Top 10 free tourist attractions in French Guiana

by Alice

French Guiana, located on the northeastern coast of South America, is a land of captivating contrasts. It boasts lush rainforests, a rich cultural heritage, and unique wildlife. Despite being a relatively small and often overlooked destination, French Guiana offers a wealth of experiences for travelers. Here are the top 10 free tourist attractions in French Guiana, showcasing the diverse beauty and history of this fascinating region.

1. Place des Palmistes

The heart of Cayenne, French Guiana’s capital, Place des Palmistes is a vibrant square that is both a historical landmark and a social hub. Surrounded by colonial buildings, this park is adorned with towering royal palm trees, giving it a distinctive tropical charm. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll or relax on the benches while soaking in the local atmosphere. The square is often the site of cultural events, festivals, and markets, offering a glimpse into the lively culture of French Guiana. As you explore Place des Palmistes, you’ll discover statues and monuments commemorating significant figures in the region’s history, making it a perfect spot to start your journey through French Guiana.


2. Îles du Salut (Salvation Islands)

While access to the islands themselves may require a ferry ticket, the view from the coast and the historical significance of Îles du Salut can be appreciated for free. These islands, located off the coast of Kourou, are renowned for their historical association with the notorious French penal colony. The most famous of the islands, Devil’s Island, was once home to political prisoners, including Captain Alfred Dreyfus. Though the islands are now peaceful and offer lush landscapes, their past adds a haunting layer to their beauty. Standing on the mainland, you can reflect on the history and imagine the lives of those who once inhabited these isolated places, making it a thought-provoking experience in French Guiana.


3. Sentier du Rorota (Rorota Trail)

For nature enthusiasts, the Sentier du Rorota offers an incredible hiking experience through the dense rainforests of French Guiana. Located near Montjoly, this trail provides an excellent opportunity to witness the region’s biodiversity. The path winds through lush vegetation, offering sightings of various wildlife, including monkeys, birds, and even sloths if you’re lucky. The hike culminates in breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, making it a rewarding journey for hikers. The Sentier du Rorota is well-marked and accessible, making it an ideal way to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of French Guiana without spending a dime.


4. Cacao Village

Nestled in the interior of French Guiana, Cacao Village is a fascinating destination that showcases the cultural diversity of the region. This village is home to a community of Hmong people who were resettled here from Laos in the 1970s. Every Sunday, Cacao comes alive with a bustling market where visitors can explore a variety of Hmong crafts, textiles, and delicious foods. The vibrant market offers a unique opportunity to experience the fusion of Hmong and French Guianese cultures. Additionally, the village is surrounded by beautiful landscapes, making it a great place for a scenic drive and cultural exploration in French Guiana.

5. Camp de la Transportation

Located in the town of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, the Camp de la Transportation is a significant historical site in French Guiana. This former prison camp was an integral part of the French penal system, housing convicts before they were sent to the Îles du Salut. Today, the site serves as a poignant reminder of French Guiana’s colonial past. Visitors can explore the remains of the camp, including the cells, administration buildings, and the transportation dock. Informative plaques provide insights into the harsh conditions prisoners endured. Walking through the camp, you can almost feel the weight of history, making it a compelling and educational experience in French Guiana.

6. Marais de Kaw (Kaw Marshes)

The Marais de Kaw, or Kaw Marshes, is one of French Guiana’s most pristine natural reserves. This vast wetland area is home to an incredible array of wildlife, including caimans, birds, and various fish species. While organized tours are available, visitors can also explore parts of the marshes independently. The scenic beauty of the Kaw Marshes is mesmerizing, with its extensive waterways, lush vegetation, and abundant fauna. Birdwatchers will particularly enjoy the diversity of avian species found here. Whether you’re kayaking through the waterways or simply enjoying the view from the shore, the Marais de Kaw offers a serene escape into nature in French Guiana.

7. Remire-Montjoly Beaches

French Guiana’s coastline is dotted with beautiful beaches, and Remire-Montjoly offers some of the best. These beaches are easily accessible from Cayenne and provide a perfect spot for relaxation and recreation. The long stretches of golden sand, framed by palm trees and the Atlantic Ocean, are ideal for sunbathing, swimming, and picnicking. Additionally, the beaches are known for their nesting sea turtles, particularly from April to July, when visitors can witness these magnificent creatures laying their eggs. The natural beauty and tranquility of Remire-Montjoly beaches make them a must-visit destination for anyone traveling through French Guiana.

**8. Zoo de Guyane

Although not entirely free, the Zoo de Guyane in Macouria offers a unique opportunity to see the native wildlife of French Guiana in a well-maintained environment. The zoo is home to a variety of animals, including jaguars, monkeys, and numerous bird species. For those on a budget, there are often promotional days or discounted entry periods. The zoo is not only an educational experience but also a great place to learn about the conservation efforts in French Guiana. Walking through the zoo, visitors gain a deeper appreciation for the region’s biodiversity and the importance of preserving it.

**9. La Crique Toussaint

La Crique Toussaint is a hidden gem in French Guiana, offering a peaceful and scenic retreat. This small creek, located near the village of Montsinéry, is surrounded by lush greenery and offers a refreshing spot for a swim. The calm waters and serene environment make it a perfect place to relax and enjoy nature. It’s a popular spot among locals for picnics and family outings. The area is relatively undeveloped, providing a more authentic and off-the-beaten-path experience. Whether you’re looking to cool off in the water or simply enjoy the natural surroundings, La Crique Toussaint is a delightful destination in French Guiana.

**10. Sinnamary Cultural Trail

The Sinnamary Cultural Trail offers a journey through the rich cultural heritage of French Guiana. This trail takes visitors through the town of Sinnamary, known for its Creole architecture and vibrant cultural life. The trail includes stops at significant landmarks, historical buildings, and local art galleries. Along the way, visitors can learn about the traditional crafts, music, and dance of French Guiana. The trail is a fantastic way to engage with the local culture and history, providing a deeper understanding of the region’s diverse influences. Exploring Sinnamary on foot allows you to fully appreciate the charm and character of this part of French Guiana.

In Conclusion

French Guiana is a destination that offers a wealth of experiences for travelers, from its historical sites to its stunning natural landscapes. The top 10 free tourist attractions highlighted here provide just a glimpse into the rich tapestry of culture, history, and nature that defines French Guiana. Whether you’re hiking through rainforests, exploring historical ruins, or relaxing on beautiful beaches, French Guiana promises an unforgettable adventure for all who visit.



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