Dive head-first into the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies and you’ll find the French outpost of Martinique. This Caribbean island is nothing short of sensational as it claims astonishing landscapes that vary quite wildly. The shimmering beaches that stretch for miles along the southern coastline are renowned for their ivory-white sand, palm trees and calm sea waters. Head to the northern shores and the lush rainforests and wild mountains will leave you in awe. In exploring the natural beauty that Martinique has to offer, you’ll see everything from rugged crags and walkable gorges to gushing waterfalls, but the defining element is the ever-present Mount Pelée, which soars over the island from all angles. Through all the alluring scenery, Martinique is a remarkable gem of Caribbean perfection. What’s more is that Martinique is a sophisticated cultural hotspot of the area that continues long after the brash Carnival celebrations are finished. The exotic enclave makes up one of eighteen integral overseas regions of the French Republic, and it retains a certain savoir faire to it. Between the Parisian pastries, Indian madras fabrics, rumba-inspired music and laid-back island attitude, Martinique may very well be the Caribbean’s most striking melting pot. Sure, St. Barth’s is known for its glitz and glam, but for those who are in-the-know, Martinique is the place to be.
Where to Stay
Martinique is constantly overlooked by the jet-set community for mainstream destinations such as St. Barth’s, Bahamas or Aruba, but that doesn’t make it any less of a travel destination. In fact, part of Martinique’s charm is that it feels authentic. This isn’t an island where you’ll find endless cookie-cutter resorts with the same sun-chasing tourist crowd. Here you’ll find charming boutique hotels with hospitable staff and personalized service. This is no better epitomized than La Suite Villa, a 5-star hilltop hotel located in Les Trois-Îlets. Overlooking the gorgeous bay and surrounded by beauty, the boutique hotel infuses the natural riches of Martinique with art and glamor for its own inimitable, whimsical design. The main building consists of a few exclusive suites, each of which are equipped with a panoramic view of the sea, outdoor terrace and private jacuzzi. Just a short walk away lie the villas, which come with the option of 1, 2 or 3 bedrooms and include a living room and kitchen. They’re designed like a cocoon to ensure enduring comfort and coziness, while tropical gardens, covered terraces, solariums and outdoor shower elevate the experience to another level completely. The striking mix of colors throughout the hotel property is charming and perfectly suits the friendly attitude and approachable nature of the staff. Rounding out the amenities are an award-winning gourmet restaurant, relaxing swimming pool and outdoor spa. Check out our Luxury Hotel Guide for Martinique for an informative list of accommodation options.
Where to Dine
As a cultural melting pot, the sophisticated heritage of Martinique is most apparent in its top-notch culinary scene, which takes from French, Caribbean and African traditions. Freshly-caught fish, amazing rum cocktails and seaside locations mean dining in Martinique will be a memorable experience. Le Belem at the Relais et Chateaux Cap Est Lagoon Resort & Spa is not only a dream come true for your taste buds, but you’ll be charmed by the breezy location directly facing the ocean. It has a classy and cozy setting that’s open to the outdoors and lulled by trade winds, which allows for an exceptionally beautiful sight as the sun goes down. The elegant Caribbean setting is only heightened with the gourmet cuisine that takes influence directly from French and Creole traditions. Headed by chef Jordan Delamotte, the menu consists of a number of light dishes that are creative and tasty, such as the smoked duck breast, served with confit shallots and orange sauce or blue crayfish with breaded bisque and green juice. Take a look through our comprehensive Restaurant Guide for Martinique to find the perfect dining experience during your stay.
What to Do
All of the beaches across Martinique are public, but hotels normally charge non-guests to use changing facilities. The coral-sand beaches are around Pointe du Bout, but all the hotels are there too, so they tend to be crowded. Try the wilder beaches near Ste-Anne, such as Anse-Trabaud, Les Salines or Baie des Anglais. Make sure you get a healthy dose of beach life. On the eastern coast is where you’ll find a handful of wild surfing spots, while scuba diving sites are scattered across the outskirts of the island. Head to Jardin de Balata, a mosaic of verdant lawns and flower meadows for the perfection relaxation in nature, just on the edge of Fort-de-France. Hhead into to Fort-de-France itself to find refined French haute lining the streets. When it comes to drink, every Caribbean island has their own signature rum punch, it’s ‘ti punch. Whether it’s full-out rum tastings or more so at your local beach bar. History buffs head to St-Pierre, the first capital of the island that was destroyed instantly by the eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902, to check out the ruins. Check out sugar plantations. Before the volcano erupted (only 2 out of 30,000 inhabitants survived), St-Pierre was considered the Paris of the Caribbean. Since its a region of France, French culture permeates life here mixed in with a beautiful island lifestyle. It has all the sunshine one could ask for, but vibrant cultural centers, and people are incomparable. It is decidedly French, very Caribbean and has a strong tie to its African roots. The busy capital, Fort-de-France, is sophisticated and well-developed.
What to Wear
On one hand, any trip to Martinique will be characterized by its fair share of beach days and walking in nature. On the other, this is still part of France and the sophisticated attitude that sweeps through the region and international clientele means that the latest resort collections are always in style. Featuring a high-cut design, macrame side details and cheeky rear, this Maylana Jess Mustard One-Piece is a wonderful swimsuit that will keep you through Martinique with a vibrant and striking statement. You can also bring along this KAYU St. Tropez Pom-Pom Embellished Straw Tote for the day, whose roomy interior will hold all of your necessities in a friendly, easy-to-carry, stylish woven tote. Elsewhere, this Dolce & Gabbana Floral Print Cotton Midi Dress is a fitted mini dress crafted from cotton. The delicate floral blossoms, square neckline and thick shoulder straps are the perfect day dress to take you around town during the day and along with you for any sightseeing. For a complete breakdown on what should be inside your suitcase, check out the Style Sheet for Martinique.