All you need to know about Diego Suarez (Antsiranana) and Ramena in Madagascar!

The city of Diego Suarez (also known as Antsiranana) and the nearby village of Ramena in the north of Madagascar are delightful places. White beaches, azure blue sea, good food, hardly any tourists and a warm local population! In this blog, we tell you everything about Diego Suarez (Antsiranana) and Ramena in Madagascar, the best activities and things to do here, the best restaurants and our favourite hotels.


Diego Suarez, Antsiranana and Ramena

Diego Suarez (official name Antsiranana) is one of the northernmost cities of Madagascar! It is a port city, with a rich history that is still clearly visible in the city centre. Here you will find beautiful colonial buildings, unfortunately not always in an equally good condition. Diego Suarez takes its name from the two Portuguese Diego and Suarez who docked in the deep bay in 1543. For many years, the city remained an important military port, and even today it is still one of the deepest ports in the Indian Ocean. The city itself is nowadays a sleepy town, there is not much freight traffic anymore since the road to Tana, the capital of Madagascar is in bad condition.Diego-Suarez

Nosy Longo

The city of Antsiranana is definitely worth a visit, but the surrounding area is also beautiful! Including mountains and relaxed beaches. Antsiranana is also known for the large bay where the city is located, with in the middle of the water, a small island that closely resembles the sugar bread mountain in the bay of Rio de Janeiro. This island is called Nosy Longo and it is a bright green mountain that rises from the deep blue water.

Are you looking for a few relaxing days on the beach, then you should go to the nearby beach town Ramena!Diego-Suarez Madagascar

Ramena

Ramena is about 20 kilometres from Diego Suarez, but it’s totally different! This small village is the beginning of a peninsula. The beach is beautiful, but there are other special beaches nearby. Spread over this peninsula you will find several fine hotels and kite schools. Yes, you read that correctly, kite surfing is the thing to do in Diego and Ramena. The beaches here are world-famous for the wind and waves!Ramana beach Madagascar

Map of Madagascar with Diego Suarez / Antsiranana

Below is a map of Madagascar. As you can see Diego Suarez (Antsiranana) is all the way to the north.Highlights of Madagascar Travel guide Madagascar

How do you get to Diego Suarez and Ramena?

There are roughly two ways to travel to Diego Suarez or Antsiranana: either by car or by plane.

From Antananarivo to Diego Suarez by car

We made a great road trip to the north of Madagascar. In three weeks we travelled from Antananarivo (Tana, the capital of Madagascar) to Diego Suarez and back again. Take at least 9 days to drive from Antananarivo to Diego Suarez or Ramena, there is more than enough to see along the way and the road is unfortunately not too good ;-).

Read all about our road trip itinerary through the north of Madagascar here!

From Antananarivo to Diego Suarez by plane

It is also possible to take a domestic flight and fly directly to Antsiranana (Diego Suarez). Also from other airports in Madagascar (Nosy Be, Mahajanga and Sambava) like you can fly with airline Tsaradia to Diego Suarez. Keep in mind relatively high flight prices.Roadtrip Africa Madagascar


The best activities and things to do in Diego Suarez and Ramena!

Yes, you can easily top up your tan on the beautiful beaches here in the north of Madagascar. But there is also plenty to do for active travellers in the Diego Suarez area!

1. Discover the colonial city of Diego Suarez (Antsiranana)

Diego Suarez is certainly not a big city, but one that is worth a visit. The old colonial buildings, Portuguese architectural style and vintage cars that drive around make you feel like you are in Cuba. Wander through the beautiful streets, drink a cup of coffee or a Three Horses Beer (THB) in a local cafe or do your shopping! Because yes, Diego Suarez / Antsiranana is one of the few cities in the north of Madagascar with a real supermarket (the Score)!

Also, don’t forget to drive to the lower beach of Diego Suarez. This sandy beach is located on a wide bay with a view of the island of Nosy Longo.Diego Suraez Madagascar

2. Enjoy the beautiful beach of Ramena

Ramena, just 20 kilometres away from Diego Suarez, is a laid-back beach town. The town itself is not large, but you will find a nice restaurant and a lot of life here. Not only tourists come to the beach, but especially local Malagasy enjoy the sun, sea and atmosphere at every free moment. Extensive picnics, barbecues and beach parties are held. If you want to lose your energy, join a game of football on the beach or jump in the cooling waves.

There are several restaurants on the beach that serve fish and seafood caught in the morning. You don’t get it fresher or tastier.

3. Take a road trip across the peninsula along the Trois Bais from Ramena

The village of Ramena, lies at the beginning of a peninsula with a number of spectacular bays. The three best known are called “Trois Bais”, which stands for three bays. Are you travelling through Madagascar in a 4×4? Then you can take a nice tour of the peninsula along the Trois Bais.Ramana beach Madagascar

You start in Ramena and drive north. Part of the route goes through the military training area, but if you pay 10,000 AR (about € 2.50) you can just drive on the terrain. Definitely recommended because the beaches here are already impressive.

Once you arrive at the north of the peninsula, you really have to take a break to see the high waves crashing on the cliffs below. If you are lucky you will see a few giant turtles swimming in the blue water, just like we did.Ramana beach Madagascar

Road trip along the Trois Bais

The route continues through a beautiful, but fairly impassable nature reserve, where you really need that 4×4 to drive through the loose sand. It is all worth it because after a while you arrive at the first bay: Pigeons Bay. This bay has radiant white sand and wonderful waves for swimming. Plus hardly anyone ever comes here. Bay two is perhaps even more beautiful than Pigeons Bay, Dunes Bay. Again, chances are that you are alone!Trois Baies Diego Suarez

Take the time to sunbathe here, because at the next bay, Sakalava Bay, it is always too windy to lie on the beach. Because of its location and wind, this place is very popular with kite and windsurfers. Sakalava Bay is the only bay with a few beach bars perfect for a late lunch. The last part of the tour over the peninsula goes through the islands again. Here too the roads are challenging, but eventually, you will return to the usual road between Antsiranana and Ramena.Trois Baies Diego Suarez Madagascar

We traveled all over Madagascar by 4×4! Read everything you need to know about renting a car in Madagascar here!


