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Explore Martinique

Explore Martinique a Caribbean island that is an overseas department of France in the Caribbean Sea, north of St. Lucia and south of Dominica. The island is dominated by Mount Pelee, which on 8 May 1902 erupted and completely destroyed the city of Saint Pierre, killing 30,000 inhabitants. In the South of the island, there are many beautiful beaches with a lot of tourists. In the North, the rain forests and the black sand beaches are worth seeing. The interior of the island is mountainous.

Cities

  • Anse a l’Ane
  • Fort-de-France : Capital.
  • Le Carbet :
  • Le Diamant : Beach town facing the iconic Diamond Rock.
  • Le Marin : The main harbor for sailboats, located in a bay.
  • Morne Rouge : Access to the Montagne Pelée.
  • Sainte-Anne : Perhaps the most touristic town as it is the access point to all the white sand beaches of the south, including the most famous but crowded Les salines.
  • Saint-Pierre : Former capital that was destroyed by the 1902 eruption, many historic remains. The city has been rebuilt but is much smaller than it was.
  • Trois-Ilets : Across the bay from Fort de France and reachable by ferry. Touristic town with big resorts, restaurants and casino.

Other destinations

  • Macouba, a former tobacco town, currently a great look-out place with a great view of seas and mountains. On a clear day, neighboring island Dominica can be seen.
  • Balata, a serene little town with a church (a miniature Sacre Coeur) built to remember those who died in World War I and the Jardin de Balata a garden with thousands of well-tended tropical plants. An optional narrow bridge can be walked at tree top level.
  • Presqu’île de la Caravelle, easy 30 min walk up to the lighthouse where you get a view of the whole island.
  • Tartane, fishermans village where you’ll find the most consistent surfing.

Martinique is an overseas department of France and retains both French and Caribbean culture. The island cuisine is a superb blend of French and Creole cooking that is worth trying. The north part of island lures hikers who seek to climb the mountains and explore the rain forests while the southern portions offer shopping and beaches for those who chose to just relax.

The climate is tropical and humid with an average temperature of 24°C to 30°C. The climate is moderated by trade winds. The rainy season is from June to October and the island is vulnerable to devastating cyclones (hurricanes) every eight years on average.

On 15th January 1502, Christopher Columbus landed on the already inhabited Martinique. He found Martinique to be hostile and heavily infested with snakes and therefore only stayed three days. He baptized the island with the name given to the indigenous people, Matino (the island of women) or Madinina (the island of flowers).

Like the other West Indian islands, Martinique experienced a large economic boom due to its tobacco, indigo, cotton production and sugar cane.

Get around

Public transport in Martinique is very limited, which could explain the reason why there are more cars registered in Martinique per person than anywhere else in France.

Despite the traffic, if you are going to make the most of your stay in Martinique, it is recommended that you hire a car. Without a car you will miss some of Martinique’s best landscapes and scenery.

Driving in Martinique Driving in Martinique will be a pleasure in comparison to other Caribbean islands. The majority of roads are of an excellent standard. However roads in the center of the island go through terrain that can be very steep and caution is advised when rounding the frequent curves.

Talk

French and Creole patois are spoken on the islands; English is known by some inhabitants. They tend to speak very fast so if necessary tell them that you do not speak French well.

There are lots of beaches in Martinique.

What to do in Martinique.

Gorges de la Falaise, near Ajoupa-Bouillon. 8:00h-17:00h. On a length of about 200 meters the river Falaise flows through a canyon (some ten meters deep and 1-3 meters wide). You can discover the canyon by a combination of walking and swimming. The canyon is on private property, hence the fee (it also pays for the guide).

Be aware that some parts of the route can only be crossed by swimming, so you should wear swimming gear (no jeans, shirts, not even hats). However, you need to wear hiking shoes (no flip-flops etc.) as the hike goes over slippery stones. You can rent appropriate shoes at the entrance.

Note that the guide might be able to carry small cameras, but don’t bring mobile phones, huge cameras or other stuff. You can leave your clothes, wandering gear, electronics etc. at the hut where the guide is waiting.

