Until France decided to build its space station on the coast of French Guaina, thanks to favorable location for space launches, Kourou was isolated, known only for its association with the infamous penal system on the Isles de Salut, or Devil’s Island.
Then in the mid-1960’s began the transformation from sleepy coastal town decaying in the heat and humidity of jungle, swamp and savannah to a site capable of hosting and maintaining the complex technology required for space launces.The influx of technology, construction, engineering know-how and the professionals to construct, equip and man a space station changed the French Guianese coast forever. There was no road connecting Kourou with the capital of Cayenne, about 65 km southwest along the coast. One was built, and now Route Nationale 1 runs along the coast from St. Laurent on the Maroni river on the Suriname border, through Kourou and Cayenne, Highway 2 continues past Regina to Oiapoque on the border with Brazil.Kourou was little more than rusting shacks and a port. It needed considerable modernizing and an infrastructure to create living conditions to house the imported staff and workers.
Today, Kourou has grown tremendously. Modern residential districts, shopping areas, cafes, restaurants, nightclubs and hotels service the more sophisticated residents from Europe and other locations and the traveler who comes to enjoy a resort where once prisoners suffered a harsh penal system.