Guadeloupe: What Not to Miss on a Visit to the Island of Marie Galante

Apart from the main double-winged island, Guadeloupe actually consists also of four smaller isles that are absolutely worth at least a day trip. The most famous of those gems scattered around the main, butterfly-shaped island is certainly Marie Galante, and in this post, I’m telling you what you should not miss on your visit – even if you’re going there only for a day.

What Not to Miss on a Visit to the Island of Marie Galante: City beach Grand Bourg
Marie Galante’s Plage du Bourg.

Sail Away

It’s Friday morning, and as I get to the ferry terminal in Saint François around 6, there’s already quite some hustle and bustle going on. What a stark contrast to the empty and quiet streets that I was walking to the bus stop in Sainte Anne!
I purchase a round trip to Marie Galante and with it a full-day tour of the island. Next to the dock is a small hole-in-the-wall café where I get my morning fix before boarding.
I’m ready!

Port of Saint Francois in the early morning.
Saint François rewards the early worm day tripper with a glorious sunrise.

About an hour later, our ferry docks on the northwestern shore of Marie Galante in the quaint town of Saint Louis. The crowds push off the boat and then disperse in small groups along the jetty. Some day trippers have brought bikes with them and can set off straight away. Others eagerly read the signs that the bored tour guides standing next to the jetty are holding in the air. Excuse me, are you waiting for me?

Near the very end of the jetty, I spot a teenager in leggings and flip-flops with a sign that says El Rancho. This is the company I booked with. As I greet her eagerly, she just asks if I have a reservation. Okay, teenagers tend not to be in a chatty mood all the time.
I hand her my reservation.
Then, we are waiting in silence.
More day trippers arrive.
And then we wait some more as some of them have to use the bathroom.
And then the moment comes that we are finally all set and can get going.

Exploring Individually vs Visiting Organized

While I support and even recommend exploring by public bus when staying on the two large islands of Grand Terre and Basse Terre, I would advise against it on Marie Galante. At least if you are on the island just on a day trip.

There are two good reasons against visiting by public bus.

Yes, there are public minibusses on the island, so far so good. However, there is no fixed schedule. But most importantly, they only run between the larger towns of Saint Louis, Grand Bourg, and Capesterre. This is just a fraction of the island! I’m not saying you won’t have a good time, because Grand Bourg is a charming town with a very nice beach. The coast north of Saint Louis is also gorgeous, and you could even get there there walking if necessary. Nevertheless, the rest of the island remains largely inaccessible to you.

Street in Grand Bourg
Exploring the island cycling can be a great alternative.

The second reason is that a full-day organized tour starts at 25 €uros. That’s an incredibly good price for a full service: You’ll be picked up at the ferry port, taken to all the relevant sites and landmarks in an air-conditioned bus and, to top it off, delivered to one of the most beautiful beaches by far. Oh yes, there is also lunch before sunbathing, but I’d rather skip that because it was extremely bad. At the end of the day, the bus drops you off just in time for your cruise back to Grand Terre. As I said: Full service.
For 25 €uros, I saw a lot and had a wonderful day.

If you buy your ferry passage for 41 €uros round trip in the port of Saint François, you can add a tour booking right away on the spot.

However, it is definitely recommended to check out beforehand which organized tours and trips are available.

Saint Louis

Depending on where you leave Grand Terre, the ferry will take you either from Pointe-à-Pitre to Grand Bourg or from Saint François to Saint Louis in about an hour. Coming from Sainte Anne, it was more convenient for me to choose the latter route.

Although Saint Louis is one of Marie Galante’s important tourist hubs and also has a fishing port, the main source of income is still the cultivation of sugar cane. Today, the cane is mostly used in the distillation of Guadeloupe’s high-quality Rhum Agricole. Livestock is also kept as the farm animals are used to transport the sugar cane.

Nevertheless, tourism is becoming an increasingly important part of economic activity. In addition to the ferry port, Saint Louis has been the venue for the international water sports event MG Race since 2014.

Anse Canot
Anse Canot north of Plage de Moustique.

The Plage de Moustique beach is just over three kilometers north of the town. It is absolutely idyllic with crystal clear water and soft white sand. In short, a real postcard beach and one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen in my entire life! It is all the more surprising that it is often almost deserted.

We still have a lot to do today, so Saint Louis is just the starting point for our island tour.

Like a two-legged herd, we follow the taciturn teenager across the center of Port Louis. We get on the bus at the large parking lot and where I expect a fat, middle-aged driver sitting behind the wheel, the teenager takes place and gets the engine running. Hmm, she definitely looks much younger than she probably is.
Whatever, we’re ready to go.

