11 must-do things on Saintes Island

L'ile des Saintes

Visit Saintes Island: what are the best things to do and see for a stay in the heart of the West Indies!

In the Caribbean Sea, just a few minutes from Guadeloupe, of which they are a part, Les Saintes group together several West Indian islands. Only two are inhabited: Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas. The archipelago, discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, has many attractions. Here, the beaches are lined with palm trees, the turquoise waters are teeming with fish and the inhabitants warmly share their passion for the sea. A visit to the Ile des Saintes is guaranteed to provide you with the opportunity to make some wonderful natural discoveries and enjoy a relaxing holiday.

Wondering what to do on the Ile des Saintes? Between strolls through fishing villages, hikes and water sports, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy. Here’s our selection of 11 must-see places!

1. Terre-de-Haut

Terre-de-Haut

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Oliver Hoffmann

The most inhabited of the Saintes islands is also the liveliest. Its market town is home to the majority of the island’s housing, shops and events. Disembarking in Terre-de-Haut by boat, you can admire the splendid bay of Les Saintes, recognized as one of the most beautiful in the world byUNESCO. Colorful wooden houses and volcanic rock churches dot the landscape. From every corner, you can enjoy breathtaking views of Grande Anse, Fort Napoléon or any number of idyllic beaches.

Cars are not allowed in Terre-de-Haut. So rent a bike and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere as you explore the small Creole huts and large colonial houses. If you want to tour the island and test all its coves with the whole family, opt for a small electric cart. And don’t forget to buy some tourments d’amour, those tasty little cakes typical of the island.

2. A boat trip

ile-sainte-guadeloupe

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Eleanor Scriven

How can you visit Ile des Saintes without taking a boat trip?

In fact, renting a boat allows you to sail the crystal-clear waters surrounding the island while enjoying the dream beaches nestled in a heavenly setting.

And having your own small boat gives you the choice of stopping wherever you like to explore the island’s rich seabed. An unforgettable experience for all the family and friends!

Find a boat to rent in Ile des Saintes

3. Fort Napoléon

Vue sur le fort napoleon

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Benny Marty

A visit to the Île des Saintes also means entering the heart of Antilles history. Fort Napoléon houses a museum where you can learn more about the archipelago’s past. Although never used as such, the 19th-century fort remains a landmark building on the island of Terre-de-Haut. Many tourists flock here to admire the model ships, paintings and botanical garden.

You’ll discover many succulents and come across iguanas. The panorama of the Baie des Saintes is splendid. It’s best to arrive early in the morning to take full advantage of the site before the crowds and the hottest hours of the day.

4. Pompierre Beach

Plage de Pompierre, visiter l’Île des Saintes

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Eleanor Scriven

What else is there to do on the Ile des Saintes than laze on its idyllic beaches? Located in Terre-de-Haut, the Pompierre beach is undoubtedly the most pleasant on the island. Its wooden cabins provide shade for a siesta or picnic. You can also put on your flippers, mask and snorkel to observe the pretty fish. To do so, head for the rocky right-hand side. Time for lunch? We can’t recommend enough that you try one of the little restaurants on the way to the beach.

The local cabris may pay you a visit during your stay on the beach, making for a fun souvenir photo. Only the occasional sargassum (brown algae) may limit your swimming opportunities. But even without putting your feet in the water, the postcard-perfect scenery on Pompierre beach is well worth the detour!

5. Camel Summit

Visiter l’Île des Saintes : le Sommet du Chameau

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Phil O’nector

It’s the highest point in Les Saintes, and the ideal place for a short power-walking session. At a height of 304 meters, Le Chameau rewards you with a breathtaking view. This morne (hill) is located in the south-west of the island and is covered in forest. A watchtower dating from 1843 awaits you at its summit.

6. Sugar Loaf Beach

Plage et montagne du Pain de sucre, Ile des Saintes

Photo credit: Flickr – Manuela Poret

If there’s one beach that’s characteristic of the West Indies, it’s the Pain de Sucre beach. Dominated by the volcanic hill of the same name, it’s one of the must-visit spots on the Ile des Saintes! With its turquoise waters and flour-soft sand, it’s so inviting to laze around that you could stay there for hours.

The site is also perfect for a snorkeling session amidst coral and colorful fish: blue surgeons and butterfly fish will hold no secrets for you! Finally, the beach is ideally exposed for admiring the sunset.

