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Visit Martinique, French Caribbean
Martinique, in French Antilles, is a kind of postcard island, a tropical paradise with beautiful beaches of white sand and palm trees, sun and blue sky, and rum everywhere.
The so-named Ile aux Fleurs (Flower Island) is also an island of volcanoes, exuberant vegetation, and endless sugarcane fields. History, culture, and traditions also have a special place on any Martinique vacation.
Martinique is perfect for a romantic getaway for two, but it is also suitable for groups or families looking for a mix of relaxing holiday and outdoor activities.
About Martinique Island in French Antilles
Martinique is an island located in the Caribbean Sea, one of the French islands that are part of the French Antilles. Martinique Island is a French region with a special status, more precisely one of France’s Départements d’Outre Mer (France’s Overseas Departments), also called DOM. As such, it depends on the French State, the official language is French (plus créole Martiniquais), and the currency is the euro.
The richness of the Martinique heritage comes from various cultures with Creole, African, French and Indian influences. The Martinican heritage is rich in vestiges and survivals of the past, which are protected and highlighted. Many museums, distilleries, gardens, Creole houses will tell visitors about its rich and fascinating history.
BEST TIME TO GO TO MARTINIQUE
The best time to go to Martinique, French Caribbean, is during the dry season, from December to April.
TRAVEL BY PLANE: Direct flights from Paris to Aimé Césaire International Airport (FDF) in Fort de France last 8.5 hours. This is always France, so the EU members just need to show an ID card to enter Martinique. Click here if you need a transfer from the airport to the city.
BY CAR: Traveling by car is the way to tour Martinique. With a car, some good tunes, and the best company, you are set for one of the best adventures in your life. Visit the most picturesque villages and historical sites and then go off the beaten path to visit the most secluded beaches and hidden waterfalls.
What to Do in Martinique, French Antilles
What to do in Martinique for one week or two? This is our list of best things to do in Martinique, with something for every kind of traveler.
Saint Pierre was Martinique’s main harbor until the eruption of the volcano Montagne Pelée in 1902, which destroyed all the city and killed its inhabitants.
Current Saint Pierre is built on the ruins of the former city, and it is worth a stop for some relaxing days under the sun. Come to picturesque Saint Pierre to enjoy the beach, learn about the terrible eruption at Musée Vulcanologique Franck Perret, and see some of its ruins (we recommend the visit to the ruins of the Old Theater).
Divers eager to explore shipwrecks will find a paradise in Saint Pierre. The visit to the Distillery Depaz to learn about the rum process making is also interesting.
Hike the Montagne Pelée (Mount Pelée)
Montagne Pelée (1,397 m) is the active volcano that destroyed Saint-Pierre on 8 May 1902. Today Montagne Pelée is a sleeping volcano, and the hike up to the summit is one of the top things to do in Martinique. From there, if clouds do not cover it, you have great views over Saint-Pierre bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
Montage Pelée was our favorite hike in Martinique. The path starts at Le Morne-Rouge, and it’s a 2km hike one way. The summit tends to be covered by clouds, so we recommend starting walking very early in the morning if you want to enjoy the views.
In Martinique, you are never far from a beautiful beach. For many visitors, Martinique beaches are the island’s main attraction, especially when it is cold in Europe.
From family beaches to untouched shorelines, there’s an ideal beach setting for everyone. All the beaches in Martinique are relatively easy to access and can be easily discovered by car.
Check out this list of Martinique’s best beaches with our best tips to get the most out of them.
The Grande Anse des Salines is always voted as the most beautiful Martinique beach, perhaps because it represents the beach we all have in mind when we think about the French Caribbean Island: white sand, corals, palm trees… The beach is very popular, so we recommend going on weekdays to avoid the biggest crowds.
We preferred Anse Noire beach (photo above), near Les Anses Arlet, which takes the name from its black sand. This is a more secluded and wild beach, surrounded by exuberant vegetation. When we picture Paradise, it is not that different from Anse Noire : -)
DID YOU KNOW? In Martinique, ‘Anse’ means ‘little bay with not very deep waters’ (crique in French, creek in English).
A Day Out on a Catamaran Cruise
Enjoy a great day out on a catamaran and see the Martinique beaches (and the Diamond Rock) from another point of view.
Catamaran tours are one of the best things to do in Martinique and they usually include local lunch and drinks onboard plus there always have a couple of stops to take a dip into the turquoise waters and snorkeling (equipment provided).
