Last updated on September 12, 2023 by Wandering our World
Dreaming of a paradise island escape? Of breathtaking beaches, sunny skies, and warm waters all around? If so, the fantastic French Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe should definitely be on your list of potential destinations.
Both of these islands are beautiful beyond belief, and that’s not all they have in common. They’re both technically part of France and the European Union, giving them a range of benefits, with French being the official language for both islands and the Euro being the local currency.
Guadeloupe and Martinique also share many geographical characteristics. They’ve both got large volcanoes, dramatic mountainous regions, dense rainforests, diverse wildlife, and some of the most spectacular beaches in the entire Caribbean region.
Their cultures are more or less identical, too, and, with so many similarities, picking between Guadeloupe and Martinique can be a challenge. It almost feels like you should simply flip a coin to decide which one to visit.
However, if we look a little closer, we can start to uncover some notable differences between the two islands. And this guide will highlight those differences for you, comparing Guadeloupe and Martinique in a range of key areas, like attractions, nightlife, beaches, and family activities, to help you make the right choice for your next island escape.
- Guadeloupe: A Quick Overview
- Martinique: A Quick Overview
- Which Has The Best Weather?
- Which Is Best For Activities?
- Which Is Better For Beaches?
- Which Is Better For Hiking and Outdoor Adventures?
- Which Is Better For Nightlife?
- Which Is Better For Food?
- Which Is Better For Families?
- Which Is Better For Couples?
- Which Is Cheaper?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget?
- Guadeloupe vs Martinique: Which Is Better?
A Quick Overview Of Guadeloupe vs Martinique
Guadeloupe: A Quick Overview
Guadeloupe is an archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. Two islands – Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre – make up the majority of its landmass, but it technically consists of over a dozen islands in total, six of which are inhabited. It’s an overseas French department, extending across 629 square miles of land, with a population of just under 400,000 people.
The islands of Guadeloupe have been inhabited for millennia, with famed explorer Christopher Columbus being the first European to visit at the end of the 15th century. In the 17th century, French settlers arrived, forming a slave colony. The islands have since been heavily influenced by French culture, but retain their own traditions, customs, and Creole language.
The main part of Guadeloupe is made up of Basse-Terre to the west and Grande-Terre to the east. These two islands form a butterfly-like shape viewed from above, and their landscapes are quite diverse, with lots of stunning sandy beaches and pretty lagoons in Grande-Terre, while Basse-Terre has dense, tropical forests, more mountains, and lots of agricultural land.
In terms of vibe and atmosphere, Guadeloupe is famed for being quite a lively, energetic place. It has great nightlife and a jam-packed calendar of events and festivals throughout the year. With a bigger size and more to explore compared to Martinique, it may appeal to those who are planning an extended stay.
Martinique: A Quick Overview
Martinique is a singular island in the Lesser Antilles group, just a short distance south from Guadeloupe and Dominica. Like Guadeloupe, this island is part of France and the EU, with French being the official local language, though many islanders speak Creole. Size-wise, it’s smaller than Guadeloupe, covering 436 square miles in total, with a population around 370,000.
Like Guadeloupe, Martinique was home to indigenous people for many years before European settlers arrived. Christopher Columbus was, once again, one of the first Europeans to visit the area, before French settlers made the land their own. The island then endured several troubled centuries, with various conflicts and rebellions, but is now a peaceful, popular touristic hotspot.
Large parts of Martinique are covered with mountains, making it a terrific destination for hikers and climbers. It’s nicknamed the “Ile aux Fleurs” or “Island of Flowers”, due to its colorful, tropical plants and flower-covered hills, and it’s also a veritable haven for wildlife lovers, being home to lizards, snakes, mongooses, bats, sea turtles, and more.
Compared to Guadeloupe, Martinique has more of a relaxed, luxury feel. The nightlife isn’t quite as dynamic, and the general mood is more chilled-out. This, coupled with the island’s smaller size, makes Martinique a fine place to go if you simply want to sit back, relax, and forget about all your worries, with soft sand beneath your feet and a gentle sea breeze in your hair.
Which Has The Best Weather?
