Off the radar for most American sun-seekers heading to the Caribbean, Martinique recently became a more accessible option with Norwegian Airlines’ direct service from New York and other cities. And the prices are quite accessible, too, often less than $100 round-trip, making Martinique just right for a budget-friendly Caribbean getaway for two.
The big attractions of any Caribbean island are its palm-lined beaches and Martinique has plenty. While the longest stretches of golden sand are on the south coast, you’ll find lovely cove and longer beaches all along the western coast. The most popular beaches in the south are those at Grande Anse and Les Salines at the southern tip of the island, an idyllic stretch of sand shaded by palms. Nearby Sainte-Anne is known for its smaller, palm-fringed coves. Farther west, Plage du Diamant overlooks the dramatic Diamant rock near the town of Sainte-Luce.
Not surprisingly, there is a wide choice of places to stay near these beaches, where cozy hotels and low-key resorts overlook the sea. Because so much of tourism to Martinique is from France, self-catering cottages and apartments, known as gites, are popular and often less expensive than a hotel. These are usually rented by the week through booking sites like Airbnb.
Another area with beautiful beaches and tourist services is not far from the airport, and a ferry ride away from the capital of Fort-de-France. The village of Trois Ilets is on Pointe du Bout, which faces the capital across a beautiful bay (locals claim it was officially named “the most beautiful bay in the world”).
A few steps from any of the several hotels and inns are white-sand beaches, places to eat and drink, boutiques and day cruises. Anse Mitan, west of Pointe du Bout, is one of Martinique’s best beaches. Surrounded by gardens, Hotel Bakoua has direct beach access and an infinity pool. Rooms at the smaller boutique Hotel La Pagerie have private terraces overlooking gardens.
Pointe du Bout’s little harbor is the place to find boat excursions and dolphin watch cruises. Or from the nearby Village de la Poterie des Trois-Ilets you can join a kayaking adventure through the mangrove forests. This little village of boutiques, studios and dining spots is the place to find the work of local potters, wood-carvers and artists.
You can’t go to the Caribbean without tasting the rum each island is famous for, and Martinique’s is some of the best. You can taste and buy it at Domaine de L’Acajou Rhum, Agricole, where you can spend an entire afternoon touring the historic distillery, a colonial plantation house and its large sculpture gardens. Rum is an important part of Martinique’s history, and you can step back into that at the ruined estate of Château Dubuc, surrounded by the remains of the sugar refinery. The manicured grounds and romantic ruins are a good spot for a picnic.
Apart from the secluded cove beaches, the most romantic spot on the island is Balata Botanical Garden just outside Fort-de-France. A beautiful valley between two steep mountainsides is filled with more than 3,000 different plants and flowers. Along its winding paths, shaded by giant trees and lush foliage, are benches and little pavilions where you can take in the views and inhale the perfume of tropical flowers.