Martinique is a picture of Caribbean splendor, from the glistening beaches of Sainte-Anne in the south to the craggy peaks of Diamond Rock to the towering volcanic dome of Mount Pelee in the north.
History buffs can view Saint-Pierre, a smaller version of Pompeii, while culture lovers can visit old sugar plantations and modest homesteads that bred empresses. Luxury seekers will discover polished French couture throughout the streets of Fort-de-France.
Diving, snorkeling, and hiking the vast network of paths past waterfalls and beautiful landscapes are some of the more physically demanding things to do in Martinique. However, a lot of visitors just come to enjoy the stunning beaches, indulge in the region's outstanding French and Creole cuisine, and experience a mouthwatering slice of France in the tropics.
Read our list of the top tourist destinations in Martinique for recommendations on where to go on this beautiful island.
Get some peace at the Jardin de Balata
Nothing better exemplifies Martinique's fame as the "island of flowers" than the Jardin de Balata botanical garden. Visitors are welcome to stroll the grounds and take in the numerous flowers and plants that are present all throughout the property, which is centered on a typical Creole-style home. More than 3,000 different tropical plant and flower varieties may be found in the garden, which is situated next to ponds with water lilies and lotus flowers.
It's the ideal get-away from the city's cruise ships and busy docks because it's situated right on the outskirts of Fort-de-France.
Address: Km 10, Route de Balata, Fort-de-France
Hike on Mount Pelée
Mount Pelee, which rises above the Caribbean clouds on the northern side of Martinique, is famed for the extremely disastrous eruption of 1902, the only volcanic disaster to ever occur on French land. The mountain has grown to be an alluring trekking destination for many adventure seekers visiting the island, despite only being officially semi-dormant.
Hikes in the early morning are typically rewarded with less cloud cover obstructing the vistas. In Morne Rouge, Ajoupa-Bouillon, Grand Rivière, Le Prêcheur, and Macouba, trails of varied complexity begin. The track that starts in Ajoupa Bouillon is the busiest. Le Chinois, the genuine peak of Pelee, can be reached from the trailhead in two to four hours, depending on your fitness level and the state of the trail.
All hiking trails call for boots and can be dangerous after it rains. Before leaving, make sure to check the weather forecast. Whichever trail you choose, be sure to start your hike early to avoid the heat, and pack plenty of sunscreen, and water to stay hydrated.
See frozen history in Saint-Pierre
Built amidst the ruins of the former Saint-Pierre, Saint-Pierre offers breathtaking views of Mount Pelée. Prior to Mount Pelée's eruption in 1902, the town served as Martinique's capital and primary port. It was a stunning metropolis previously referred to as the Pearl of the West Indies.
With the exception of a prisoner who was shielded by his thick cell walls, the volcanic blast completely devastated the town and killed all 30,000 residents. Today, visitors may explore the medieval cobblestone alleys, view the jail cell where one of the few victims survived the eruption, and discover all about the devastation wreaked upon the island all those years ago.
As Saint-Pierre is perched on a steep slope and requires a tiresome, sweltering hike to reach the ruins, you might want to consider taking the tourist train from the port. For a useful map, visit the tourist information center.
The one-room Volcanological Museum (Musée Volcanologique), located on the hillside above Le Figuier, displays the burned remains of things that were recovered from the old town and harbor and serves as a physical reminder of the disaster.
Visit La Pagerie Museum
Marie Joseph Rose Tascher de la Pagerie, who would grow up to become Napoleon's Empress Josephine, was born in the Musée de la Pagerie, a former sugar estate. A marriage certificate and love letters from Napoleon are among the personal effects of Josephine that may be found in the stone home, which has undergone some restoration.
A visit to the Musée de la Pagerie offers a partial picture of colonial life in Martinique in the 18th century. Visit the neighboring La Savane des Esclaves to get a sense of what life was like for the slaves who carried out the plantation's actual work.
