groves around coconuts, are a local staple and go into desserts like coconut sorbet and a flan that is served at almost every restaurant.