4. Visit the Emerald Sea by boat from Ramena

Warm turquoise water, perfect for snorkelling, spotting turtles and fish or just cooling off: the Emerald Sea is just a short boat ride away from Ramena or Antsiranana. A lagoon with nice warm water, which lies just in front of the bay of Diego Suarez. The water of this lagoon, which is called Mer d’Esmeraude in French, is shallow and therefore perfect for an afternoon of relaxation. Nearby are white sandy beaches surrounded by palm trees, making this the ultimate tropical experience.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to see this beautiful place. When we were in Ramena, the wind was much too strong, which would make a boat trip to the Emerald Sea irresponsible. If you are luckier then us with the weather, please inquire at your hotel or on the beach. Negotiating for a boat trip is normal, expect to pay around 60,000-90,000 (10-15 euros) per person including freshly caught lunch and snorkel gear. The trip, by traditional Malagasy boat (pirogue) that takes you to the lagoon of Mer d’Esmeraude in less than an hour, is an experience in itself!

Tip: Can’t get enough of the clear waters of the Emerald Sea? Then book an overnight stay at the Les Paillottes de Babaomby hotel on the beach!Trois Baies Diego Suarez Madagascar kite surf

5. Hike to the French Mountain

The French Mountain is located just outside Antsiranana, in the nature reserve on the peninsula where Ramena is also located. You can climb this steep hill via a trail that starts about 12 km outside of Diego Suarez. The hike takes two hours (one way) and can be quite tough. A guide is definitely recommended because the road is not well displayed. On the way and at the top you have a nice view of the bay of Antsiranana (Diego Suarez), Ramena and Nosy Longo. You will also come across ruins of French fortresses that stood here during colonial times.Ramana beach Madagascar

6. Visit the beautiful Amber Mountains National Park

The Amber Mountains National Park (also known as Montagne d’Ambre National Park) is an hour’s drive from Antsiranana. This park is known for the many waterfalls, crater lakes and the beautiful chameleons that live here.

Because the park is on a higher altitude than the surrounding area, it has its own climate. It rains more and more often here and it is fresher. This makes the park’s biodiversity one of the highest in all of Madagascar. You don’t need a guide to visit the Amber Mountains National Park. Entry is 45,000 Ar per person. Do you like camping? That is possible too in this beautiful national park.

7. Learn kitesurfing in Madagascar

As mentioned before, you can go kitesurfing and windsurfing very well near Ramena. Sakalava Bay, in particular, is known as the place to learn to kitesurf. The kitesurfing season in Madagascar runs from late March to late November. Kite Alizé is the place in Ramena to learn to kitesurf or to rent kite gear.Ramana beach Madagascar

8. Visit the Tsingy Rouge

The Tsingy Rouge is a two-hour drive from Antsirnana. After a bumpy road over the unpaved road, you suddenly find yourself at the top of a huge ravine that runs for miles. In the canyon are impressive red sculptures: the Red Tsingy. Do you have an extra day, or are you planning to drive south from Antsiranana, then don’t miss the Red Tsingy!

Read all about the Tsingy Rouge Natural Park here, also known as Red Tsingy!Red Tsingy Madagascar


Our favorite restaurants in Ramena!

Freshly caught fish are abundant in Ramena. In the morning, the local fishermen take to the water with their pirogue, only to return a few hours later with shrimp, fish, crabs and lobster. You can eat the best fish at one of the restaurants on the beach. For example at Gargote Chez Marie and Gargotte Le Lagon.

If you are staying at hotel Lakana, consider eating at the on-site restaurant for an evening. The chef makes the tastiest dishes with fish, meat or even completely vegetarian!

A nice place to have a beer in the evening or to order a simple dish is the Madagascar Paradise Lounge terrace. This belongs to Hotel KiteParadise, and is located on the bay Sakalava (where all kite surfers come). Please note that this restaurant is not located in Ramena.


Wondering if a trip through Madagascar is expensive? Read all about our budget and our expenses in Madagascar here!


The best hotels near Diego Suarez (Ansiranana) and Ramena

There are several hotels, hostels and other types of accommodation in Diego Suarez and Ramena. We ourselves stayed in Ramena because we wanted to sit close to the beach and liked the atmosphere there.

Lakana €Hotel Guide Madagascar Hotel Lakana Ramena Diego Suarez

We are a big fan of this hotel. The rooms are good (including air conditioning), there is a nice swimming pool and the hotel is right on the sea! The food here is also great. From €25 per night (double room).

More information

Mantasaly €€Mantasaly hotel Ramena and Diego Suarez

This beautiful hotel is secluded but totally worth it! There is a large swimming pool, gym and sauna. It sits near a beautiful bay where you can kitesurf well. From €82 per night including breakfast (double room).

More information

Grand Hotel Diego €€€Le grand hotel Diego Suarez Madagascar

This luxury hotel is located right in the centre of Diego Suarez. It has a nice pool and casino. This hotel is relatively pricey, you sleep here from €92 per night including breakfast (double room).

More information

Do you want to sleep at Sakalava bay, where all the kite surfing takes place? Then we can recommend you to stay at hotel Kite Paradise-Madagascar!


You can find more great hotels in Madagascar in our hotel guide!


Travel Blogs MadagascarClick here for all my blogs about Madagascar.


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