Capesterre-de-Marie-Galante is normally just called Capesterre, but because there is a town with the same name on Basse-Terre, the official name is a bit longer. This town is the third biggest of the island, and it is located in the south-east, at the end of the beautiful route N9 that crosses this island from Grand-Bourg.
The town is surrounded by several naturally beautiful areas. In the southwest you’ll find the breathtaking beauty of the Plage de la Feuillère with its incredibly blue sea, almost white sand and tall palmtrees. In the northeast you’ll find the rough area of Les Galets, and in the north you’ll enter the beautiful inlands of “MG”.
The centre of Caresterre is very peacefull and picturesque. The bright church is surrounded by houses of the same bright material, the roads are all one-way traffic and at the waterside you’ll find a small fishermen’s harbour. At 2 kilometres outside the centre you’ll find the nice hotel Touloulou.
The capital of Marie-Galante is exactly what the name indicates: a big village, and nothing more then that. Grand-Bourg is the place where you will arrive when you are visiting the island, and also where you will probably organise you’re transport to move around on the island: cars, scooters and minibusses are offered all over here.
But Grand-Bourg is more then just a transport-hub. It’s small centre is very charming with a nice colonial church at its small central square, a local market at this same square and several nice building here and in the streets around it.
Another very nice thing about Grand-Bourg are the numerous, fantastic murals you see in the streets here. At several places in the centre you’ll see enormous colourful paintings on the walls who give the village a very sunny atmosphere.
Although Grand-Bourg is the biggest town of the island, you shouldn’t expect any exciting nightlife here. In fact it is already difficult to find a restaurant that is open after six o’clock. This might be difficult if you are hungry and desperately looking for someplace, but at least it shows clearly that Marie-Galante is still pure and that tourism is not a big thing here.
During two visits to the island of Marie-Galante, about ten kilometres south from Grande-Terre, I fell a bit in love with this island. It is almost perfectly round and pretty flat, and it is very quiet and peacefull compared to the “mainland” of Guadeloupe. It’s a natural pearl with many different qualities.
What Marie-Galante is famous for are it’s pristine beaches, often hardly visited and very quiet: almost white sand, blue sea and no tourists around you: what do you want more! Another “MG”-specialty are its rhums: although the island is only 10 kilometre in the diametre you’ll find three distilleries here. A visit to the island is not complete without a visit to one of them and a “degustation” of the rhums.
For the rest Marie-Galante is just an island you have to see and feel. The atmosphere is very calm, the nature is rough and very green, many of the buildings and old and stylish, the cliffs in the northeast are impressively empty and the plains in the southeast impressively desolate. “MG” has something for all tastes...
Grande-Terre is the eastern wing of the butterfly Guadeloupe. It is not, like the name would indicate, the biggest of the two: it gets its name from the fact that the wind at this part is “bigger” because it is a flat island. Grande-Terre is, unlike Basse-Terre, of coral-origin and not of volcanic origin. This results in a pretty flat island with a very pleasant climate.
Grande-Terre can be roughly devided in to four pieces: the first of which is the southern coastline. This is the most popular area with tourists because of the long beaches, the palmtrees, the hotels and the restaurants you find here. This area is the most involved of the whole of Guadeloupe: the roads are good and all facilities are here.
The middle and north of the island are very different. There is hardly any tourism here and the enphasis here is on the rough nature. In the middle you’ll find sugarcane-plantations and green hills in a very interesting landscape, and in the north you’ll find beaches with high waves –ideal for surfers- and high cliffs.
And the last part again is very different from all the rest: the big city Pointe-à-Pitre where you’ll find the business centre, the port and the centre of all transportation in and to Guadeloupe. Here, you get right in the middle of big-city-life all of a sudden.
Between Pointe-à-Pitre and Sainte-Anne you will find the night-capital of Guadeloupe: Le Gosier. At daytime the village is like the other town at the southcoast of Grande-Terre: it receives a lot of tourists. For them there are lots of hotels in Le Gosier, just as casino’s, restaurants and shops. The big difference with Sainte-Anne and Saint-François however is that Le Gosier has a booming nightlife: the best on the island.
There are two popular zones to go to in town: the Marina and the area closer to the centre of town. In the latter you’ll find everything for a younger, mostly foreign (or French) audience: there is the biggest discotheque on the island: Le Cheyenne, where a mixture of styles is played: from Techno to Caribbean music like Kompa and Jump-Up. In this area you’ll also find a McDonald’s, some snackbars and some popular bars.
