Martinique is a petit Paris in the rainforest with some of the best beaches in the Caribbean. Its culture, architecture, and food all have a hint of France. Visitors come here mainly for the long, incredible stretches of white sand bordered by lush green jungle. There is a great deal to do here. Martinique is an exclusive getaway where you can dine on haute French cuisine before setting off for a hike to the top of a volcano. Never a dull moment in magnificent Martinique.
Martinique is a Caribbean Island in the Lesser Antilles that is a French overseas territory, and Fort-de-France is its capital. It is a mere 16 miles for Guadeloupe, which is also a French island region.
Not surprisingly, Martinique is another island discovered by Christopher Columbus during one of his later trips in 1502, although the Spanish didn’t rush to settle it. It is a small, mountainous volcanic island with sharp cliffs, and the fabulous mountains do attract more tourists than the great beaches. The major mountain is Mt. Pelee in the north, a still-active volcano spanning up to 1,397 feet. The volcanic activity has ensured great fertile soil in the north, with an exotic floral growth, including orchids.
Martinique’s southern region has the fabulous white beaches by Fort-de-France. The most famous of these beaches is the Salines beach in Sainte-Anne, which attracts 2 million visitors annually. Turquoise waters, white sands, and coconut palm trees swaying above make the perfect postcard picture to send home during your visit.
After the French settled on Martinique, they brought in slaves to work the land. As a result, modern Martinique has a huge mixed European and African population. While it is a Christian country, it retains a hint of Creole voodoo. Martinican cuisine is a tasty and unique blend of French haute cuisine made with African spices.
Modern-day Martinique is truly sophisticated French with the warmth of the West Indies blended in. As has been said, “Martinique c’est magnifique!”
Language Spoken in Martinique
Martinicans speak French during most everyday activities. English is rare, but a few touristy resorts can accommodate English visitors. However, English visitors should not count on obtaining directions or a lot of information as they drive or hike through smaller villages and towns. Martinicans do appreciate any efforts visitors make to accommodate their language.
Currency in Martinique
Martinique has a French banking system, with the euro being the country’s official currency. The rate of exchange is approximately 1 euro to $1.42. Visitors should be aware that many local banks are closed for lunch and/or Wednesday afternoons. Others remain closed on Monday. Planning ahead is an excellent idea.
Things to Do in Martinique
Anse Cafard Slave Memorial
The Anse Cafard Slave Memorial is in southwest Martinique and is comprised of 20 large stone effigies facing Diamond Beach. While many Caribbean countries have attempted to put their slavery past behind them, Martinique has created an amazing tribute to its history and the crashing of a slave vessel. Anyone can come, touch these figures, and just sit at their side and contemplate what they mean. Fortunately, signs at the memorial are in both French and English
At 1,397 meters, Pelee Mountain is Martinique’s highest point and a beloved hiking destination. This is an active volcano that erupted in 1929 but has since been dormant. It is surrounded by incredibly lush green mountains with trails to the top, where hikers are rewarded with a stunning view of the island and the Caribbean Sea. It’s quite a hike, so water and a few snacks are a good idea.
Le Crazy Nights
Crazy Nights is the place for music and dancing in the town of Ste. Luce. This is where natives and fun-lovin’ tourists whip around like palm trees in a storm. Dancing is a must, and there are frequent live concerts. There are no rules here, just go as crazy as you dare.
La Savane Park (La Savane des Esclaves)
La Savanne des Esclaves in Les Trois-Ilets is a living museum with gardens and huts that recreate colonial life in Martinique. Every hut tells its own story of slavery and the daily indignities of the life of a slave. Not a pleasant story, but a necessary historical reminder. The place is now transformed into a lovely garden filled with medicinal plants. Keep wandering through the garden to the Amerindian Village, which is an exhibition of how the original Indian tribes, the Caribs, lived. There are plenty of vendors hawking souvenirs. During a stroll, try and spot the headless marble statue of French Emperor Bonaparte’s wife, Empress Josephine, who was born in Martinique. It is uncertain how and why she lost her head.
Jardin de Balata
The Jardin de Balata near Fort-de-France is a garden within a rainforest with an abundance of plant life. There are dramatic bamboo trees, plants, and a fun fish pond. Hummingbirds flock overhead while the sea lies dramatically below. There is a restaurant and a gift shop, and transportation from Fort-de-France is available.
