Written by Kathleen Clegg for MonaCorona.com
Hi, I’m Kathleen.
I’ve been traveling my whole life, so it’s cemented in my blood. I get antsy if I’m in one place too long. It’s a great thing for me that my husband’s job has us moving to a new place every nine to twelve months. I started my travel blog as a way to share our adventures with our friends and then decided to take it public. It’s also a great way to keep a journal of sorts, since I stink at keeping an actual journal.
In 2015, we moved to the tiny French overseas region of Martinique and were blessed enough to stay for a full year. Martinique is located in the Lesser Antilles region of the West Indies in the Eastern Caribbean Sea. To say it was a dream come true to be assigned this position would be a huge understatement. Martinique not only met my expectations, but also far exceeded them. I’d love to share some of the amazing things we experienced and discovered.
When You Want to Learn the History: Discover Interesting and Fun Facts about Martinique
When we move to or visit a new place, I find that I appreciate the place more if I know some of the history of the place. Martinique is no exception and they have a long history, beginning with the Caribs moving to the islands from the mainland in 1201. In 1502 Christopher Columbus landed on Martinique and, as with so many other places, things would never be the same. There is a history of slavery, invasions, and a volcanic eruption that destroyed the then capital in 1902.
If you are interested in learning the history for yourself, I recommend visiting the following places.
Fort Saint Louis – Located in the now capital of Fort de France, Fort Saint Louis is an active naval base that was built and has been continuously occupied since 1640. While you can’t visit the whole fort, since it is still active, you can visit a good portion of it. Purchase your ticket at the Tourist Information kiosk on La Savane, in front of the fort. When you schedule your tour, try to get Maurice as your tour guide. He was very knowledgeable and loves his topic.
Visit the town of Saint Pierre – Located on the north end of the island, Saint Pierre sits at the foot of Mount Pelée and was once the capital of Martinique. It was known as the Paris of the Caribbean, where those with money and influence would visit and spend their winters. In 1902, it was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Pelée and all but one person perished. Walk around the town, see the ruins, watch the fishermen and visit the shops. It’s a lovely town.
When You Want Martinique Shopping: Stay Local and Avoid the Martinique Cruise Port
Martinique has some wonderful places to shop for trinkets and local souvenirs, but I recommend purchasing things that have been made on the island by the locals.
To have the most varied number of shops, visit Fort de France and stroll through the streets. There are loads of shops to choose from and also, my favorite, the Spice Market. Right at the boat dock, there are also shops and if it’s cruise season and there are cruise ships in the Martinique port with tents full of wares. The places at the boat dock in the tents are not operated by local people and are usually more expensive.
In the Spice Market, you can purchase fresh local spices, bags, produce, jewelry, and your regular trinkets. Walk around and look at everything before you make your purchase. Also, in the front of the Spice Market is a cart that sells amazing pastries. Try them out for yourself.
Of course, each small town you find in Martinique also has cute shops to stroll through. My favorite small town to shop in is Saint Anne, on the south of the island.
When You Want to Hike: Breathtaking Views From Martinique Hiking Trails and Beautiful Martinique Waterfalls
Martinique is a volcanic island, with many geological variances. No two hikes will be the same, either in topography or difficulty. Be sure to wear some good shoes.
Climb Mount Pelée – There is a path all the way up and I’ve talked to people who have taken children as young as 10 on this hike who said it wasn’t awful. The worst part of this hike is the uneven steps. If you take this hike, go very early in the morning on a clear day for the best views.
The Gorges de la Falaise in L’Ajoupa-Bouillon – This hike is very challenging, but so beautiful. The hike goes through neck-high water, so be prepared to get wet. It ends at a lovely waterfall.
Cascade Couleuvre – I personally loved every minute of this hike. There are a few spots that are more tough than others, but nothing horrible. There are loads of different plants and flowers and at the end is a beautiful waterfall that you can even get in if you want. It is located at the northern most end of the island, at the end of the windy road on the Caribbean Sea side of the island. When you’re finished with your hike, walk over to Anse Couleuvre to see the black sands and some ruins from an old sugar mill.
When You Need the Beach: Discover the Best Beaches on Martinique, a Rainforest Beach, and Martinique Snorkeling
Martinique has some of the most beautiful beaches that I’ve ever swam. The water is clear and blue. There is a huge variety of fish, caves, coral, and my personal favorite, turtles. We spent a lot of time in the water over our year, snorkeling about 5 days a week. You can’t really go wrong with any of the beaches on the Caribbean Sea side of the island, as the waters are all very calm. On the Atlantic side of the island, the water is much more rough and caution is advised.