Martinique and Guadeloupe are quite close to one another, so they have very similar weather conditions, for the most part. Travellers can expect warm and sunny skies more or less all-year long on both of these islands, and temperatures get particularly hot during July and August.
However, there is a minor difference, as Guadeloupe tends to be a little drier than Martinique, with less chance of rainfall throughout the year. Winds tend to be just a little gentler on Guadeloupe, too, so it has slightly better and more comfortable conditions overall.
Which Is Best For Activities?
There are lots of ways to spend time on both Guadeloupe and Martinique, and both islands offer quite similar activities, from hiking and scuba diving to sunbathing and more. However, each one also has its own unique landmarks and experiences to offer, and some of them may be more appealing to you than the rest. Here are the main activities for each location.
Guadeloupe: The Activities
While most of your time on Guadeloupe may be spent basking on the beaches, there are plenty of man-made landmarks to check out. Pointe-a-Pitre, the island’s biggest city, is a great place to start, boasting beautiful French colonial buildings, a grand cathedral, and the Memorial ACTe Museum, which provides a deep, emotional dive into the history of slavery in the area.
For more urban excitement, head to St. Anne. That’s where you’ll find some of the best beaches on the entire island, as well as vibrant daily markets. Or, set off to the small Iles des Saintes for a tour of Fort Napoleon, a grand old fort that was once used as a prison and now serves as a museum, while also having its own botanical gardens.
The island’s many plantations and rum distilleries provide additional glimpses into its intriguing past. Many of these locations are open for public tours and tastings. There’s also a fun chocolate-themed attraction – La Maison du Cacao – which is definitely worth checking out for families, as well as a zoo – Zoo de Guadeloupe – housing a range of rare, endangered species.
Then, of course, there are the vast natural expanses of Guadeloupe, where travelers can hike, explore, climb, scuba dive, snorkel, and so on. Guadeloupe National Park, with its 74,100 acre rainforest, is a haven for nature lovers, and those seeking a challenge might like to trek to the top of La Soufriere Volcano, the highest point of the Lesser Antilles.
Martinique: The Activities
Over on Martinique, travelers can also find some fascinating historic landmarks and must-see sights. A great place to embrace the island’s culture and history is in its capital city, Fort-de-France. There, you can admire the ornate colonial architecture and stop off at popular touristic hotspots, like the 17th century Fort Royal and wonderful Saint-Louis Cathedral.
Fort-de-France also plays home to many museums that can help you learn all about the island’s history. The Musée de la Pagerie is by far one of the best ones to visit. This museum is situated in an old sugar estate and also happens to be the birthplace of Josephine, first wife of Napoleon and Empress of France in the early 19th century.
Right next door to the Musée de la Pagerie is another must-see landmark: La Savane des Esclaves. This reconstructed slave village provides an emotional and educational glimpse at what life was like for slaves on the island, with carved sculptures and exhibitions illustrating their path from enslavement to eventual freedom.
Botanical gardens and a family-friendly zoo – Zoo de Martinique – can also be found on the island, in addition to many old plantations and distilleries, just like on Guadeloupe. Martinique is also a top spot for adventures in nature, with many miles of hiking trails, secret waterfalls, and plenty of diverse flora and fauna to discover, both on land and in the water.
Overall, the activities and attractions on both islands are relatively similar. Both offer sublime beaches, wide natural expanses, hiking, climbing, distillery tours, and more. However, with its larger size and livelier atmosphere, Guadeloupe has a bigger and arguably better range of attractions to cater to visitors of all ages.
Which Is Better For Beaches?
Of course, we can’t possibly speak about Martinique and Guadeloupe without mentioning their breathtaking beaches. With super soft sands, gentle waters, and jaw-dropping scenery all around, these islands are dreamy, paradise destinations for people who love to sunbathe, swim, or stroll along the shore. But which is best? Let’s take a closer look at each one.
Guadeloupe: The Beaches
As the bigger of the two islands, Guadeloupe has a longer coastline than Martinique and a greater number of beaches. It can also boast of some of the prettiest beaches in the entire Antilles, like Vieux-Fort Beach, with its deep golden sands and lush green backdrop, or Plage de la Perle, with its laid-back vibes and cozy hammocks.