The zone that is more popular with the locals is the Marina. Here you’ll find “Zoo Rock”: a complex with a restaurant and two bars that are very crowded at Fridays and Saturdays. In the Zoo Rock the music is more locally oriented: besides the European dance music that they play as well, you’ll hear much more local Zouk music that can turn the place up side down!
My nightlife tips will tell you more about these places in Le Gosier.
Although the name of this town means “Hill at the Water” it is located in the heart of Grande-Terre, as an important connection between the north and south, and the east and west. Because of this, the town is full with cars and busy streets and it has a big market where products are being traded by the nearby farmers.
The centre of the town is nice but not spectacular. With a visit when you have plenty of time, otherwise: skip it. What IS worthwhile is the very extraordinairy cemetary you’ll find at the southside of town. It’s famous and not without a reason. First of all, the cemetary looks more like a village then a graveyard: all graves are like small houses, and some even have several rooms or two floors.
But the most special thing here are the countless black-and-white tiles that are used to decorate the graves. When you’re walking over the cemetary, it’s like walking over a huge chessboard. The best time to visit is during All Saints, when the whole graveyard is enlightened by hundreds of candles. But do always make sure you behave respectfully here, because all the tourists visiting here is a thing the locals not really like.
Anse-Bertrand is the northernmost village of Grande-Terre and Guadeloupe as a whole. Until not so long ago it has been very separated from the rest of the island, being an only agricultural place. For this reason you shouldn’t expect any impressive buildings here; in fact the village is not spectacular at all.
But what ís worthwhile in Anse-Bertrand are its beaches that are very popular. Because here you’re very close to real, open sea the water is pretty rough almost all the time, which makes it a perfect place for surfing. Even when the weather is very bad, the beaches therefore are often visited, because the waves are still good. In 2008 the French National Surfing Championships were held here in Anse-Bertrand, at the beach called la Plage de la Chapelle.
But not only for surfers the beaches are good here: also if you just want to get tanned or relax on the beach you are at the right place here. There are also some places where the sea is much calmer and where the swimming is good.
In the northeastern corner of Grande-Terre you’ll find one of the most spectacular places of the island: La Pointe de la Grande Vigie. You’ll find cliffs here that reach up to a height of 80 metres. You’ll find this point by following the road eastwards from Anse-Bertrand. A special road of about 2 kilometres leads you to the cliffs. Here there is a path that leads you to both sides of the peninsula: both sides are great to see.
When the weather is clear you can see La Désirade from here, in the southeast, the British island Montserrat in the northwest, and the island of Antigua in the north. Whether it’s clear or not, you’ll always have a nice view of the inland of Grande-Terre as well, where you can see the rough agricultural land and the dry coastal forest.
It makes a big difference when you visit the Pointe: an hour before sunset the light is the best, but only one side of the cliffs is clear. In the morning the other part is clear, but I prefer the late-afternoon option since the part that is clear then is the more spectacular part.
If you follow the D122 from La Pointe de la Grande Vigie southwards, you will follow the “route of the cliffs”. All along this road you’ll have great views every now and then. One of the highlights of this part is the point with the terrifying name the Porte d’Enfer (Gate of Hell).
The Porte d’Enfer is a shallow bay that is in connection with the sea. At the outskirts of the bay the sea is still very wild; you can see the water banging into caves, smashing the water high through the air. Inside the bay though the water is pretty calm and amazingly blue. I visited the Gate to Hell on a very bad day, with lots of clouds and rain and still the water was almost turquoise.
You have to pay attention to find this place as it is just at one of the many parking spots along the road. If you are not sure, just stop at every single one of them: the views are never disappointing any way.
In the centre of the southern coast of Grande-Terre you’ll find the small, but very popular village of Sainte-Anne. Like all places it the southcoast, Sainte-Anne used to be a small village that only depended on agriculture and fishing, but ever since they discovered tourism that changeed completely. Today it’s one of the most visited beach-destinations on Guadeloupe.
The beaches, that is what the village is famous for. There are two beaches that both have their own qualities, and there is a lot of accommodation where the tourists can stay who have to fill up these beaches. Fortunately you don’t need to expect tall, square, white hotels directly at the beach; despite all tourism the village has kept its simple, local caracter.
I lived in Sainte-Anne for three months during my stay on Guadeloupe which gave me the chance to also get to know the less touristy places of town. Although that’s not a lot, it is nice to see that the very own, créole culture has still survived in the village. For more information about this side of Sainte-Anne, and also the other, touristy side, check out my Sainte-Anne page as well!
