Martinique Travel Guide
While Martinique shares a common past with its Caribbean neighbours, it suffered a uniquely horrible disaster at the turn of the 20th century.
In 1902, Mount Pelee blew its top, letting loose a pyroclastic flow that killed 30,000 people in a matter of seconds. Only a handful of people survived, including a felon who had been jailed underground in the worst-hit area of the city.
Despite this horrible disaster, the island has rebounded in the past century to become a well-loved tourist destination. Whether you seek the perfect beach, or are looking to explore the past history of this fascinating island, you will find what you are looking for in Martinique.
Languages: French, Creole
What To Do
Begin your tour of Martinique by visiting Habitation Clement. It was at this plantation where Rhum Agricole was born. It went on to become one of the world’s most distinctive cane juice rums; to this day, it is still aged in oak barrels on the property.
The property has also served as a venue for many important political summits, the most famous being when French president Francois Mitterrand Met president George HW Bush in the run-up to the first Gulf War.
Visitors can find a museum that explains the distillation process, a beautiful botanical garden, and a shop where you can buy a bottle of Rhum Agricole for your own consumption.
In centuries past, sugar plantations on Martinique made use of slave labor to harvest their crops. As miserable as this existence was, some did not even survive the trip over from Africa. The Anse Cafard Slave Memorial pays tribute to those that were lost at sea when a ship sank in 1830 off the coast of Martinique.
40 slaves drowned as their ship sank beneath the waves late at night. This stone memorial features 20 statues in stoic poses, facing outwards the Gulf of Guinea in Africa, as it was from there where many of the slaves shipped to this part of the Caribbean originated.
Some slaves that escaped their plantations were allowed to create settlements for themselves in the interior of Martinique. La Savane des Esclaves was a village that was formed by free slaves; growing their own sugar cane and cocoa, they were able to make a living for themselves for many generations. In this Village, you will be able to see the presses that they used to process sugarcane and cocoa, as well as their gardens and living quarters.
Jardin de Balata is one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in Martinique. Created in 1982 by botanist Jean-Philippe Thoze, it is home to over 3,000 different types of tropical plant, including 300 different kinds of palm trees.
It also has a great view of the Pitons Du Carbet, making this place a wonderful destination for photography enthusiasts.
As you might expect, there are plenty of amazing beaches that can be found along Martinique’s coast. Les Salines Beach is one of the most popular on the island, as the lack of resorts here make it a peaceful spot to relax.
With a local canteen on site, visitors looking to sample local cuisine will have plenty of food to try, but be sure to bring your own water.
If you’re looking for a change of pace over the typical Caribbean beach, then check out Anse Couleuvre. Covered with black volcanic sand, it has a different feel about it, and considerably less tourists than other spots on Martinique.
Just offshore, there are coral reefs that are ideal for snorkeling, so do not forget to bring your snorkel and mask.
What to Eat
If you are looking for a quick snack while in Martinique, be sure to try some Boudin. A local sausage made from pork, blood, onions and seasonings, this delicacy is often found during the Christmas season. Another form of Boudin is made with seafood, containing prawns, conch, crab or fish.
If you want to consume the official dish of this island, order some Colombo de Martinique. This chicken curry is made by marinating the chicken overnight in a mixture of vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and Colombo spice, and then by simmering it together with eggplant, potatoes, zucchini, onions, garlic, and a variety of other spices. Often simmered in coconut milk, the end result will be a meal that you won’t soon forget.
When dessert time rolls around in Martinique, try and find some Blanc Manger au Coco. This dish is prepared well in advance of its consumption, as it takes time for the flavor of the ingredients to come together. Created by mixing coconut milk, vanilla powder and sugar together with gelatin, cinnamon and lime zest. Served cold with fresh fruit or almonds, it is the perfect way to end a local feast in Martinique.