Many of the beaches around Guadeloupe are terrific for surfing and other watersports, thanks to the strong winds coming in off the water. Malendure Beach, for instance, is a popular pilgrimage point for diving enthusiasts, with several reefs and shipwrecks to uncover beneath the surface. Grand-Anse, meanwhile, is a surfer’s dream, with wild waves all-year long.
There’s also an impressive amount of diversity to be found across Guadeloupe’s beaches. The white sands of Plage de Pompierre, for example, offer a romantic, secluded haven where boats aren’t allowed to spoil the silence, while Anse a la Gourd is surrounded by a cluster of rocky outcrops and ranks as one of the island’s top spots for watching the sunset.
Martinique: The Beaches
Martinique may be a little smaller than Guadeloupe, but it still has plenty of sublime sandy spots to offer, and many of them are super easy to access, so it’s generally easier and less time-consuming for travelers to get around and see all of Martinique’s coastal gems without too much hassle.
One of the peculiarities of Martinique’s beaches is that several of them have black, volcanic sand. Anse Noire is a fabulous example. It’s also a super spot for snorkeling, with lots of turtles and tropical fish living just off the shore. Anse Couleuvre is another brilliant black sand beach that requires a short hike past an abandoned rum distillery to reach.
Of course, Martinique also has golden and light sand beaches, too. Anse Dufour is a beautiful, cozy spot where you can sit and watch the local fishing boats bobbing on the waves, while Grande Anse des Salines is one of the island’s best-known beaches, looking like it was plucked right from a postcard with its coconut trees and silky sand stretching out to the horizon.
All in all, there’s no clear winner here. Guadeloupe definitely has bigger beaches and better options for watersports, along with a wider range of beaches overall. However, Martinique’s beaches are just as beautiful, as well as being easier to access, which may suit those who are looking for a very relaxing, laid-back break.
Which Is Better For Hiking And Outdoor Adventures?
Hiking is definitely one of the best ways to explore the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. With dense jungles and towering mountains across both islands, many visitors will be eager to hit the trails and immerse themselves in the wilderness, looking out for romantic waterfalls or tropical island wildlife along the way. But which island is best-suited for outdoor adventure?
Well, in terms of quantity, Guadeloupe is the winner. It has around 185 miles (300km) of hiking trails, many of which pass by lovely waterfalls and natural landmarks like the Deux Mamelles and Soufriere Volcano. Martinique, meanwhile, has around 110 miles (180km) of trails, but they’re still very scenic and impressive.
Guadeloupe also has more diverse landscapes to explore and enjoy, with a mixture of flatlands, forests, mountains, coastal cliffs, and so on. It’s an awesome diving and snorkeling destination, and the landscape lends itself well to other activities, like horseback riding. Martinique similarly has terrific diving spots and reefs, but can’t quite match Guadeloupe for outdoor activities.
Which Is Better For Nightlife?
If you love staying out late and hitting up local bars and beach parties, rather than simply heading back to your hotel for an early night, you’ll most likely prefer Guadeloupe to Martinique.
Guadeloupe is famed for being the livelier of the two islands, especially after dark, with lots of good spots to drink, dance, and have a good time. No matter where you happen to be staying on the island, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding somewhere to hang out and have fun once the sun has set.
Pointe a Pitre is particularly rich in nightclubs and lively dance spots, and many of Guadeloupe’s restaurants transform into live entertainment venues and dancing havens, with popular local musical styles including jazz, as well as the carnival-like “zouk” and the French-African blend known as “biguine”.
Martinique’s nightlife scene is certainly evolving, and there are some great places to dance, enjoy island rum, and mingle with the locals in the evenings. However, it’s not quite as broad or well-developed as the scene over on Guadeloupe. So, for parties and evening excitement, head to Guadeloupe.
Which Is Better For Food?
One of the best reasons to visit both Martinique and Guadeloupe is their delicious cuisine. Both islands cook from similar recipe books, making use of their own locally-grown ingredients and serving up similarly tasty treats, like Creole blood sausage and hearty chicken dishes cooked with coconut milk and rum.
