What are the top things to do in Martinique?
Are you planning to visit Martinique in the Caribbean for your next vacation?
Good idea! It is an ideal destination to enjoy paradisiacal beaches with white sand and turquoise water, but also for hikers.
To help you organize your stay in Martinique, I have prepared a guide to 20 things to do and see on the island.
From the best beaches, such as the Salines beach or the Carbet beach, to hikes to the Pelee mountain or Grand’Rivière, to history-laden cities such as Saint-Pierre or Fort de France, there are a multitude of places of interest not to be missed during your trip.
So, what to do and see in Martinique?
Visit Martinique: the must-sees
We start this tourist guide of Martinique with its capital: Fort-de-France.
Fort-de-France is a very lively city, with many markets and shops where you can buy all kinds of souvenirs.
Places of interest to visit in Fort-de-France:
- “The Savannah”, the central park of Fort-de-France with many palm trees and statues, the best known (in the center of La Savane, you can not miss it) is the Empress Josephine de Beauharnais, first wife of Napoleon I st
- The Grand Marché or Spice Market, a covered market located in a large hall and where you will find fresh products and souvenirs (with the famous “Madras” fabric, emblematic colored fabric of Martinique)
- Fort-Royal or Fort-Saint-Louis, military fort classified Historical Monument. Built in 1638, it now houses the Naval Base of the French Navy in the West Indies
- The old courthouse was destroyed by the 1839 earthquake and rebuilt in the early 20 th century in the neoclassical style
- St. Louis Cathedral, famous for its bell tower
- The Departmental Museum of Archeology and Prehistory to learn more about the island in pre-Columbian times
- The Regional Museum of History and Ethnography which presents a large number of objects representative of Creole culture (furniture, jewelery and clothing, musical instruments …)
- The Schoelcher Library, also listed as a Historic Monument for its unique architectural style mixing several influences.
In the city, you will find that many monuments, streets and places, bear the name of Victor Schoelcher, militant for the abolition of slavery in the French colonies.
2. The beaches of Martinique
Where to go to the beach in Martinique?
Martinique has many beaches worthy of postcards. Wherever you are, you can always reach an idyllic beach in less than an hour by car.
Here is a small selection of the best beaches to swim in Martinique:
- The beach of Salines: this beach located near the city of Sainte-Anne is one of the most famous and most known of Martinique. White sand, turquoise water, coconut trees : all the elements come together to make it a dream beach. Tip: go on weekdays because the weekend the beach is invested by local families who come to picnic.
- Cap Macré: less known than the Salines and a little more hidden, this beach of the Atlantic coast is accessible by a small picturesque road. From this beach you can see the coral reef.
- Diamond Beach: also known as Grande Anse du Diamant, this beach located on the Diamond Peninsulais ideal for wave lovers (it is very popular bodyboarders). To avoid with children, it is considered rather dangerous because of the current. But it gives you a magnificent view of the Diamond Rock.
- The Anses d’Arlet: with its church and the pontoon, this small village is picturesque. The beaches are very family friendly. Small preference for the beach of Petite Anse, quieter, or the beach of Anse Noire (so called for its black sand of volcanic origin), where you can see beautiful fish and even turtles.
- The beach of Carbet whose point of view on the Pelee mountain is splendid. This is where Christopher Columbus landed in 1502.
- Snake Cove, the wildest and most northern. Accessible by a path in the forest and ideal for snorkeling.
3. St. Peter’s
Saint-Pierre is certainly one of the most exotic cities of Martinique.
It is built on the ruins of the old Saint-Pierre, 1 st port of Martinique to 19 th century and destroyed by the eruption of Mount Pelee in 1902. You can still see today the ruins of the area of Fig Tree, an old theater, and the dungeon of Cyparis (one of the survivors).
I advise you to go for a walk to the Volcanological Museum Franck Perret, where we really realize the tragedy that constituted this event. It is open every day.
If you are interested in history, Saint-Pierre is a very moving tour to do and one of the must-see places to visit in Martinique. It is also labeled City of Art and History.