In Martinique, there are different catamaran cruise options, with departures from different points of the island. We tried this catamaran tour starting from Grande Anse d’Arlet, which took us to many beautiful spots between Pointe Burgos and Pointe Lézarde, perfect for snorkeling or diving. The 4-course meal was delicious!
Visit l’Habitation Clément (Rum Distillery)
When you visit Martinique, you cannot miss the visit to a rum distillery, even if you don’t drink rum. Martinique produces some of the best rums in France, the rhum agricole. This is a style of rum originally distilled from freshly squeezed sugarcane juice.
L’Habitation Clément, located at Le François, is a former rum distillery converted into a museum. This domain’s setting is lovely, with the main house (Maison de maître) surrounded by an exuberant park.
During the visit, you will learn the importance of the sugar cane in Martinique and how to transform it to obtain the famous rhum agricole. Of course, the visit finishes with a rum tasting, and there’s the possibility to buy some Rum Clément on-site.
TIP: If you are very interested in rum and rum production in Martinique, this full-day Historic Rum Tour that visits Habitation Clément and Habitation Le Simon is made for you!
Hike the Presque Ile de la Caravelle
The Caravelle is the peninsula that gives Martinique Island its characteristic shape. There are many easy hikes along the Presque Ile de la Caravelle, being Le Gran Sentier (7km, around 3.5 hours) the most popular one.
Starting at Trinité, Le Grand Sentier takes hikers through the forest, mangroves, cliffs, and the savannah so visitors can get a global overview of Martinique’s most beautiful landscapes in just one hike. On the way, there’s also the ruins of Dubuc Castle which you can visit for a small fee.
As for Montagne Pelée, we recommend starting early in the morning to avoid the clouds and the hottest hours. There’s no water along the way, so be sure to carry enough water for all the hike.
Get Lost at Balata Garden
The amazing Balata Garden, located in the hills of Fort-de-France, is a Martinique must-see. In this botanical garden, you can admire more than 3,000 species of tropical plants and flowers; it is a feast for the eyes!
The visit to Balata Garden is one of the top relaxing activities in Martinique, the perfect place for a stroll in nature, with ponds topped with lotus flowers and water lilies. It is also possible to enjoy a fabulous bird view from the rope bridges installed between the biggest trees.
Explore Picturesque Small Towns
Fort-de-France is the main gate to Martinique, and it is an excellent base for many fun day tours around. However, if you really want to know Martinique, take the car and explore the island’s picturesque towns.
Martinique’s small towns offer visitors colorful architecture, little squares, and colonial mansions, while the beach with the fishermen’s boats is never far. Don’t miss the vibrant markets and the souvenir stalls with interesting handicrafts.
Sainte Anne was our favorite village in Martinique, where we decided to stop some days for a relaxing break, but of course, there are many more pretty small towns waiting to be discovered.
Cap 110 Memorial Park
Cap 110 is another Martinique must-see. Cap 110 is the name of a memorial to slavery erected on Anse Caffard beach on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, in 1998.
This memorial is the work of the local artist Laurent Valère. This work pays tribute to the victims of the sinking of a clandestine slave ship carrying 300 slaves that occurred in 1830 when the traffic was already declared illegal. The work consists of 15 statues of white stone deposited on the ground. The characters look afflicted at the sea horizon. You can find more information about this work and its artist (in French) here.
We could not finish this article without mentioning the créole cuisine. Martinique cuisine is an essential part of the island’s culture and traditions, and a cooking course or food tour is another of the top things to do in Martinique.
The French Caribbean Islands’ gastronomy is mainly based on seafood, but chicken-based dishes are also prevalent. French Antilles’ dishes often use macerated meat and fish with a tasty seasoning to improve the flavor. Typical dishes include stuffed crabs, poulet boucané, and the Colombo (chicken curry most of the time), without forgetting the famous assiette créole (local blood sausage, cod fritters, salad).
TIP: this Caribbean cooking class in Schoelcher, at the outskirts of Fort-de-France), always has the best ratings!
Fruits and vegetables are also an important part of Martinique Cuisine. The bananas of French Antilles (Martinique and Guadeloupe) are well known for their quality and taste plus they always give an extra energy boost (don’t miss the Banana Museum in the village of Sainte Marie!). In addition to this fantastic fruit, there are many other exotic fruits, some of them (carambole, corossol) we discovered for the first time on site.
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