Vauclin – This is the exception to my statement above. Vauclin is the strangest beach I have ever been too, but worth the effort to go. It is on the Atlantic Ocean side of the island, but so incredibly calm. While the water is clear, your first step in will leave you very confused. The water is bathtub warm and doesn’t get over an average adult’s knees for a very long walk out. My friends from there said the water has healing powers.
Anse Dufour – My very favorite beach on the planet is Anse Dufour. The water is amazingly clear and calm, there are so many kinds of fish on each side of the protected bay in the rocks, there is a small cave on the north side of the bay, and finally, sea turtles. My tip to you is to go very early to enjoy an empty beach. We were usually there by 7:00 am and had the beach to ourselves, besides the fishermen, for a good hour.
A Beach Near the Martinique Rainforest
Grand Rivere – On the north end of the island on the Atlantic side, at the very end of the road, is a cute little town called Grand Rivere. You will drive through a lush tropical rain forest to get there and it’s absolutely stunning. Park at the very end of the road and take a walk on the black sand beach. The water is rough, so don’t swim, but it’s a lovely walk, full of volcanic rock formations. If you could follow it around, you would arrive at Anse Couleuvre. I think there is actually a path through the trees, but we didn’t take it.
When You Want Other Ideas: Unique Martinique Activities
Jardin de Balata – These are gardens full of the most interesting and beautiful tropical plants. The drive is a bit treacherous, but we enjoyed the few hours we spent there and I saw flowers and plants I had never seen before. On a clear day, you can see the Caribbean Sea from there too.
Tombolo at I’let de Saint Marie – This too is on the Atlantic side of the island and well worth the visit. You have to be there the right time of the year, from January through April and only if it isn’t raining a lot. This is basically a land bridge from the mainland at Saint Marie to a tiny island. During these months, the ocean flows in such a way and is shallow enough that you can walk across to the island and hike the fairly easy trails to the top of the hills for some really beautiful views. This is one of my favorite things that I did in Martinique.
Carnaval – This has to be the biggest party in Martinique each year and is held after Epiphany for five days. I don’t do well in crowds, so it was a little difficult for me, but I’m glad I was able to experience it. Be sure to dress up and mind your eyes. We saw some very scantily dressed people and actually some bare behinds. The parades were really interesting in that they had groups that celebrated their culture.
When You’re Hungry: Best Restaurants and Cuisine Martinique
The food in Martinique is a mix of French, Caribbean, and Creole. Some of it I loved and some of it not so much. We did find some really fantastic places to eat, both for meals and for snacks.
In Fort de France
The Crew is located on the main road across from the boat docks. Inside it looks like a ship, so it’s pretty unique. They have really great salads and honestly, everything I ate here was very good.
Le Black Pearl is also located just a block south of The Crew. You might have guessed this, but it is themed after Pirates of the Caribbean. The food here is also very good, but a little expensive.
Hasta la Pizza is across the street from the Tourist Information Kiosk near Fort Saint Louis. They have great pizza and sandwiches and they are very reasonably priced. Bonus, they speak English really well.
In Saint Anne
Otantik is a tiny restaurant on the side of the road in Saint Anne that sits on the water. They serve vegetarian and vegan options and the food is very good. Bonus, you get to share your lunch with a rooster who roams around picking up food on the floor, like a dog. He also begs, but he is quite friendly.
Lili’s Beach Bar is a really fun place to go in the evening. They have good food and live music. They also serve lunch, but without the music. As you may have guessed, it sits right on the beach, at the back of l’hotel Bateliere.
In Island Wide
If you see a guy on the side of the road barbecuing something that smells amazing, stop and buy something. The chicken is always a good bet. The places are inspected by the food inspectors and the rules are strict for the permits, so you will be safe.
Find a French Patisserie and have some of the best pastries you will ever eat. It was a good thing I swam so much or I would have gained a million pounds over the year I was there. So good, trust me.
When You Want to Sleep: Airbnb Bungalow Martinique
If you are looking for a hotel or resort vacation, there are many options but they are not particularly luxe or 5-star. A better and popular option when visiting Martinique is staying in a bungalow. Bungalows of all different price points from economical to luxurious can be found on AirBnB. Many of these bungalows are located right on the beach or nearby, and some even come with private pools.
It’s been fun talking about Martinique with you. If you’d like more information, I have several posts written on my blog. Happy travels!