Top 10 Things to Do in Martinique
When I heard there was a French Caribbean island lying between Dominica and Barbados, I thought it too good to be true.
Martinique is a tropical pleasure, spanning just over 1000 square kilometers. It’s known for white sandy beaches, rugged jungle terrain, and a vibrant tourism sector that followed a tumultuous history involving colonialism, slavery and one severe volcanic eruption.
Enjoying the island is as easy as breathing; it doesn’t take long for the natural terrain to fully submerge you in culture, history and wonder. Here are all of the things I would recommend doing whilst there…
1. Absorb some Vitamin D at les Salines in Martinique
Les Salines is one of the better known, much loved beaches on the island. It’s situated in the village of Ste-Anne and is ideal for families, as the waters are calm enough for children to frolic without risk.
Les Salines is a white sandy beach where food vendors come right up to you throughout the day, offering the best of what the island has to offer. Arrive early to secure a spot under the towering palm trees.
2. Visit the Balata Botanical Garden in Martinique
No trip to Martinique is complete without a visit inside of the Balata Botanical Gardens. This tropical paradise features over 3000 species of plants and flowers native to these parts of the Oceania.
There are ponds with water lilies, cascading hillsides, and wooden walkways through the trees to give you an aerial view of the magic. Expect to spend a full day here; there are benches and places to set up picnics.
3. Hike up Mount Pelee in Martinique
In 1902, Mount Pelee erupted and marked the first and only volcanic disaster to ever occur on French soil.
Mont Pelee is now classified as semi-dormant, meaning it is considered safe to hike and explore. Outdoorsy individuals can enjoy the trail that winds through the ridges, offering breathtaking panoramic over the Caribbean.
The level of difficulty is medium to intense, depending on one’s level of fitness.
4. Take a Moment in St Louis Cathedral in Martinique
There isn’t much to marvel at in terms of historical architecture in Martinique, but if you can appreciate a good cathedral, then St Louis is worth an hour or two.
It’s located in Fort-de-France, and is one of the most unusually structured buildings on the island. Some say it looks like a church that was airlifted from Paris and dropped on Martinique accidentally; but with the influence of French culture it’s no surprise this cathedral was constructed this way.
Don’t forget to pass by the graveyards where all of Martinique’s governors are buried.
5. Spend Time Exploring Fort-de-France in Martinique
Fort-de-France is the capital of Martinique and the main port of the island. It’s a hub for city life, tourism and administrative facilities, and it is worth exploring on an evening or two.
In Fort-de-Frange there is entertainment, museums and plazas. It’s here you’ll get a real understanding for what life was like on Martinique during the slave trades and earlier years. I also recommend doing some shopping at the Grand Market.
6. Flee the Island for Another Island: La presqu’île de la Caravelle in Martinique
Directly translated, la presqu’île de la Caravelle means ‘the almost island of Caravelle’. That’s right, an almost island.
It’s a piece of land just off the coast of Martinique, and there are day trips available from most tourism facilities. The almost island is considered a hiking paradise, with trails ranging from an hour to half a day.
There are also mangroves and beautiful coastlines in which you can take a swim. Come prepared to spend a lot of time in the sun.
7. Make Time for the Musée de la Pagerie in Martinique
This charming collage, now museum, was the birthplace of Napoleon’s Empress Josephine. The home contains her personal belongings, and some insights into the life of this fascinating woman.
The estate goes deeper, as this was also once the site of a thriving sugar plantation. Many lives depended on this land, and many were lost here. It’s a side of Martinique’s history that isn’t often reflected upon but an intricate part of the culture no less.
8. Take the Kids to the Zoo Martinique in Martinique
Also situated on an old sugar plantation is the Zoo Martinique. This is the best attraction on the island for families with small children (aside from the beaches), and it’s situated just a 10 minute drive from Le Carbet.
The zoo is build around the atmospheric ruins once used on the sugar farms. It’s well kept and enjoyable to meander for a few hours.
9. Chase Waterfalls at Gorges de la Falaise in Martinique
At the base of Mount Pelee there are a series of gorges known as the Gorges de la Falaise, that eventually lead to a cascading waterfall.
Once you reach it, you’ll have an array of deep-water baths to wade through, as the falls pelt down. Swimming is encouraged, and one should expect to be wet for the majority of the hike there. Waterproof shoes, cameras and phones are recommended.
This is a relatively short hike; just 1km each direction.
10. Find Solace at Diamond Beach in Martinique
Diamond Beach is a secluded wonder, in a relatively underdeveloped part of the island.
It’s never crowded like the other main tourist attraction beaches, and the site is where a lot of naval history took place. There are 20 statues that stare out at the ocean in honor of all lives lost in this region it’s quite a memorable sight.