Snacks. Tropical. Adventure.
Those are my three words to describe Martinique – a mountainous, French-flared island in the Caribbean. After scoring cheap seats on Norwegian Air ($150 RT from FLL), the Snack Pack and I made plans for our Spring Break. We found an AirB&B with a sweet patio just outside of Fort-De-France and rented a car to get around. Highlights from our trip included driving/co-piloting, grocery shopping, lunching, sunsetting, waterfall chasing, sunbathing, frisbeeing, rhum sipping and spades playing activities. But if you’re more into hiking, scuba, or sports fishing… it’s all there too.
Each area of the island is known for something unique: black sand beaches. a semi-active volcano. rainforest / butterfly gardens. distilleries… There’s certainly something for everyone. Despite being a port destination, Fort De France isn’t hyper-commercialized. In fact, the whole island is well-developed but still authentically local. Martinique isn’t as well known – at least among Americans – as some of its neighboring islands, but it’s easily become one of my new favorite destinations.
Need to Know:
- Martinique is a French territory, so that is the primary language spoken on the island. Download Google translate and make sure it’s available offline. We would not have been able to decode some menus or to ask certain questions without it.
- You can rent a car using a valid U.S. driver’s license. Most vehicles have manual transmissions, so make sure to request an automatic if you can’t drive stick. Air conditioning is also considered an upgrade, but one that probably isn’t worth having. The air never felt cool enough and it was way more fun to ride around with the windows down like everyone else.
- Pick the smallest vehicle (e.g. Peugeot or Opel) that can accommodate your party, even if that means passengers have to hold a suitcase in their lap for a bit. You’ll be glad you did on the narrow roads and tight curves. BTW: use can your own auto insurance policy if you have rental car coverage.
- We stayed near Fort-De-France, which was central to the airport (about 20 mins away) and the rest of the island. From our place, it took about an hour to reach the popular northern/southern beach towns.
- According to the locals, Waze is the best navigational app. Martinique’s streets are steep, winding, and sometimes confusing, but well-maintained and paved. We encountered several speed traps and enforcement officers, so follow the rules & learn a few European traffic signs. Also, be prepared for lots of traffic circles.
- Bring Euros with you. You can swipe cards (Visa/Master Card were the most widely accepted), but I HIGHLY recommend having some cash on hand to avoid any headaches of needing to find a currency exchange. The kiosk at the airport closed before we passed through customs, so stop by your local bank beforehand to ensure you get the best rates and avoid any potential foreign exchange fees.
- Despite it’s West Indies vibe & scenery, Martinique is essentially an extension of Europe. Gratuity/tipping is not expected. Beer costs less than water or sodas. Hours are displayed in military time. AND Electric outlets run on 220w, so bring a converter to charge your 110w-powered devices.
- Hyper U and Carrefour are like local Wal-Marts… except you have to weigh your produce BEFORE getting to the register, can find milk on the shelves, bring/buy your own re-usable grocery bags, and must deposit 1€ to use a shopping cart.
Where to Go:
- Fort Saint Louis – ask for Jordan to be your guide.
- Schoelcher Library – a historical, but fully-operational library.
- St Pierre & Ruins – see Mt. Pelée up close & imagine Cyparis’ fateful day.
- Waterfalls – Saut du Gendarme, Fontaine Didier
- Black Sand Beaches – Plage Anse Céron, Anse Couleuvre, Anse Noir
- White Sand Beaches – Anse Dufor, Grande Anses de Salines
- Diving Spots – Diamond Rock, Maman Dio
- Nature/Outdoors – Jardin de Balata, Hiking trails, Zoo
- Quaint Cities – Fonds-Saint-Denis, Les Trois Ilets
- Rhum Distilleries – the others can’t compete with HSE.
- Museums – La Musee de la Banane, Ecomusee, Habitacion Clement
- Churches & Cathedrals – St. Henry, St-Thomas, Eglise Notre-Dame
- Historic Landmarks – Memorial de L’Anse Caffard, Chateau Dubuc
What to Eat/Drink:
- Le Préfecture Cafe – accommodating owner and hostess/kitchen angels.
- Lili’s Beach Bar – awesome place to catch a sunset. tiki hut bar & restaurant.
- Le Steel Pan – Caribe dishes served against a rustic French backdrop.
- Maximus – drink, vibe, dance, foosball until 2AM.
- Le New Corner – late-nite (4AM) lounge