Martinique is a French overseas department in the Caribbean and part of the European Union. It’s also one of the safest islands in the Caribbean with a rich historical and cultural heritage. Located in the heart of the West Indies arch its nestled between two English-speaking islands, Dominica and Saint Lucia. You can also easily visit these islands from Martinique by taking the Express des Iles or the Jeans -ferry.
Here are my recommendations of top things to do while in Martinique:
1) Get active and go hiking
Martinique has a very large network of well-marked hiking trails which are also regularly maintained by the local authorities. There’s also something for every fitness level and a multitude of different landscapes from tropical rainforest to arid cliffs and beaches. Some of the top trails include the ascension of the semi-active Mount Pelée volcano, the loop of Caravelle nature reserve and the Trace de Caps in the south of the island crossing gorgeous white-sand beaches. Don’t forget that the sun sets very early (around 6 pm) here and always take a lot of water and sun protection!
2) Visit one or several of the Island’s rum distilleries
Martinique is home to dozens of brands of rum and the only one to hold the prestigious AOC-label (Appellation d’origine controlee) in the world! The island produces Agricole rum which is distilled directly from the pure sugarcane juice. Ten distilleries are open for visits and my personal favorites are JM in the north (especially during sugarcane harvest, from about February to June), Habitation Clément in le François and the family-owned Neisson distillery in le Carbet.
3) Enjoy tasty creole food
A mix between French, African Indian and Amerindian culinary traditions the island has some really tasty food to be sampled! Fresh fish and lobster, local vegetables like yams, plantains and sweet potato are enjoyed with spices like curry and chili. Don’t leave without tasting our codfish fritters (accras), barbecued spicy chicken (poulet boucané) and of course the local rum cocktail, ti-punch!
4) Discover tropical fish and corals
There are plenty of great snorkeling and diving spots on the island. For snorkeling I’d recommend the Anse Dufour cove in Anses d’Arlet- you can snorkel around the cliffs separating it from the only black-sand beach in the south, Anse Noire. Loads of corals and colourful fish. Another easy spot is found at the Anse Figuier beach in Sainte-Luce (head towards the stones on the left side of the beach).
5) Visit the bustling capital, Fort-de-France
Rich in history, the capital has many interesting monuments to see like the extravagant Schoelcher library and the newly renovated Saint-Louis cathedral. There’s also many museums as well as one of the best preserved military forts, the 17th century Fort Saint-Louis. You can enjoy a guided visit of the fort and if lucky, spot some of the hundreds of iguanas that have made it their home! Fort-de-France is also great for shopping. There are many French brands for clothing and jewellery, as well as souvenir stores. Best shopping can be found around the walking street and on the Victor Hugo street. There’s also the Perrinon-mall in downtown as well as a Galerie Lafayette to find French products and make-up. The capital is also conveniently served by a ferry from Trois-Ilets.
6) Visit the wild north of the island and the old capital destroyed by the volcano
The north part of the island is still quite preserved and also less touristic. If you enjoy nature and authenticity, it’s the place to go. Home to the highest peaks and the Pelée -volcano surrounded by rainforest and rivers, the north is also a paradise for hiking and canyoning. For adventure-lovers the stunning site of Gorges de la Falaise in Ajoupa-Bouillon is a must! A trip to the old capital, Saint-Pierre, totally destroyed in the eruption of 1902 is a moving and eerie experience. Another interesting place to visit is the Habitation Céron in the northernmost town of the Caribbean coast, le Prêcheur. In this old sugar plantation, home to a huge, 300-years old zamana-tree, time seems to have stopped. Stroll in the beautiful tropical garden and finish with a lunch in their open-air restaurant by the river.After, enjoy a swim at the peaceful black-sand beach of Anse Ceron from where you can see Dominica in the distance.
7) Swim with the turtles in Anses d’Arlet
Several diving companies can take you to see the turtles, many of them situated at the Grande Anse beach. You can also try your luck with just a snorkel here, and if lucky spot a turtle that come to feed on the seaweed present in the bay. Other spots for turtle watching include the closeby Anse Noire beach and the beach of downtown Anses d’Arlet (plage du bourg).
8) Learn about the history of the island by visiting a museum
If you’re a history buff Martinique has got you covered! Many regional museums and historical sites are found on the island. Some of the most interesting ones include the natural history pavilion at the Domaine d’Emeraude park set in the rainforest in Morne-Rouge, the archaeological museum in Fort-de-France tracing the Amerindian history of the island and the Savane des Esclaves in Trois-Ilets dedicated mostly to the slavery period. You can also learn all about bananas or sugarcane in the Banana museum of Sainte-Marie and the House of Sugarcane in Trois-Ilets.
9) Party with the locals until the end of night
Many of the island’s nightclubs are found outside big towns but some are also more centrally located. Get your moves on in “the Sunset” in downtown Fort-de-France, a popular local club. Another chic option is “Le Cloud”, a rooftop bar with music / dj’s in the weekends with their terrace overlooking the capital. In the south and for clubbing try the “Cosmopolite” in Rivière-Salée or for live music on a beautiful beach “Ti Kano” (some weekends only, see program on their webpage). Locals often go out quite late so don’t be surprised if the clubs only fill up around midnight! To know about different events check -out the online event calendar Sa Ka Fet Matinik.
10) Spend a relaxing day on a catamaran discovering the coast
Again, you will not be short of choice! Many different catamaran excursion companies exist on the island and most of them are based in the marina of Trois-Ilets and in le Marin. You can choose between a half-day or full-day outing, often with an open bar and food included. The itineraries take you either to the south or the north of the island and there are also special dolphin excursions.