Pointe-à-Pitre (PAP) is the by far the biggest city on Guadeloupe> PAP is the city where you will always arrive on the island; either by boat or by plane. PAP has the only international harbour, the biggest industrial area. PAP is the place to go if you want to go shopping, and PAP is the connection between Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre. Despite all this, it is not officially the capital of Guadeloupe (that’s Basse-Terre).
Capital or not, PAP is the heart of the island. This heart is mainly commercial; the city centre is not really the most pretty place to visit. However it is a must to at least visit the city for a few hours during your stay on the island to feel the urban vibe of the Caribbean: a completely different world from all the other towns around.
PAP has a nice and interesting Cathedral, a few museums, a very vivid fish-, vegetable- and spice market at the harbour and some nice colonial buildings like the old cinema, the tourist office and the Musée John-Perse. All these attractions are located around the big central square Place de la Victoire and can easily be visited in a walking tour of about an hour.
What PAP makes a real big city though is the fact that it is said to be very dangerous at night. Streetgangs and drugaddicts cause a lot of problems in the streets and for that reason the only two things that are lacking in the city are hotels and a nightlife.
In the north-west of Grande-Terre, a nice town to visit is Port-Louis. The town doesn’t have any big attractions, but it’s a nice place for a walk or a lunchbreak during a tour around the island. Make sure not to be there on Sundays (like I did) because then the town can look like a ghosttown: shops and restaurants are closed and everybody is either at home or in church.
Port-Louis has a nice, colourful little fishermen’s harbour and a very nice boulevard along the seashore that is always a bit rough here. The church and the townhall are beautiful, impressive buildings that were once built by the money that was earned by the numerous sugarplantations around the village.
Also at the boulevard you’ll find a monument of the soldiers from Port-Louis who died in battle during the First World War, in the French army. Monuments like this can be found in every town in Guadeloupe.
At about 10 kilometres north from Morne-à-l’Eau you’ll find the small village of Petit-Canal. The story of this town is a pretty sad one: in the 19th century Petit-Canal was a flourishing place. Two big sugar-factories brought a lot of wealth and labour to the town.
Because the village was built a little bit inland, on top of a hill, a canal needed to be dug out to cover the distance from the village to the coast. Large steps were also built from the hill down to the harbour. Lots of slaves were used to make all this possible, and since the area is in the middle of the mangroves, lots of them died while working.
When the factories closed their gates in the beginning of the 20th century, the canal lots its purpose, and so did the steps. The canal today is only used as a shelter for some fishing boats when a storm is expected, and the steps became an impressive slavery-symbol named “Les Marches des Esclaves”, the Slave-steps.
This town, at the eastcoast of Grande-Terre, is undoubtly the sugar-cane capital of the island. In the 18th century this was an important city in the sugar-imperium of the French, and the remainings of the buildings that once formed the harbour are still visible today.
Still today, Le Moule depends on the sugarcanes for a important part of its income. All around the town you’ll see enormous plantations, the biggest sugar factory of Guadeloupe, Gardel, is located here and also the biggest rum producer, Damoiseau is only a few kilometres away from Le Moule. During the sugar-season (from February until June) both factories are open for the public.
For the rest Le Moule is nice town with a picturesque town centre. A stylish church, quite a lot of pretty buildings and the town hall surround the central square. The shopping street Rue Saint Jean is always busy with people and is a nice place for a drink and a croissant in one of the local “boulangeries”.
The beach at Le Moule is popular with surfers, and has been the base of several national and international competitions already.
This small village is located at the west of the “bigger brother” Morne-à-l’Eau, directly at the coast. The road from “Morne” to V-B is a very nice one, through a green valley and ending up in the village is a pleasure as well.
Vieux-Bourg (Old-Village) has two parts: one older part lying on top of a very steep hill and a part at the port. From the top (this takes a tough climb uphill) you have a great view over the environment and the colourful village. And from down at the waterfront you can have a bite of seafood in one of the small restaurants and see the fishermen earning their living.
Another popular thing to do from Vieux-Bourg is taking a boat that will take you to the nearby mangroves or the small island Îlet Macout that you’ll see only a few hundred metres in front of you. Several companies organise these trips. I haven’t taken this trip because the weather was too bad when I was there, but only visiting the village was worth the trip already.
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Route de Sandy Ground 1, Marigot, St. Maarten/St. Martin, 97150, Caribbean
Good for: Families