Best Things To Do in Martinique
Breathtaking natural beauty is Martinique's claim to fame, but no coast offers quite the same scenery. The north is both rugged and lush, with the majestic Mont Pelée volcano commanding the view. Southern Martinique is calmer, romantic and characterized by brilliant white-sand beaches. Central on the west coast, urban Fort-de-France is bursting with spectacular historic and cultural sites. Make sure to put that area's Schoelcher Library at the top of your sightseeing list.
Updated March 29, 2019
- #1View all Photos#1 in MartiniqueMonuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDRead More
High on a hill in southwest Martinique are 20 white stone effigies, silently facing Diamond Beach and the Caribbean Sea. They commemorate an 1830 catastrophe when a slave ship failed to properly anchor in Anse Cafard and careened into Martinique's Diamond Rock Mountain, killing many of the passengers and sailors as well as the slaves who were chained to the cargo hold. The chilling statues at this memorial are a popular stop and photo op for many, and although the monument has suffered some wear and tear, you too won't be disappointed with the overall effect.
Recent visitors say the simple memorial is quite sobering, with one calling it simultaneously "humbling and beautiful." Others appreciated that there are signs posted in both French and Enlish at the site that explain the significance of the memorial.
- #2View all Photos#2 in MartiniqueSightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDRead More
Schoelcher Library in Fort-de-France should hold a spot on your travel itinerary for its history and ornate design, not for its books. The building was originally designed and built for an 1889 exposition in Paris before it was shipped to Martinique and reassembled along the west side of La Savane. It was named in honor of slavery abolitionist Victor Schoelcher.
Recent visitors said it's definitely worth a quick stop in to explore and learn about the history; others point out that the free Wi-Fi is an enticing reason to visit, as well.
- #3View all PhotosfreeLes Salines#3 in MartiniqueBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Families can't stay away from Les Salines beach in the village of Ste-Anne for several reasons. One, the clear waters here are calm enough for children to play freely. Two, there are plenty of food vendors walking the sand hawking tasty Martiniquais treats. Three, there are restrooms and accessible showers to rinse your little ones off before making the trip back to the hotel. Four, Les Salines is absolutely breathtaking, with miles of palm trees and glistening sand. If you want to witness all Les Salines has to offer without the little kiddies around, visit the beach during the week or later in the afternoon when the crowds have mostly gone home.
Recent visitors also recommended indulging in the coco ice cream that is sold on the beach. Keep in mind that because the beach gets very crowded on the weekends and parking is at a premium, you should plan an early visit. You can also take a cab (prices fluctate); the closest town to Les Salines is Ste-Anne, about 1.5 miles away from the shore.
- #4View all Photos#4 in MartiniqueHistoric Homes/Mansions, Monuments and Memorials, Museums, Sightseeing, Wineries/BreweriesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDHistoric Homes/Mansions, Monuments and Memorials, Museums, Sightseeing, Wineries/BreweriesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
Habitation Clément is part rum distillery, part plantation, part heritage site and museum, meaning it will likely appeal to families and groups of all ages. Travelers can explore the gardens, the main house and its outbuildings and learn about the manufacturing of rum, which is aged six to 10 years in the distillery.
Visitors point out that if you're driving, your group will want to select a designated driver or take a cab, as you're allowed to sample different rums and rum-based liqueurs in the tasting room. There is also a rum shop on the grounds where visitors are welcome to browse and take home bottles of their favorite flavors. Meanwhile, families will enjoy wandering the grounds and looking at the numerous sculptures that are placed throughout.
- #5View all Photos#5 in MartiniqueNatural WondersTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDNatural WondersTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Adventurous travelers like to scale the sides of this active volcano, but there are other, safer (and dare we say smarter?) options for enjoying the area. One of the most popular options involves driving to a parking lot, located about a mile away from the summit, and then making the rest of the trip on foot. Be prepared for an astounding view at the top and beautiful scenery along the way; recent visitors recommended bringing food and water with you, and advised going on a clear day for the best views.
You could also spend the day at Mont Pelée's picturesque base, where previous travelers have enjoyed canyoning, hiking and rappelling through the area waterfalls and forests.
- #6View all PhotosfreeDiamond Beach#6 in MartiniqueBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Diamond Beach, located in the town of Le Diamant, is rarely crowded, but always beautiful. Travelers in the know choose this southwestern beach over the touristy sands of Pointe du Bout, and you should too if you prefer more peace and quiet while you sunbathe. This part of the island is rather undeveloped, so you'd probably rather visit than lodge here. Instead, consider planning a trip to Diamond Beach on the same day you stop by the Anse Cafard Slave Memorial. While you're there, be sure to take pictures of Diamond Rock in the distance.
Recent visitors cautioned that the surf here can be a bit rough, and many recommended not swimming at this beach.
- #7View all Photos#7 in MartiniqueParks and Gardens, Sightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, Sightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDRead More
You should brush up on your French before visiting Fort-de-France's beautiful La Savane park (La Savane des Esclaves), then put your vocabulary to use when bargaining with the Martiniquais vendors selling snacks, crafts and souvenirs. Take a stroll of the grounds before you leave, and be sure to snap a photo of the headless (and red-stained) marble statue of Empress Josephine, a Martinique native and the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. Rumor has it that locals vandalized the statue out of resentment; they believe Josephine persuaded Bonaparte to continue the practice of slavery on the island.
La Savane des Esclaves is open daily from 9 a.m. to noon and from 2 p.m. to 5:30, except Sundays when the center closes for the afternoon. Guided one-hour tours (in French, only) are available, as well, and cost 7 euros for adults (about $8) and 3 euros (about $3) for children ages 3 to 12.
- #8View all Photos#8 in MartiniqueParks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDParks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
Visit one of Martinique's most famous sites, the Balata Gardens, to see why this is "the Isle of Flowers." This private botanical garden just outside Fort-de-France is home to a staggering number of begonias, bromeliads, bamboo and about 300 different types of palm trees. There's a small admission fee to enter, and according to some recent visitors, it isn't worth it unless you're really into plants. Instead, you might want to take some tropical flowers home with you. You can arrange to have your flowers delivered to the airport, or visit the Balata Gardens' satellite shop in the terminal of the Martinique airport. They'll arrange special packaging to facilitate bringing your flowers on the plane.
Balata Gardens is a short drive from Fort-de-France and is accesible via car (parking is free), taxi or bus; the L25 bus takes passengers from downtown Fort-de-France to the entrance of the gardens. The gardens are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entrance for adults costs 13.10 euros (about $14) and 7.50 euros (around $8) for children between the ages of 3 and 12. For more information, check out the Balata Gardens website (in French).
- #9View all Photos#9 in MartiniqueSightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDRead More
St. Louis Cathedral should really be called St. Louis VII, because it's been rebuilt six times on the same spot in Fort-de-France. Its resiliency – or lack thereof – could partially be due to its structure. Previous iterations have used wood; now, St. Louie has an iron framework. Take time during your visit to admire the unusual architecture, visit the graves of the Martinique governors buried on the grounds and say a little prayer that this version of the church stays standing.
Recent visitors said the architecture, stained-glass windows and history are worth taking the short walk from the cruise port in Fort-de-France to the cathedral.
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