If you are looking for the true French Experience but prefer to enjoy it in tropical climes, consider Martinique. More so than its French neighbors, Guadeloupe and St. Barts, Martinique is the social and cultural center of the French Antilles.
The reasons to vacation in Martinique are far more than its French ambience. The exotic island contains beautiful sandy-white beaches and lush rainforests. Its people, the Martiniquaise, are both charming and elegant.
Martinique’s terrain is mountainous, especially in its northern rainforests, where the volcano Mantagne Pelee rises to a height of 4,582 feet. As you travel to the island’s center, the mountains are smaller, with Carbet Peak’s summit reaching 3,897 feet. Martinique’s southern portion has hills, known as mornes, that peak at just below 1,400 feet.
Martinique’s shape is irregular, with five bays and dozens of coves. Martinique’s western shore faces the Caribbean, and its eastern edge borders the Atlantic. About a third of the population of 360,000 resides in Fort-de-France, the capital and largest city.
The island almost always feels mild, with year-round temperatures of 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s kept cool by a tropical breeze called alize. Rain showers are frequent, especially during Fall, but last mere minutes.
Vegetation is bountiful in Martinique’s lush rainforests, including hibiscus, poinsettias, coconut palms, bougainvillea and mango trees. Fruits sprouting from the island’s soil encompass pineapples, bananas, papayas, avocados and custard apples.
Flavorful food plays a big role in Martinique’s personality, and excellent Creole cooking goes along with Creole customs and traditions that still flourish. Other cuisines represented in fine restaurants are French and Caribbean.
In addition to Fort-de-France, Martinique’s vacation spots are Pointe du Bout, The South Loop (comprised of Le Diamant, Ste-Luce, Le Marin and Ste-Anne) and The North Loop (consisting of Le Carbet, Montagne Pelee, Grand-Riviere, Le Marigot, Trinite and Le Francois). Lamentin International Airport is very convenient to the major vacation locales.
In which location you should stay depends on the type of vacation you prefer. If history and charm are to your liking, Fort-de-France might be your choice. The city dazzles with New Orleans-style iron grille work, flowers and fascinating people of Creole descent. But, you probably will not want to stay in Fort-de-France if you prefer a beach vacation. You would need to hop on a ferry to get to the sand and sea.
If a relaxing vacation is your preference, you might want to book accommodations in Pointe du Bout, across the bay from Fort-de-France. Pointe du Bout is the site of Martinique’s major hotels. It’s also a destination for tennis, water sports and, in nearby Les Trois-Ilets, a Robert Trent Jones-designed golf course. However, while the beaches of Pointe du Bout have white sand and are clean, they tend to be small, which makes them crowded.
A better option for beaches if you are staying in Pointe du Bout is driving or taking a taxi just south to Anse Mitan, where the beaches are large and less crowded, and the water is crystalline.
Though the largest resorts are in Pointe du Bout, the best places to stay are scattered throughout the island. For families, the kid-friendly Hotel Carayou in Pointe du Bout is a terrific choice. The historic Habitation LaGrange in Grand-Rivere at the island’s north end is stellar. The Cap Est Lagoon Resort & Spa near Le Francois on the Atlantic side is Martinique’s finest property.
Pointe du Bout has a smattering of decent restaurants, such as La Villa Creole and Le Pacha. Martinique’s most honored dining spots are in the Cap Est Lagoon Resort & Spa near Le Francois. They are a duo made up of the informal Le Campeche for lunch, specializing in Creole, and the romantic Le Belem at dinnertime, offering French and Antilles fare.
Martinique dream vacations are easy to book on the Internet. Companies such as Travel Impressions will guide you through building your dream trip. If you prefer, you can create your own custom holiday.