The harbor area of Saint-Pierre is also very popular for diving because there are many wrecks of boatsthat have sunk following the eruption.
The minute culture travel tips
The eruption of Mount Pelee in 1902 was the deadliest of the 20 th century. Nearly 30,000 people were killed by the burning clouds (all but 3 of them).
4. The Carbet
The Carbet is a small town near Saint-Pierre, which has its historical importance for two things:
- This is where Christopher Columbus landed on June 15, 1502
- The painter Paul Gauguin lived there in 1887. You can visit the museum where are exposed reproductions of his paintings.
What to see in Carbet, Martinique:
- The Saint Jacques dating from 18 th century
- The slave foot, a statue
- The Butterfly Garden where it is possible to make a guided tour of 15-20 minutes
- The former sugar plantation of Anse Latouche and its botanical garden. There is also a zoo.
- The Pitons du Carbet massif, whose hiking trails are reserved for seasoned athletes because they are all quite difficult with very steep climbs and dangerous passages
- The beach of Carbet
5. Hiking from Grand’Rivière to Anse Couleuvre
Grand’Rivière is a fishing village located north of Martinique, very picturesque.
If there is not much to do in the village, you can simply stroll on the waterfront and enjoy its black sand beach. On a clear day, we can see the island of Dominica since Grand’Rivière.
It is also from there that the trail links Grand’Rivière to Anse Couleuvre, one of the most beautiful hikes to do in Martinique. You will be able to walk in the middle of the virgin forest, in the middle of the luxuriant vegetation and admire many points of view on the Caribbean Sea and the Anses.
Count about 6 hours of walking to cover the 18 km. The hike can also be done in the opposite direction.
For the return of the hike, do not forget to book your boat trip to take you back to your starting point. Otherwise you left for 6 hours of walking!
The simplest is to go through the tourist office, which will advise you a provider. Count 15 € per person.
To book at least 48 hours in advance.
6. The Pointe du Bout
Pointe du Bout, located in the town of Trois-Îlets, is a seaside resort very popular with tourists. This is where we find the large hotels with their privatized beach parcel and it is therefore one of the most tourist sites in Martinique.
What to visit at Pointe du Bout, in Martinique:
- The beach of Anse Mitan, which is one of the busiest on the island
- The marina
- The Creole Village where there are many craft and souvenir shops, as well as cafes and restaurants.
7. The Balata Garden
The Balata Garden is a jewel for nature lovers. His visit is a must during a stay in Martinique.
In this garden designed by landscape gardener (and artist) Jean-Philippe Thoze, we can observe more than 3000 species of tropical plants and flowers, but also many hummingbirds.
The walk in the garden takes about 1h30, and it is very pleasant: punctuated with ponds, benches to rest, and bridges suspended to observe nature from above.
The Balata Garden is open every day from 9 am to 6 pm. Full price entrance costs 14 €.
8. The Trace Route
Walking the Trace Road is one of the coolest things to do in Martinique.
The Route de la Trace is the nickname given to the RN 3, a 29 km long and winding national road connecting Fort-de-France to the town of Morne-Rouge. It allows you to cross the tropical forest and contemplate magnificent panoramas, among the most spectacular of the island.
There are many stops along the way:
- at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart which offers a magnificent view of Fort-de-France
- in the Balata Garden of which I spoke to you above
- at Absalon Spa where a pedestrian path leads to a waterfall
- to the white river for swimming and picnicking
- at the Gendarme jump waterfall, actually a succession of small basins and several waterfalls
- at the Domaine d’Emeraude: 3 trails cover the 24 hectares of this natural park and the rainforest
Do you know why the Trace Road is so called?
For all hiking trails (“traces”) that leave. The best known, which I advise you not to miss if you like to hike, is the Trace of the Jesuits in Fonds-Saint-Denis. The path once taken by the monks, it presents no particular difficulties and allows to make a beautiful hike of about 3 hours to go through the jungle.