Grand Bourg

We drive along the west coast and after about 20 minutes, we arrive in Marie Galante’s main town Grand Bourg. The teenager parks the bus opposite the Lycée Hyacinthe Bastaraud – to this date, I remember the name as I had memorized it in case I lost my way. After a brief explanation, she releases our human herd into the wild.

Grand-Bourg accounts for a significant portion of the island’s economic, commercial, and administrative activity. The port is the island’s most important hub and hosts fishing and tourist activities.

Gran Bourg
Sky blue everywhere.

But just like in Port Louis, a significant part of Grand Bourg’s income still comes from growing sugar cane. The Sucrerie-Rhumerie de Marie-Galante has been processing it since 1845.
Their sugarcane factory has a crushing capacity of 100 to 150,000 tons per year. A substantial portion of the cane processed in the plant is ultimately destined for the production of local rum.

Eglise Notre Dame de Marie Galante
Grand Bourg’s main square.

The only real attraction in Grand Bourg is the Église catholique de l’Immaculée Conception de Notre Dame . A small market consisting of a few stalls is held in front of the stately house of worship. To be honest, it’s not different from the markets on the big islands: preserves, spices, punch, and lots and lots of Madras checkered trinkets.

Place de l'Église
Place de l’Église.

Nevertheless, it is nice to take a little walk through the streets and alleys. If you need a break, you can make yourself comfortable on a bench below some huge trees across the stately town hall. Or you enjoy a refreshment in a café along the Boulevard Maritime and stroll alongside the waterfront to the beautiful city beach Plage de Grand Bourg. If you are not taking part in an organized tour, you can spend a few relaxing hours in this serene place.

Marie Galante's Plage du Bourg.
Marie Galante’s Plage du Bourg.

For me, this is not an option. Instead, I rush back to the Lycée Hyacinthe Bastaraud, where the bus is already waiting for me with the engine running.
Let’s keep going.

Écomusée Murât

Our next stop is the Habitation Murât. It is the largest sugar cane plantation in Guadeloupe. If you’re not on a guided tour, you can actually walk there from Grand Bourg in less than half an hour.

The mansion of Habitation Murat.
The restored mansion.

It is said that Dominique Murât’s wife, Jeanne Laballe, designed the mansion at the beginning of the 19th century. Well, that’s what wealthy wives do to pass the time.
The farm began operations in 1839, and an incredible 307 slaves carried out the work.

Habitation Murat
Old machinery in front of the former kitchen building.

Today the estate is a museum showing the sugar history of Guadeloupe during the colonial period. It includes five iconic sites where you can trace the island’s history.

A magnificent mansion houses a permanent exhibition about everyday life on the plantation. The museum administration uses what was the former kitchen building, and today’s documentation center served as the slave hospital in ye olden days. A one-time oxen yard was converted into a medicinal plant garden in 1979. The animal mill dates from the turn of the 18th century and is the forerunner of the windmill from 1814. Both were used to crush the cane, the early model with the help of livestock. Finally, there is the distillery which is the largest building on the premises.

A tree packed with bromeliads.
A tree packed with bromeliads.

Visits to the impressive complex are free and possible from Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 12.30 p.m. and then again from 2.30 p.m. to 5 p.m. On weekends, they close at 1 p.m.

Sirop de Batteries And Kassaverie

Now we have seen the plantation, hence, we finally want to see – and above all taste – what is ultimately produced from all the sugar cane around us. The teenager drives us to the famous Le Moysan plant.

Interestingly, we don’t get a tour, just a tasting. That’s totally fine with me, especially since the nice ladies behind the counter explain the process of producing the sweet drink, which they pour for us at the same time.

The so-called Sirop de Batteries is a concentrate made from boiled sugar cane juice obtained by evaporation. It is a very common product in Guadeloupe and Martinique and is primarily used for Tafia, a drink similar to rum which is not left to age.

While the higher quality Rhum Agricole is made directly from sugar cane juice, industrial rum is produced from molasses, a sugar residue. In contrast to the Rhum Agricole of the French Antilles, industrial rum is produced particularly in the former English and Spanish colonies.

Sugar Cane
Sturdy sticks of cane.

Le Moysan is a small family business that produces pure sugar cane syrup and of course, also sells it in their store. Since I still had a lot of time in the French Antilles ahead of me, I didn’t buy any souvenirs yes. That was a bit of a shame as their syrup is really tasty.

The Manioquerie Quellery is just a few kilometers from Le Moysan. It is the best place to visit if you want to find out everything about the production of cassava and cassava flour. They passionately explain to you all the steps involved in planting and later processing this delicious root. Of course, you can also try and buy cassava in the form of flour, chips, cookies, and cakes.

Normally, these types of stops on organized tours are very consumerist and annoying. On this tour, however, it was completely okay because the explanations were really interesting and you didn’t feel like the room would only be opened again when everyone had purchased at least five pounds of cassava flour.