The Grand Marche market has been in Fort-de-France for a century and a half. It is mainly a spice market for those exotic spices that are a part of Martinican cooking. The market is a burst of aromas and colors of every kind. According to local rumors, the bark of the Richeria Grandis tree is an excellent aphrodisiac. Visitors will also find arts and crafts and restaurants that serve Creole seafood dishes, as well as Martinique’s own special rum called Rhum Agricole.
Martinique is a foodie paradise, and a food tour through Fort-de-France is a guaranteed taste bud-awaking excursion. As you stroll to the various restaurants, you can enjoy a sightseeing tour of the city, as well. You will taste a variety of Creole and French cuisine, along with recommendations of the best restaurants in town. All tours are in both English and French.
La Francaise Beach
is in the middle of the city. This small but clean beach is a great way to cool off, and the kids love the playground.
Best Beaches to Visit in Martinique
Diamond Beach is a famed diving resort area near Le Diamant, a volcanic rock that once provided shelter for roaming pirates. Now, it is also a favorite hiking mountain to the top of the volcano. Check out the nearby Slave Memorial. This can easily be done in one day.
Anse Noire (Les Anses d’Arlet)
Anse Noire is a serene, quiet beach in Martinique’s southwest region that is rarely crowded. People come here for some excellent snorkeling and scuba diving. Anse Noire is kept secluded by hills and trees to afford maximum privacy. It stands out from other Martinique beaches with its black sand and is the only beach on the island of its kind.
Anse Dufour is next door to Anse Noire but is a completely different experience. Along with Anse Noise, it is a great and remote diving beach, but Anse Dufour has perfect white sand to contrast the black sand of Anse Noire. A stroll along the beach should lead visitors to the spot where sea turtles come daily for their meal of seagrass.
Grande Anse des Salines (Sainte-Anne)
Grande Anse des Salines by Saint Anne is a large beach that is best reached by car or taxi. It can get crowded, and early mornings is the best time to come and view Diamond Rock in the distance. It is one of the most beautiful beaches in Martinique, and the waters are calm, so its ideal for families with children. There are several eateries by the beach. The closest accommodations are in Saint Anne.
Anse Mitan (Les Trois Ilets)
Anse Mitan beach near the village of Les Trois-Ilets is easily accessible by ferry from Fort-de-France. The primary attraction is the white sand lined with swaying palm trees. There are bars and restaurants nearby and it can get noisy at times. It is good that the restaurants rent lounging chairs. There are also hotels very close by, and vendors by the beach offer diving cruises and water skiing. After lying on Anse Mitan beach, stroll through the shops in the village.
Anse Figuier is a busy beach located between Ste. Luce and Le Marin with a lot to offer. It is an ideal beach for snorkeling and checking out the colorful fish, starfish, or sponges. Or, visitors can just laze around the water surrounded by gardens, restaurants, and picnic tables. Several eateries are conveniently located along the edge of Anse Figuier.
Best All-Inclusive Resort or Hotel in Martinique
Buccaneers Creek near Ste. Anne is a part of the Club Med chain and the largest hotel in Martinique. All suites and rooms come with a private balcony that has a view of the ocean or the stunning gardens. The two waterfront restaurants are all-inclusive. Guest can enjoy a couples’ spa room, infinity pool, and nightly live entertainment. While the hotel is adult-centric, it does allow children. Guests can explore the nearby Baie du Marin and Anse des Salines for the ideal scuba diving waters.
Best Resort or Hotel for Couples in Martinique
La Suite Villa in Trois-Ilets has both suites and villas with a private jacuzzi. Every suite has a stunning view of Fort-De-France. In addition, the resort offers several packages for couples. Its “wellness package” includes two couple massages followed by a stay in a jacuzzi, breakfast served daily on a private terrace and dinner for two. The “love package” includes chocolate fondue, champagne, and breakfast served daily on the terrace. The “pleasure for two packages” includes champagne, a surprise naughty box, and breakfast served on the terrace.
Best Resort or Hotel for Families in Martinique
The Karibea Sainte-Luce Hotel in St. Luce is a large complex surrounded by gardens and two beaches. Rooms have either a garden or ocean view. The hotel has a choice of eateries with view of the waterfront, and the Bar le Baril De Rhum is famed for its exotic cocktails. The hotel has three pools, including an infinity pool with aquagym sessions. Adults can indulge in the tennis court, diving club, massage treatments, and the nearby hiking trail. The TiManmay Kids Club keeps children between the ages of 5 and 11 occupied with watersports, workshops, and games. The Kids Club provides lunch at an additional charge.