9. The climb of Mount Pelee
Do you like hiking? Climbing Mount Pelee is one of the things you should not miss on your trip!
Volcano still active and whose last big eruption occurred on May 8, 1902, the place is rather quiet today and therefore accessible. It is a popular hiking spot for locals and tourists alike.
There are several possible trails to climb to the top of the volcano at 1395 meters above sea level:
- The Aileron Trail, the shortest and easiest, from Morne-Rouge, the town at the end of the Route de la Trace.
- The Grande Savane Trail, from the Prêcheur
- The trail from Grand Rivière
- The trail from Macouba
Whatever the path taken on one of the slopes, a hike to the Pelee Mountain is to be reserved for the good walkers because it is really very steep. The best time to climb the volcano is from December to March, during the dry season.
10. The Peninsula of Caravelle
Another path to go hiking in Martinique and worth the detour: the tour of the peninsula of Caravelle.
You will find many things to see and do in this peninsula of the east including the small fishing village of Tartane (where you can try surfing) and quiet and sheltered beaches.
But it comes mostly to go on one of the 2 trails that start from the Trinity and all around the peninsula. You can see the ruins of Castle Dubuc and cross the mangrove, forest or meadows. A summary of the most beautiful landscapes of Martinique.
The 2 trails offer several hikes lasting from 1 hour to half a day. Plan a lot of water because there is no water and go with hiking shoes.
11. Take a tour of the rum shops
As you surely know, Martinique is also known for its excellent rum.
So there are many distilleries to visit : you can sample the local rums and learn more about their manufacture:
- The Depaz distillery (Saint-Pierre)
- The Neisson Distillery (Le Carbet)
- JM distillery (between Basse-Pointe and Macouba)
- The distillery Saint-James (Sainte-Marie) where you can also visit the Museum of Rum
- Distillery Trois-Rivières (Sainte-Luce)
- La Distellerie La Favorite (Fort-de-France)
Guests have free access to the distillery shop and enjoy free tasting. By cons if you want to visit the premises and the field, it pays.
12. The Pagerie Museum
During your trip to Martinique, you can visit the Pagerie Museum.
It is located in Trois-Ilets, in the Domaine de la Pagerie, where was born Josephine de Beauharnais, first wife of Napoleon I and future empress of France.
This museum, very well done, plunges us back into the history of this imperial couple, and especially in the life of the Empress Josephine from her childhood to her arranged marriage.
The gardens are also very pleasant to walk around.
Here are the schedules of the Pagerie Museum:
- Tuesday to Friday from 9:30 to 16:30
- Saturday from 9:30 to 14:30
The full price is 5 €.
13. Cape Town 110
The Cap 110 is a memorial to slavery, located at Anse Caffard, which was erected by the city of Diamond in 1998 (150 th anniversary of the abolition of slavery). Designed by the Martinican artist Laurent Valère, this memorial depicts 15 busts of white reinforced concrete, arranged in a triangle, looking out over the sea.
They symbolize all the victims of the period and have become a place of recollection for the inhabitants.
The place was not chosen at random. It was there that in 1830, when slavery was already illegal, a boat full of slaves ran aground and most of them died.
The minute culture travel tips
These statues are full of symbols. Not only, they are represented in white because in the West Indies it is the color of the mourning but their provision in triangle is also not harmless since it evokes the triangular trade.
14. St. Anne’s
During your tour in Martinique, I advise you to go to Sainte-Anne, a village in the South of the island.
It is very popular for its beaches (including Salines which I have already spoken), but the village itself is also very charming, with its craft market and the Church of Our Lady of St. Anne.
In addition, the village is the starting point for many hikes.
I recommend hiking the Savannah Petrification and Anse Trabaud, which is really different from the others you can do on the island.
In a length of 4 km, the path leading from the handle to Plums, passes through the undergrowth, marshes, and along the coast through several loops until reaching a wide plain arid and desert . A very surprising landscape in Martinique, you can even see cactus!
Continuing a little further, you will fall on the tip of Hell where waves crash against the cliffs. The hike ends at Anse Trabaud, a beautiful beach, ideal to cool off before returning.