African, French, and Caribbean elements all combine in a magical melting pot of ingredients, and you’re sure to eat well, no matter which island you choose. However, they both have their own specialties.
Martinique is famed for its Colombo, made of chicken or fish cooked with a rich blend of spices and vegetables. Guadeloupe, meanwhile, has lots of quality seafood, from snappers to octopus, as well as its iconic bokit – fried sandwiches filled with tasty ingredients, perfect for snacking on as you roam around the streets.
Overall, it’s tough to call a winner here, as it all comes down to personal preference. However, as the larger island, Guadeloupe has a wider range of eateries to appeal to all tastes, so may just have a slight edge over its smaller neighbor.
Which Is Best For Families?
Planning a family vacation to either Guadeloupe or Martinique? If so, you really can’t go wrong with either one of these islands. They’re veritable havens for kids and grown-ups alike, and people of all ages can make many happy, magical memories on the beaches or among the rainforests of the Antilles.
Guadeloupe has quite an impressive range of family attractions. There’s the Zoo de Guadeloupe, for instance, along with the Deshaies Botanic Gardens. There’s a massive, kid-friendly aquarium, too, as well as the aforementioned Maison du Cacao chocolate museum. Of course, kids will also have a blast on the island’s beaches.
Over on Martinique, there are also lots of lovely sandy spots for playing games or splashing around in the sea. Martinique also has a zoo to rival Guadeloupe, along with a nice range of museums where children of varying ages can learn all about the island’s past. Plus, with Martinique being smaller, it’s quicker and more convenient to get from place to place.
Overall, both islands can work well for families. Guadeloupe has a few more things to do, but it’s bigger and requires more time behind the wheel or on public transport, which might be fine for teens but could tire out younger travelers. Those with very little children may therefore find Martinique to be a more comfortable option.
Which Is Best For Couples?
Martinique and Guadeloupe often come up in discussions when couples are planning out their dream honeymoon or ideal romantic getaway. Once again, both of these islands can be terrific destinations to choose, and there’s really no wrong answer.
They’re both incredibly scenic and spectacular. Whether you and your partner simply want to bask on the beach, wander through the forest, trek up a mountain, or explore a museum, you can do it all on either island. However, there are a couple of key differences which could push you towards one destination over the other.
Guadeloupe has the livelier nightlife and more diverse culinary scene. So, if you and your special someone like staying out late and engaging in fun and festivities, Guadeloupe is probably best for you. It also has more to do overall, appealing to couples who want excitement and adventure in their itinerary.
Martinique, meanwhile, has more of a laid-back, luxury resort vibe. Therefore, if you’re looking for nothing but rest and relaxation, this might be the ideal island to choose. You won’t find as much to do, but you’ll certainly have a very comfortable and memorable experience.
Which Is Cheaper?
A trip to either Guadeloupe or Martinique won’t exactly be cheap. These islands are relatively expensive, ranking among the more luxurious destinations in the Caribbean Sea, so you’ll have to pay a pretty high price for travel, hotels, dining, and so on.
However, if we compare average costs across the two islands, one of them does emerge as slightly cheaper than the other, and it’s Guadeloupe which is a bit more budget-friendly. So, if you’d like to stretch your budget a little further and get slightly more bang for your buck, Guadeloupe is the place to go.
Guadeloupe vs Martinique: Which Is Better?
Overall, there’s no question that Guadeloupe and Martinique are both fabulous destinations. As stated several times, you can have a terrific time no matter which one you choose, and many people have fallen in love with one, the other, or both of these islands after spending only a few days on them.
However, we have to pick a winner. And, looking back over the comparison, it’s clear that Guadeloupe often wins out in the key categories, like nightlife, food, and family attractions. Since it’s the bigger island, it’s more full up with things to do, with a wider range of ways to spend time. No matter what kind of trip you’re looking for, you can find it on Guadeloupe.
With that said, Martinique is by no means a bad place to go. It’s a spectacular island with lots to love, from its dramatic black sand beaches to its friendly, laid-back locals and convenient public transport. If you’re looking for a shorter or more relaxing vacation, Martinique is definitely the one to choose.