After two visits to Martinique, first for a week and again for a month, we have seen and done a lot in this French Caribbean paradise! Here are my top things to do when you visit, my Martinique musts.
Why We Love Martinique
The food, the scenery, the culture, the water, the variety: all are reasons to fall in love with Martinique. You can spend a day eating delicious French food, swimming with starfish and turtles in clear Caribbean water, and end it sampling rum while listening to reggae music. It’s a pretty good life on a boat in Martinique and it could be easy to sleep and repeat day after day. Some may have less time than we did and I know what you don’t want to miss so on to my list of Martinique musts.
The Southern Beaches
Do you like long swathes of soft sand? Beach bars with great food, drinks and lively company? Both are on offer at the southern strip of Martinique, south of the lovely Sainte Anne anchorage.
Saline Beach, or Plage de Salines, since plage is the French word for beach, is my favorite of all the Martinique beaches. Visit for a day and do it all: swim, snorkel, relax in the sun, hike around the salt ponds, and have a relaxing and delicious meal at one of the many French creole seafood restaurants in the shade.
Fort de France
Martinique’s main city and port is well equipped for sailors and everyday tourists. A cruise port, the city has a whole pop-up village catering to the cruise ships, but is full of life and and fun to explore any day but Sunday (unless you’re going to church).
Some of our favorite things to do in this city include shop the local markets; visit the food kiosks in La Savane, the main waterfront park; wander around and admire the street art; or go out to dinner with cruiser friends and accidentally order way too much charcuterie at Garage Popular!
The primary reasons for visiting this northern Martinique city are the beauty of the looming volcano, Mount Pelée, and the sad history and destructive evidence of the volcanic explosion just over a century ago.
For cruisers, the anchorage is beautiful, if sometimes a little rough. In fact, each time I looked up from my boat my mouth reflexively fell open in awe at the gorgeous vistas of St. Pierre.
Oddly, every day Mount Pelee looked clear from our boat, but when we chose to climb its 1300 odd meters the views were less than good. We enjoyed this very popular hike on a busy, and cloudy, Sunday.
Add in a very well stocked local market, some delicious nearby restaurants like Le Petitbonum and L’Alsace A Kay, and the stunning nearby rhum distillery and plantation (bring a picnic!), and St. Pierre is a Martinique must for any visitors to this island.
Cruisers in the Caribbean had better not get sick of rum because it’s so common, and often cheaper than beer or water! We have visited rum distilleries many times this year, but the St. James rum museum in Martinique stands out from the rest. Not only does it have a generous tasting bar like many distillers, there’s a building stocked with paraphernalia related to the production and promotion of this cane liquor. Besides ancient machinery, the museum also displays cases of reliquary bottles of rum from over the decades, including some bottled before the volcanic eruption of 1902.
The artwork placed out on a hill overlooking Le Diamante was built in the late 20th century and commemorates victims of trafficking. The site is important as it is in view of where a slave ship wrecked off the coast in 1830. The views of the Diamante Islands are stunning, but you won’t be able to keep your eyes off the haunting and forlorn characters depicted in the statues created by Martinican artist Laurent Valère. Oddly, people chose to lean against the statues and peruse their cell phones while we were there, so they may have photobombed my pictures.
La Savane des Esclaves
La Savane des Esclaves, translated as The Plain of Slaves, is a living replica of a community where slaves and former slaves lived. So much of the tourist sites in the Caribbean are remade plantations, so it’s refreshing and informative to witness how the 99% lived.
Replete with reconstructed homes and gardens, the site is beautiful and compelling in its attempts to accurately depict the real lives of slaves and former slaves. We were lucky enough to meet the man who created the entire place less than 20 years ago, and he informed us that he was raised in a similar community. In addition to tourists like us as visitors, students from all over the world visit and learn at La Savane des Esclaves, another of our Martinique musts.
Martinique has a lot of good dive and snorkeling sites. We were lucky enough to anchor is the very small bay of Anse Noire, so called because of its black sand beach. While our very close neighbors liked to bathe and lounge in their cockpit naked, the anchorage redeemed itself by being a great spot to scuba dive directly from Sava. We jumped off the boat and swam a few meters to a wall teeming with sea life.
I have already mentioned food a few times in this post, and here’s another plug for the French cuisine of Martinique. You can get the most delicious 4 euro sandwiches at most bakeries. You can’t go wrong at any boulangerie/patisserie in this country!
We have not had a bad meal on this island. In addition to the places already named, be sure to try La Dunette in Sainte Anne, for great service, location, and wifi, and Numero 20, where we had exceptional Thanksgiving Day tapas in Le Marin.
Let me know if I missed anything included on your list of Martinique musts. You never know: we may return one day!