The Savannah Trail is part of one of the great hikes of southern Martinique: the Trace of Caps, which runs along the coast for more than 27 km. As it represents about 12 hours of walking, it is easier and more practical to do it in several times.
15. Diving at Diamond Rock
The Diamond Rock is visible from the town of Le Diamant, and it is one of the favorite places for diving enthusiasts. You can see coral reefs but also volcanic rock and all kinds of colorful fish , rays, moray eels and even turtles.
Please note, diving at Diamond Rock is not recommended for beginners because it is a site with difficult conditions (especially currents). We recommend 15 dives before we can go there.
But if you are experienced no worries, this is one of the best places to dive during your vacation in Martinique.
The minute culture travel tips
The Diamond Rock has an unusual history since the British and the French fought it throughout the 19 th century. In 1804, English navigators occupied the rock for 17 months before it was taken over by the French.
16. The Gorges de la Falaise
The Gorges de la Falaise are located in the vicinity of Ajoupa Bouillon.
The place allows for a stroll along the Falaise River which crosses impressive rock faces to form the Gorges. The hike is exclusively accompanied by a guide as it includes canyoning passages with slides and jumps in the water.
Plan on your swimsuit and an old pair of sneakers.
It is better to book in advance, but the walk is not possible if the rains are too strong.
A great idea for family activities on the island of Martinique.
17. Slave Savannah
The Savannah Slave is the perfect place to learn more about the history of Martinique and especially the period of slavery.
Entirely created by a Martinican passionate about history, the 3-hectare park recreates a Native American village to tell the life of the first inhabitants of the island but also has more than 20 boxes where are explained the lifestyle of slaves on plantations.
Staged in a splendid botanical garden, the place is really well done and very interesting. The visit is guided only.
For the address and the schedules, it is on the official site.
18. Take a boat trip in Martinique
For a relaxing day at sea, you can opt for a boat trip.
Several providers offer to make you discover the island from the sea. It will be an opportunity to swim in the most beautiful spots like the Josephine pool or the bath Trapeze.
You can also go to meet dolphins or swim with sea turtles.
Most excursions also include lunch on board and drinks. Count around 85 € per person.
19. Discover Martinique gastronomy
Visiting Martinique is also discovering its gastronomy!
If you like fish and seafood, you will enjoy with the snapper and the wolf Caribbean, but also with lobster and conch (a shell cooked all the sauces on the island).
The cod is also very cooked, in acras or fierce avocado.
For meat lovers, Martinique is famous for its colombo, a very spicy dish that can be concocted with chicken, pork or lamb.
Sweet side , the flan and the blanc-manger are part of the recipes typical of Martinique. I also suggest you try a cinnamon apple, the uniquely braided butter bun that can be found in every bakery on the island.
If you want to eat at the restaurant, I advise you:
- Bambou à Morne-Rouge : a family restaurant, on the Route de la Trace, which serves typical dishes of Creole cuisine. The cod acras with coconut milk are delicious.
- Table Mamy Nanny on the peninsula of Caravelle (Tartane): another family restaurant that revisits the flavors of Martinique. Originality and refinement of the dishes are on the program with a great reception and a panoramic terrace. I recommend the lobster mousse and the locals grilled caramel sauce with old rum, a treat.
20. Attend the Carnival
The Carnival of Fort-de-France is a must for many Martiniquais.
It takes place over several days, starting on Sunday and ending on Ash Wednesday.
Carnival is quite a show, with street orchestras, competitions and elections of queens and kings of Carnival. And above all, everyone participates.
We also find specificities specific to Martinique:
- The “bradjak”: a procession of decorated cars related to a news event
- The “Mariannes lapo fig”: disguised characters with banana peels
- The “Macoumè”: men disguised as women
- The “Negroes Gwo Siwo”: They symbolize slaves and paint themselves with a mixture of cane syrup and charcoal to disguise themselves
- The Vaval: the wooden puppet that is burned on Ash Wednesday.