You probably know how it feels when you first arrive in a completely new place, right? You want to explore everything immediately like there is no time to waste. You absorb all the information like a sponge, take in new customs and traditions, inhale new scents and try to remember every little detail as if it was to disappear at any time. We also want to get to know everything at once, try new foods, meet new people and visit straight away all the beautiful places.
Cayenne, the main city of French Guyana was the first stop of our journey through South America. Everything, from the colonial architecture, never tasted fruits and vegetables to people themselves seemed special and extraordinary. We kept ourselves as busy while exploring the city to learn as much as possible and to enjoy our stay to the fullest.
After gathering all the information and checking all tourist attractions, we’ve prepared a list of top 10 things you can and should do while visiting Cayenne.
1. Explore the city
Cayenne is filled with extraordinary and well preserved colonial architecture. Take a stroll around the main square and enjoy the traditional, colorful buildings with their beautiful verandahs and wooden window shutters. Don’t forget to explore the historical sights such as the Cathedral and the old fort. Chinatown and the botanic garden are also well worth seeing!
2. Go to the market
Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, near the main square on Rue de Lieutenant Becker the locals trade vegetables, fruits, spices and more. Some of the fishermen bring their catch as well. You might find food you have never seen before, spend hours trying new flavors and discover plants you didn’t know even exist!
3. Eat Colombo
It’s the traditional and most popular dish in French Guiana. Strongly influenced by Indian cuisine, Colombo is a pork stew prepared with vegetables and the mix of spices very similar to those used for the preparation of curry. A very hearty and worth tasting dish!
4. Visit a beach
Cayenne and its surroundings are famous for vast, sandy beaches like the one at Montjoly. Make sure you don’t miss the chance to take a walk along one of them and swim in the very warm ocean.
5. Hike around the Rorota Lake
This is a great way to discover the jungle for the first time. Located only a few kilometers from the bustling city, the Rorota trekking path offers you a great jungle experience in the close neighborhood of Cayenne. During this two and a half hour hike you get the chance to see tropical forest, observe various species of birds and a lot of different animals as well as the overwhelming vegetation. If you are lucky and observant enough, you can spot sloths slowly enjoying their meals on tops of trees.
The Rorota Hike is one of many paths you can walk on around the city. On this website you can find all paths in French Guyana with a short description (in French), location, maps and the duration of the trek.
6. Discover Îlet-la-Mere
Only half an hour away by boat there is a little island ruled by monkeys. Once you enter their territory, there is no way you leave without meeting them. Eager to play, they steal your food and follow every step you take- the Squirrel Monkeys are one of a kind. Another highlight are the bats and enormous kapok trees.
Enjoy the island’s beach and do the 1,5 hours trek around, but don’ forget to close your bag properly!
7. Rent a kayak
This is another way to explore the jungle and see places impossible to visit in any other way. Renting a kayak is relatively cheap comparing to other available tourist attractions. You can look up the offer of companies like Loca Pirogue. They drop you off with the kayak (canoe or motorboat) at various spots and pick you up whenever you are finished with your discover tour. This way we traveled up one of the hundreds of small rivers till the Marshes of Caw- an amazing nature park full of colorful birds and breathtaking landscapes.
8. Go for a bike ride (obviously)
Even though French Guiana is not a cyclist paradise, as there are only few roads you can take to enjoy a proper bike ride out of the city. You do have the option to take the road to Matoury and pass by rural areas or, if you prefer a longer stroll, go to Roura or Cacao village inhabited almost entirely by refugees from Laos who were resettled in French Guiana in the 1970s. To make this tour even more special, plan it for a Sunday morning and visit the local market with unique weaving, embroidery and food.
9. Check out the local museums
Located on the Place de Palmistres, the Museum Alexandre-Franconie offers you all the information you need to know about the fauna of French Guiana. Learn about the colorful butterflies and other insects, get to know bird species and see models of all the local animals.
Discover the history of the colonization, read the local press from that period and find out about the daily life of farmers and villagers. It’s well worth to pay a visit there- don’t miss the chance.
10. Have a glass of rum at the Bar des Palmistes
Rum is French Guiana’s favorite alcohol. Everywhere you can spot people enjoying a glass or two together with a slice of lime and a bit of cane sugar. There is no better place in Cayenne to indulge this drink than the Bar des Palmistes. Bustling with life and unique atmosphere, this place brings your rum night up to the next level.