Habitation Bellevue

Well, the next stop at a production facility was something very special, anyway.

The Bellevue estate, which began distilling agricultural rum in 1821, is now Guadeloupe’s largest exporter, producing more than 900,000 liters of rum annually.

Habitation Bellevue.
Old production facilities.

The estate is an independent family business whose rum is known for its exceptionally high quality. The factory is also characterized by 100 percent environmentally friendly production, making it the first eco-positive distillery in the world!

Bottles at Habitation Bellevue
These drinks look much more innocent than they actually are.

Bellevue is located in the heart of the island’s largest sugar cane plantation between Capesterre and the Bielle distillery. In front of the production hall, there is a magnificent and authentically restored mill. It is a witness to centuries of sugar and rum production.

Sugar Cane Field at the Habitation Bellevue
Sugar cane fields.

There is also a souvenir shop with trinkets and a liquor store on the property. Samples are generously poured here even before noon. I’m not used to day drinking, therefore, I left the merry rum sampling after a small shot of pineapple punch and went for a walk along the access road. Actually, the beautiful scenery, the endless sugar cane fields, and the tropical trees made my head more spin than the booze.

The estate, including its shops, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

️Gueule Grand Gouffre to Anse Canot

Nature has created many treasures on the so-called Island of a Hundred Windmills. One of the most impressive ones is on the edge of the northern cliffs, around five kilometers from Saint Louis: Here lies Gueule de Grand Gouffre, the island’s most precious geological jewel.

️Gueule Grand Gouffre
Nature is such a talented builder.

After the teenager maneuvers the bus up a steep road, we walk along a short path and then what translates to the Maw of the Great Abyss gapes before us. The collapse of the limestone vault inside the earth created a gaping chasm. From a height of 50 meters, we have a dizzying view of the abyss. A true explosion of colors enchants us.
Nature is such a talented builder.

This was actually our last sightseeing stop, now it’s time to relax and laze around. We’re not very far from the small, intimate bay of Anse Canot, where the lunch picnic is already waiting for us. I won’t dwell on this part of the program because it was the only disappointment in what was otherwise a day full of beauty and wonder.

Anse Canot in Marie Galante
Anse Canot is of surreal beauty.

Anse Canot is a small protected bay. It’s perfect for relaxing and swimming. The place is also known for the wealth of its underwater fauna. So be sure to bring a mask and snorkel with you on your trip. In fact, I’ve listed below what else you shouldn’t forget before you set off on a day trip to Marie Galante.

What To Pack For a Day Trip to Marie Galante

1. Sun Protection

When in a tropical country, I smother myself in sun protection before I even leave the house. In Guadeloupe, I used SPF50 on my face, my neck, and my shoulders and what can I say – I still got slightly burned. The intensity of the sun definitely changed over the past years. Although I got a bit less sensitive over the following days, I still avoided wearing tank tops or strappy dresses as I had the impression that I didn’t burn on the beach but while walking. Therefore, I opted for shirts with short sleeves and high-necked T-shirts for best protection.
This being said, I recommend you have always at least a small bottle of sunscreen with high SPF on you. Also, don’t just carry it around, but use it.

2. Hammock or a Beach Towel and Possibly an Extra Towel

Obviously, you won’t be lying in the sand, hence, you need a beach towel. However, I like to have also a smaller towel with me just in case. Apart from serving its original purpose, it can also be folded or rolled into a small pillow.
During my trip to Guadeloupe and Martinique, I noticed for the first time many people taking a hammock with them to the beach. And on these islands, it makes total sense as there are so many trees on basically every beach where you can easily attach your mobile bed. However, I had to schlepp so many things, that an additional hammock would have been simply too much for me.

3. Swim Suit and a Spare

When I’m planning on spending the day on the beach, I put on my swimsuit underneath my clothes. If you do that, too, don’t forget to pack either some underwear or simply a second bikini so you can change and don’t have to spend the day in wet swimming clothes after a refreshing dip.

4. Sun Shades and Possibly Reading Glasses

In the bright sunlight on a white beach, sunshades are not a fashionable accessory but an indispensable necessity.
If you need reading glasses, you probably have also sunshades with the visual acuity you need. If not, don’t forget your regular glasses since you don’t want to schlepp that big novel in vain.

5. Sun Hat or Shawl

Just like you don’t need shades just to be trendy, a sun hat is not only a fashion statement. Especially if you’re planning on walking down a beach for a while, not covering your head can become truly dangerous. Choose one with a quite wide rim to really protect your face.
To cover also your neck, a light scarf or shawl that you wrap around your head and neck can be a very chic alternative. Either way, make sure to cover your head when you are exposed to the sun.
In Guadeloupe, most beaches have quite dense vegetation so you’ll always find shelter from the sun. Actually, I was mostly exposed to the sun as I was walking around.

