A Guide to Sailing in Guadeloupe

Known for its chilled out vibe and stunning scenery, Guadeloupe has some really awesome sailing spots to explore
Known for its chilled out vibe and stunning scenery, Guadeloupe has some really awesome sailing spots to explore | © Robert Harding / Alamy
Andi Robertson

Beat the crowds with a trip to the less-frequented Guadeloupe. The archipelago – located where the northeastern Caribbean Sea and the western Atlantic Ocean meet – is centred around two main islands which form a butterfly shape: Grande Terre in the east and Basse-Terre in the west. It makes for an unforgettable sailing holiday, thanks to its dramatic volcanic scenery and glistening turquoise waters.

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What to See and Do in Guadeloupe

Basse Terre and Grande Terre offer a wealth of adventure with the volcanic peak of La Grande Soufrière drawing avid hikers – but there are several other islands and all merit a visit. Those of a ‘close the circle’ mindset will comfortably circumnavigate the archipelago on a week’s cruise. Others might build their route outwards from incomparable Marie Galante – nicknamed the “big pancake” for its circular shape – and the cluster of Les Saintes Islands. The island of Terre de Haut has arguably one of the most beautiful bays in the world. Moor at Pain de Sucre and visit the French military stronghold of Fort Napoleon. On Basse Terre, sail to the Cousteau Reserve, a protected underwater area with vibrant coral reefs – and go scuba diving with an array of wildlife including sea turtles, crayfish, eels and seahorses.

An aerial view from the Le Chameau Mountain in Les Saintes, Guadeloupe

Sticking with the ocean theme, Guadeloupe is one of the East Caribbean’s most consistent surf destinations with readily accessible breaks all around the island. Some of the best spots include Sainte-Anne and Saint François, which are both on Grande-Terre.

Best Mooring Locations in Guadeloupe

The main harbour in Guadeloupe is Marina Bas-du-Fort (on VHF Channel 9) on the southwest portion of Grande-Terre. It’s conveniently located close to downtown Pointe-a-Pitre as well as the international airport. Here, you’ll find a fuel dock, technical professionals, a shipyard and a supermarket. The expansive marina has 1,000 berths, accommodating vessels up to 190ft (58m) in length with a maximum draft of 14.8ft (4.5m).

Marina Bas du Fort, known as the largest marina in Guadaloupe

If you’re looking for a protected anchorage, Deshaies – on the west coast of Guadeloupe – makes for a very pleasant spot. Beware, the anchorage is deep so it requires a little manoeuvring. For the Cousteau Reserve, anchor at uninhabited Pigeon Islet where there’s a sandy seabed with good holding. The outcrop is located off the west coast of Basse Terre.

Where to Eat and Drink in Guadeloupe

You’ll find French Creole food aplenty on Guadeloupe, with fresh fish and locally-grown spices being some of the most widely-used ingredients. Other popular recipes in the region include feroce d’avocat, spicy stuffed crabs and bébélé – a Marie-Galante speciality made with tripe and plantain. On the drinks front, Ti-Punch is the traditional cocktail, rustled up with rum, lime and cane sugar.

The national drink in Guadeloupe, Ti-Punch, is prepared with lime, sugar and rum

There are lots of characterful restaurants scattered across the archipelago. One of the most popular is Chez Eugénette’s on the Terre-de-Bas coast for its delicious accras and lobster. If you’re looking for more of a romantic setting, Au Bon Vivre on Terre-de-Haut comes highly recommended.

Where to Get Groceries in Guadeloupe

If you’re looking to stock up on supplies at Marina Bas-du-Fort, there is a Carrefour supermarket within walking distance that carries a wide range of supplies. It is open seven days a week but closes at lunchtime on Sunday. Other well-stocked grocery store brands dotted around the islands include Super U, Monoprix and Ecomax.

Key Annual Sailing Events in Guadeloupe

One of the long-running events on Guadeloupe’s sailing calendar is the Route du Rhum – the single-handed transatlantic race was launched more than 40 years ago and runs every four years in November. The course is between Saint-Malo in Brittany, France and Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe. The Tour de Guadeloupe de Voile Traditionnelle is another favourite among sailors and draws many visitors to the islands. If you fancy catching this event, it traditionally takes place in June and the course weaves through the Guadeloupe archipelago on a different route every year.

Yoann Richomme training for the Route du Rhum Destination, Guadeloupe

Climate and Weather in Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe enjoys pleasant temperatures of around 25ºC all year round, thanks to the trade winds. From January to June, you’ll experience drier weather while the wetter season runs from June to November. Late October into November are prime months to visit, just before it gets busy over Christmas. In terms of sailing conditions, the archipelago has lots of sheltered bays, which makes it perfect for novices. However, first-timers should watch out for unpredictable winds and currents if sailing during the stormier months.

How to get to Guadeloupe

If you’re planning to travel to Guadeloupe to charter a boat or to leave the archipelago once you’ve arrived on your own vessel, Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport serves as the main gateway. The transport hub is less than a 20-minute drive from Marina Bas-du-Fort. If you’re coming from one of the neighbouring French islands, there is also the option of taking the ferry with L’Express des Îles.

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Sadie Whitelocks contributed additional reporting.

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