Address: D38, Les Trois-Ilets
Hike at Gorges de la Falaise
Gorges de la Falaise are a collection of minor gorges that run down the Falaise River and are close to the community of Ajoupa-Bouillon. They end at a stunning waterfall.
The trip begins with a steep drop and a stream crossing; however, once you reach the gorge, guides are available to assist you with the portion of deep-water (often extremely deep) wading to the falls, where you can swim beneath the pelting water.
A swimsuit, towel, and waterproof camera are all recommended along with sturdy waterproof hiking boots. Despite only being a kilometer or so each way, the hike is rather taxing, especially when the water is high.
A nature center with pathways through the local flora and across a river is also located in Ajoupa-Bouillon Les Ombrages. There are a number of gardens, including the Creole, Caribbean, Heliconia, and Calabash Gardens, that are set up to highlight different indigenous flora. These gardens also include interpretive plaques that show how nature and people have interacted in this location.
Spend the Day in Fort-De-France
Bustling Fort-de-France, the capital of Martinique, is the island's primary port and the starting point for island excursions and sightseeing tours even if it doesn't have a ton of tourist attractions on its own.
Fancy some shopping? Explore the neighborhood markets for fresh herbs and spices to pack in your carry-on, and browse the local artisan stores for wonderful mementos of your vacation.
Visit the Prehistory and Archaeology Museum of Martinique or La Savane Park to discover the whereabouts of Napoleon's wife Josephine. The capital is also an excellent spot to take a tour to learn more about the island's history and its European and Creole cultures.
Visit Diamond Rock
Three kilometers off the south coast of Martinique, the majestic Diamond Rock rises almost straight above the water and is the setting for a remarkable chapter in maritime history.
British seamen were dropped off on the volcanic island in 1804, and the rock was registered as the HMS Diamond Rock. Following 17 months of fruitless assaults, the French devised a cunning plan to overwhelm the sailors and retake the rock. Today, this volcanic mound is one of the island's top dive locations, and the surrounding hamlet of Le Diamant is where you can find out everything about its fascinating past.
Diamond Beach borders this coastline and is a lovely spot to stroll. It is dotted with arching coconut trees. Although this is one of the island's top surf areas, the sea can be choppy and dangerous to swim in at times.
Expert divers still adore it now, and they throng to explore the submerged caves that encircle the entire area below the tide line. Although it's a challenging task, there are otherworldly types of fish, corals, and sponges to look forward to.
Go for a Hike on La Caravelle Nature Trail
Martinique is renowned for its stunning landscapes and rich vegetation. At some time during your trip, go on a hike or a walk to see the island's true splendor. Take a stroll along the La Caravelle and Sainte-Anne Peninsula trail to see some of Martinique's best panoramic views and get a taste of the stunning scenery of the island. Visitors can view Martinique's competing ecosystems, from mangroves to deep forest, on the well-marked trails. To prevent running into too many other people and to escape the afternoon heat, it is better to walk any of these trails in the morning.
Explore the Ruins of Chateau Dubuc and Caravelle Peninsula
The ruins of Château Dubuc, the grandiose former home of the wealthy Dubuc family who owned the peninsula during the 18th century, are surrounded by the remains of their vast sugar refinery.
No other place on the island tells the story of the island's once-mainstay industry so well, and certainly not in such a beautiful setting. An innovative clickable map activates the free audio-guide for detailed descriptions in English, explaining each site and what happened here, from the grinding of raw cane to the shipment of molasses from the plantation's dock.
Nature lovers will find many things to see and do at the Caravelle Peninsula, in eastern Martinique. La Caravelle Nature Trail, near the entrance to Château Dubuc, is a one-hour hike through mangrove forest with views over the rugged eastern coastline. The nature reserve that protects the peninsula includes more than 150 species of local plants and many species of birds.
The town of Tartane stretches along a swimming beach, faced by a row of restaurants. Surfers will find some of Martinique's best swells nearby.