Holidays & Sabbaticals to French Guiana – In a Nutshell
A remote overseas French department, this tropical backwater is fringed by the Brazilian Amazon and the Atlantic Ocean.
Like its neighbour Suriname, French Guiana is home to a diverse ethnic mix and melting-pot of cultures – indigenous Amerindians, Creole, European colonists, descendants from Asian indentured labourers, Laos refugees and the ancestors of African slaves.
The cosmopolitan capital, Cayenne, embodies this raw, cultural blend where tricolore flags flutter on heritage buildings, Hmong communities sell ‘pho’ in the local market, and communication is in a multitude of Creole dialects.
The interior is cloaked in virgin rainforest, sheltering indigenous Maroon communities and some of the world’s most diverse wildlife and flora.
French Guiana is known for the harsh penal colonies on the Îles du Salut, and the European Space Centre in Kourou; time your visit carefully and you could watch a rocket launch into space.
It’s a tricky country to travel around – expensive (they use the Euro), with limited infrastructure. But as a result, you’ll barely meet any other tourists here.
Wild, rustic, exotic and tropical, adventure lovers will be in their element.
How to Get to French Guiana
You can travel overland from neighbouring countries Suriname or Brazil.
If you’re flying in, you’ll land at Cayenne’s Félix Eboué International Airport, the country’s only airport.
From here, we’d recommend hiring a car or a private transfer vehicle for ease of getting around.
Shared minibus taxis connect the towns and villages, but their schedules are random; they basically depart once full. There are no trains. Canoe taxis ply the waterways.
When & Weather – French Guiana
French Guiana has a tropical monsoon climate, with stable temperatures throughout the year, due to its position near the equator. Dry Season is July to November; Rainy Season is December to June.
Temperatures range between 28°C (82°F) and 32°C (89°F).
Who will French Guiana Appeal To?
The country’s raw culture and vast wilderness are best suited to:
- Adventure seekers
- Active travellers
- Wildlife enthusiasts
- Solo travellers
- Culture Vultures
We can arrange stays in small boutique hotels, eco lodges, simple guesthouses and homestays.
Off The Beaten Path
- Charming Cacao, where the Hmong refugees settled in the 1970s, is a homage to Laos, a hillside village of stilted houses and vegetable plantations. The Sunday market is a must!
- Travel by dugout canoe down the Marowijne river to visit Amerindian and Maroon indigenous villages.
- Or canoe down the rapids of the Approuahue.
- Remire Montjoly near Cayenne is a postcard-perfect beach of empty golden sands hugged by palm trees.
- Visit Devil’s Island, the harshest penal colony on the the Iles du Salut archipelago, made famous by Henri Charrière’s Papillon autobiography.
- You can tour the cells and solitary confinement ‘coffins’, dine in the old guards’ quarters, even stay overnight in converted prison buildings.
- Hike the Sentier Molokoi de Cacao trail, a deep-rainforest hike far from the beaten path.
- Come for carnival, during February and March: dazzling costumes, exuberant street parades, joyful music and a lot of rum!
- Leatherback turtles lay their eggs by the light of the moon on Plage Les Hattes.
- Salines de Montjoly is a wildlife lover’s dream, home to an exotic mix of over 700 species of birds, 177 species of mammals, and 300 species of reptile. You’ll need to boat here or fly in by light aircraft on an official tour to spot sloths, ocelot, tapirs and manatees.
- Spy caiman and scarlet ibis in the Kaw Nature Reserve.
- Playful capuchin monkeys dance along the Sentier Molokoi de Cacao trail.
French Guiana Experiences you shouldn’t miss:
- Feel an inner calm in sleepy Cayenne.
- Tour the European Space Centre in Kourou.
- Wander the Hmong markets and taste red-braised pork and spicy Hmong chicken sausage.
- Delve into the history of the Transportation Camps.
- E-bike around the countryside lanes near Cayenne.
- Boat along the Maroni River, a 400-mile waterway dotted with local villages.
Visitors with a keen interest in conservation can get involved with a turtle project in Les Hattes beach which is a key nesting site for leatherback sea turtles. Thousands of leatherbacks lay their eggs each year between April and July and the babies hatch between July and September. Volunteers assist with patrolling the beaches and ensuring the nests remain undisturbed.
Our experienced team will guide you through a number of ideas based on how you would like to experience French Guiana.
Typically we would recommend visiting French Guiana in combination with neighbouring countries Suriname and Brazil, as well as Guyana, as part of a wider South American itinerary. Or combine with a beach break on one of the more traditional Caribbean islands to create a truly unique trip.
Browse our gallery for inspiration and read the sample itinerary below to whet your appetite.
No matter how long you wish to travel, we’ll guide you through the planning process to ensure a trip is carefully pieced together to suit your interests, pace of travel and budget. Contact us to start planning a holiday or sabbatical to French Guiana.