6. Swim Gear, Goggles, or Snorkeling Mask

So now we finally leave the necessity department and we’re moving to the fun section. Goggles or even a mask will allow you to experience the underwater world in Guadeloupe’s crystal-clear bays.

7. Change of Clothes

I already reminded you to take a change of underwear or a spare swimsuit with you. In addition, I like to pack a spare T-shirt and even light trunks just in case I get wet or spill something on myself. Remember, you are planning for a long and hopefully a bit adventurous day, hence, expect the unexpected.

8. Mobile Phone

Your mobile phone is definitely something you should have on you at all times. You can quickly snap some pictures of great scenery, listen to your favorite playlist, check the bus schedules – and call for help. Although I hope the latter will never be necessary, I know from my own experience that your phone should be ready to save you at any time.

Now, the headphones. I know that there are people who hold extensive conversations on speakerphone in public places. Or who watch movies or listen to music as if the world was theirs alone. I hate that. So if you are not all by yourself in a secluded spot, please, use headphones.

Lock tote on Klein Bonaire
You can lock your tote to anything fast – for instance, a big branch.

9. Storage For Valuables

A gadget that helps to protect your valuables is probably far more important for solo travellers like me. But also couples or even groups of friends might want to frolic carelessly in cool waters without getting robbed.

Various kinds of pouches store your money, credit card, ID, phone, and the like. As those containers are waterproof, you can have all your valuables on you even in the water. I’m personally not a big fan since I simply don’t feel comfortable carrying all that stuff with me while swimming or snorkeling. Also, one of my most valuable items is a camera that doesn’t fit in any of those containers.

Therefore, I’m using a mobile safe. That’s a bag reinforced with a metal web that cannot be cut open. Also, it is secured with an iron string and a padlock. Then, you need a post or a big tree branch to attach the safe firmly. Especially on Guadeloupe’s overgrown beaches, finding the perfect trunk or branch is no problem at all.

How to Get There

You can join a pre-organized day trip, but you can also easily arrange your excursion yourself.

To visit Marie Galante or La Désirade, you need to board either in Pointe-à-Pitre or in Saint François. The latter port is more convenient if you are coming from the central or the eastern part of Grand Terre. Note that the ferries take you to different ports of Marie Galante: coming from Pointe-à-Pitre, you’ll arrive in Grand Bourg while the ferry from Saint François takes you to Saint Louis.

The ferry terminal in Grand Bourg.
The ferry terminal in Grand Bourg.

Depending on the port of embarkation, the day, and the company, tickets start at 29 €uros, but usually they are around 45 to 50 €uros. These rates are for a roundtrip and include luggage up to 25 kilos.
If you’re planning on visiting two of the smaller islands, you can buy a combined ticket for 60 to 70 €uros.

For Marie Galante, you can usually add an island tour package that includes visits to the most important sights, lunch, and the afternoon on a beach. Although there is a limited bus service on the island, I would recommend booking this complete package, especially given the limited length of your stay.

If you want to visit Guadeloupe’s smaller islands, you have to go on a tour unless you bring your own yacht. Therefore, here are some great tours to choose from*:

Where to Stay

Large groups of day trippers visit Marie Galante every day. I was one of them, and since that day was one of the best during my trip to the French Antilles, I would always come back to stay for a bit longer. Marie Galante has a far more laid-back vibe than Grand Terre. Also, the island is lined with around fifteen beaches which are considered to be the most beautiful in Guadeloupe. Some of them can be easily reached by walking from the larger settlements of Saint Louis, Grand Bourg, and Capesterre which are connected by minibusses. Although I’d opt for an organized tour when on a day trip, depending on Marie Galante’s public bus system on a more extended stay is absolutely fine.

On this map, you’ll find suitable lodging options in case you decide to lay down your head in Marie Galante*:

For stories and information on other parts of Guadeloupe, check out my posts

Best Places to Visit in Grand Terre, the Eastern Wing of GUADELOUPE (also by public bus)

Best Places to Visit in Basse Terre, the Western Wing of GUADELOUPE (also by public bus)

The Best Beaches in Guadeloupe You Can Easily Visit by Public Bus

Best Street Art in GUADELOUPE

For general information on the island of Guadeloupe, go to the main post

Grand GUADELOUPE: Complete Guide And Perfect Itineraries (also for travels by public bus)

There, you’ll find comprehensive information and tips that will make your trip much smoother and more enjoyable.


On this map, you can spot all the interesting places I’m introducing in this post.
Clicking on the slider symbol at the top left or the full-screen icon at the top right will display the whole map including the legend.

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