7. Islet Cabrit (or Cabris)

Visiter l’Île des Saintes : l'îlet Cabrit en Guadeloupe

Photo credit: Flickr –
Mario & Lillian Borg adventures

Looking for an off-the-beaten-track experience on Île des Saintes? Take a shuttle or canoe from Terre-de-Haut, heading for îlet Cabrit – or îlet à cabris. A cult animal in Guadeloupe, the cabri holds an important place in Creole culture, and particularly in Saintes heritage. The island combines relics of the past with the wilds of nature. The ruins of the penitentiary stand alongside coconut palms, and iguanas mark your path.

Islet Cabrit also offers superb diving and kayaking. History buffs will want to visit Fort Joséphine. Situated on a hilltop, the fort was a strategic site for the defense of Les Saintes in Napoleon’s time. It was also the gateway to the bay. To get the full picture of this period, a guided tour is a must.

8. Baie de Marigot – Pointe de Zozio

baie de marigot

Photo credit: wikimedia – Filo gèn’

This hiking trail is both quick and easy to access. It’s a pleasant walk through magnificent scenery on the heights of the Bay of Saintes. It offers views of Fort Napoléon and the bay through frangipani and candle cactus.

It then continues as far as Pointe de Zozio. Pointe Morel comes into view, while the northernmost point of the archipelago opens onto the Caribbean Sea, with Guadeloupe in its sights.

9. Terre-de-Bas

Terre-de-Bas, Ile des Saintes

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Frank Kuschmierz

You’ve been to Terre-de-Haut and are wondering what to do on Ile des Saintes? Head west to discover Terre-de-Bas. A haven of peace and tranquillity, it offers visitors wild forest trails and heavenly beaches. On your itinerary: Grande-Anse beach, remains of the old pottery, strolls through the small village of Petite-Anse.

Eating grilled lobster is also part of the experience. Here, the hospitality of the locals and the calm that reigns here will show you a more authentic face of the archipelago. For nature lovers, the Office National des Forêts has set up numerous trails.

10. L’Anse Crawen

La plage Anse Crawen

Photo credit: Shuterstock – Phil O’nector

Have you come to visit Île des Saintes for its wilderness? Then you’ll love this beach in Terre-de-Haut. The calm and the sound of the waves attract travelers and locals in search of relaxation. Here, the sand is gray and the seabed is teeming with coral, multicolored sponges, gorgonians and colorful fish.

If it rains, however, be careful, as the sap from mancenillium trees can cause severe burns.

11. Grande-Anse

Grande Anse

Photo credit: wikimedia – Filo gèn’

Open to the Atlantic Ocean, Grande-Anse beach is exposed to strong currents. Swimming is prohibited, but that’s not the whole point. Approximately one kilometer long, it lends itself to long, contemplative strolls with breathtaking views over Dominica and Marie Galante.

You can also go kitesurfing, and between May and July you can watch sea turtles lay their eggs or give birth!

How do I get to Ile des Saintes?

To visit the Ile des Saintes, you first need to fly to Guadeloupe. There are several airlines serving Pointe-à-Pitre from mainland France. These include Air Caraïbes, Air France and Corsair. The best way to find out about fares and timetables is to compare the various flights on a comparison site such as Skyscanner.

Once in Guadeloupe, you can depart from the ports of Pointe-à-pitre, Saint-Anne or Saint-François. The fastest crossing, however, is from Trois-Rivières on Basse-Terre. From the airport, transport companies provide shuttle services to the pier. If you’ve hired a car, you’ll need to leave it in the parking lot, as the Saintes archipelago prohibits them and there is no ferry to transport them.

Once you’ve arrived on Île des Saintes, you can book a bicycle or electric cart to get around. However, most sites are accessible on foot. Finally, for those in a hurry, minibuses with drivers offer guided tours of the archipelago.

Where to stay on Île des Saintes?

Although the island isn’t very big, we really do recommend spending at least one night here to soak up the atmosphere, especially when the tourists leave in the evening, giving way to an authentic atmosphere. The archipelago boasts a number of hotels and B&Bs.

Most of our hotels are located in Terre-de-Haut, but you can also find a good address in Terre-de-Bas to enjoy an even wilder atmosphere. The best way to do this is to use an online hotel comparison service. Rates, reviews, services… you’ll see at a glance what’s available for your dates. As a rough guide, room prices vary widely according to the standard you’re aiming for, from around €60 to over €150.

Map of hotels and accommodation – Saintes, Guadeloupe