What to buy

Martinique is a dependent territory of France and uses the euro as currency. US dollars and Eastern Caribbean dollars are not accepted in shops, but some stores and many restaurants and hotels take credit cards. The best exchange rates can be had at banks. Not all banks will do foreign exchanges and may direct you to Fort De France to do such transactions.

Reportedly, the best offerings include French luxury imports (e.g., perfumes, fashions, wines) and items made on the island, e.g., spices and rum. And some merchants offer 20 percent tax refunds for purchases made by credit card or travelers’ checks, though many may not accept the latter.

Shopping opportunities include:

Galleria, in Lamentin (near airport), is the island’s largest mall, with several European branded stores and others.

Fort-de-France’s Spice Market offers stalls full of local/unique flowers, fresh fruit and vegetables, and herbs and spices.

Rue Victor Hugo…Fort-de-France’s main shopping street…a strip of sometimes tiny, Paris-like boutiques, island shops and vendors of fresh fruit and flowers

As a decidedly Catholic island, very few stores are open on Sundays or holidays celebrated in France.

Business hours: Sundays may find many stores closed. Check in-advance before hiring transport to any particular store or shopping area.

What to eat

Martinique is unique in contrast to the majority of the other Caribbean islands in that it has a wide variety of dining options. There are  456 cafés and/or restaurants on the island – not including the various bars some of which serve food as well as alcohol; and up to 500 food-service related establishments. Restaurants in Martinique range from the exclusive high-end gourmet restaurants to the crêpes, accras, boudin, fruit juices, and coconut milk one can purchase from food merchants on the beach or at snack stands/restaurants in town.

The abundance of both Créole and French restaurants reflects the predominance not only of French tourists in Martinique but also of the island’s status as a French DOM. There has been a growing interest in the traditional dishes of the island, and therefore, a more recent profusion of the number of Créole restaurants. Many of the restaurants tailor their menus to cater to both Créole and French tastes

The changes in tourist composition (behavior, interest) may very well account for the evolution in the culinary offerings in many of today’s restaurants. Restaurants in Martinique offer not only French and other International cuisines, but also the possibility of consuming local foods. Visitors can catch a glimpse of the behind the scenes reality regarding Martiniquan culinary practices through an ‘authentic’ Créole cuisine.

Restaurants, Créole cookbooks, public fairs and festivities, and the expensive dining rooms of foreign-owned luxury hotels where food is served, all present themselves as crucial staging grounds where ideas about Martinique cuisine, and therefore, identity, authenticity and place are continuously tested.

What to drink

As in France, water is safe to drink from the tap, and restaurants will happily serve this at no extra charge.

Fresh fruit juices are also very popular on the island along with jus de canne which is a delicious sugar cane drink which is often sold in vans in lay-bys off the main roads. This juice does not stay fresh for long, so ask for it to be made fresh while you wait and drink it as quickly as possible with some ice cubes and a squeeze of lime.

Martinique is famous for its world class rums and the island today still hosts a large number of distilleries inviting tourist to explore its history. Production methods emphasize use of fresh juice from sugar cane to produce “rhum agricole”, rather than molasses widely used elsewhere.

Although rum is far more popular, the local beer in Martinique is Bière Lorraine.

Stay safe

Bring lots of sunscreen!

Also, keep hydrated, especially when hiking in the mountainous areas. A hat is often a good thing to have because the sun can get extremely hot.

Respect

Polite manners will go very far in this jewel of the Caribbean. When entering a business establishment, always say, ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Merci, au revoir’ when departing. Also note that things often run a lot slower here, so patience is a must. Also, don’t expect kowtowing, smiling ‘natives’. The Martiniquais are a very proud, dignified people and are often wary of impatient tourists without manners.

Unaccompanied women in tourist and beach areas are likely to experience frequent cat-calling and similar attention from men. A popularly stated reason for this is that there are a greater number of women than men on the island. The best way to deal with unwanted attention is to ignore the attention or firmly state a lack of interest.

Official tourism websites of Martinique

For more information please visit the official government website: 

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