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Before You Go: Martinique Travel Guide

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Traveling to Martinique is highly recommended if you’d like your dream island vacation to come with a French accent. This is the Caribbean with French panache -- beautiful white-sand beaches, interesting cultural attractions, world-class sailing, a mountainous landscape with plenty of hiking opportunities, and, naturellement, delicious food.

Martinique Basic Travel Information

Location: Martinique’s western shore faces the Caribbean Sea and the eastern faces the Atlantic Ocean. It’s between Dominica and St. Lucia.

Size: 424 square miles. See Map

Capital: Fort-de-France

Language: French (official), Creole patois

Religions: Mostly Roman Catholic, some Protestant

Currency: The euro

Area Code: 596

Tipping: 10 to 15 percent

Weather: The hurricane season runs June to November. Temperatures range from 75 to 85 degrees, but are lower in the mountains.

Martinique Activities and Attractions

The hiking is excellent on Martinique, with options including coastal rain forest trails between Grand Rivière and Le Prêcheur, and a steep climb up the volcanic peak of Mount Pelee. Martinique also boasts a golf course, tennis courts, excellent sailing and good windsurfing. If you’re craving culture, make sure to explore Fort-de-France, which has some interesting cathedrals, the historic Fort Saint Louis, and a couple of museums examining the island’s history. St-Pierre has a volcano museum dedicated to the 1902 eruption that buried this small city, killing all but one of its 30,000 inhabitants.

Martinique Beaches

Pointe du Bout, where most of the island’s biggest resorts are located, has some small beaches that are popular with visitors. A better bet, however, is to head south to Diamond Beach, which has glossy rows of palm trees and lots of space for sunbathing and water sports. Southeast of Diamond Beach, the fishing village of Ste. Luce is known for its white sand beaches, and at Martinique’s extreme southern tip is the town of Ste. Anne, where you’ll find the white sand beaches of Cap Chevalier and Plage de Salines, two of the loveliest beaches on the island.

Martinique Hotels and Resorts

Fort-de-France has a number of hotels, but if you want to be near the beach, strike out for the resort areas of Pointe du Bout or Les Trois Ilets. One of the island’s top hotels, the historic Habitation LaGrange, is a former plantation located about 30 minutes from the beach. Good family choices on the beach include Hotel Carayou and Karibea Sainte Luce Resort.

Martinique Restaurants and Cuisine

A happy marriage of French technique, African influences and Caribbean ingredients has produced a widely varying cuisine. You can find everything from fresh croissant and foie gras to Creole specialties like boudin, or blood sausage. Seafood is a common ingredient, including conch, lobster and escargot, while the island’s native produce — bananas, guava, soursop and passion fruit — is also widely used. For fine contemporary French food, try La Belle Epoque in the Fort-de-France.

Martinique Culture and History

When Columbus discovered Martinique in 1493, the island was inhabited by Arawak and Carib Indians. Martinique has been under French control since colonies were established in 1635. In 1974, France granted Martinique some local political and economic autonomy, which was increased in 1982 and 1983. Today, the island controls most of its affairs, with exception of defense and security.

Martinique, also known as Paris in the tropics, has a unique blend of French, African, Creole and West Indian influences.

Martinique Events and Festivals

Given Martinique’s fame as a sailing destination, it’s no surprise that one of its most notable events is a strikingly beautiful boat race called the Tour des Yoles Rondes. The race features wooden canoe-like vessels called yawls, which sail around the island. Other annual events include an island version of the Tour de France, a rum festival, and guitar and jazz festivals held alternating years.

Martinique Nightlife and Performing Arts

For live music, try Cotton Club on the beach at Anse Mitan, featuring jazz and traditional island music. If you’re in the mood to dance, hit the Le Zénith in Fort-de-France or Top 50 in Trinité. For performing arts, including classical music and dance performances, Centre Martiniquais d'Action Culturelle and L’Atrium, both in Fort-de-France, are the places to check out.
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