Martinique is an overseas department of France, located in the eastern Caribbean Sea. The island has a population of approx. 400.000 inhabitants and accommodates many (mainly French) tourists every year. Martinique offers a diverse landscape: The south has beautiful white-sand beaches, small bays, and a romantic vibe while the northern part is characterized by a cliff coast, rainforests and, of course, the majestic volcano Mount Pelée. In the center of Martinique, you will find the vibrant island capital Fort-de-France with historic sites and cultural events.
As part of a language stay, I spent about six weeks in Martinique. I was living with a wonderful host family in Pointe-du-Bout from where I would take the ferry to my language school in Fort-de-France every day. On the weekends, I rented a car or took a van to get out of the urban area and explore the coasts and mountains. There are tons of sites I consider worth a visit, but in this post, I tried to nail it down to five travel highlights.
1. Mount Pelée
I have already climbed a lot of mountains, but Mount Pelée was one of my personal hiking highlights. Mount Pelée is an active volcano in the north of Martinique. The famous eruption of 1902 resulted in the worst volcanic disaster in the 20th century killing over 30.000 people. Since then the volcano only erupted a few times, the last eruption being in the 1930s.
There are different trails you can take up the volcano. They are very well signposted. All of them require good physical fitness and good weather conditions. Depending on the route you are taking, elevation is between 600m and 1300m. I don´t want to sound pessimistic, but be prepared for an exhausting climb. However, it will soon reward you with magnificent views of the Atlantic and Pitons du Carbet. You can also see a beautiful scenery along the way.
Alternatively to climbing Mount Pelée, you could also enjoy the day at Mount Pelée’s picturesque base, where you can do some canyoning and hiking through waterfalls and rainforests.
How To Get There: You can drive to a parking lot, located about a mile away from the summit, and then trek up the volcano from there.
Tips ‘n’ tricks: I recommend bringing food and water with you. There are some excellent spots for a picknick along the way. Once hiking toward the summit the temperature quickly drops to a pleasant coolness, so make sure to bring a jacket as well.
2. Diving at Anse à l’Ane
L’Anse à l’Ane is a beautiful sandy beach of Trois-Ilets and a popular alternative to Anse Mitan in Ponte du Bout, which is packed with tourists during high season. Due to small currents, this beach is ideal for swimming and water sport activities of any kind. Plus, restaurants and bars with beanbags in the sand provide budget-friendly drinks and snacks while enjoying a beautiful sunset at the end of the day.
On top of that, Anse à l’Ane serves as a perfect gateway for scuba diving. Numerous magnificent dive sites in the south of the island are accessible within a 15-20 minute boat ride. Having seen many incredible dive sites around the globe, I can only recommend diving in Martinique: there is plenty of fish, sea turtles, stingrays, even macro aquatic life to see, there are underwater caves to discover, wrecks to explore and healthy corals to gaze at. It´s simply an underwater heaven for divers of all levels and certainly as good as diving in Asia. The overall advantages of diving with a dive center in Anse à l’Ane are the fast accessibility of the dive sites as well as the dive costs, which are lower than in Pointe du Bout and Anse Mitan. You´ll find more information on diving in Martinique here.
How To Get There: By car, move towards Trois-Ilets and then follow the direction Anse d’Arlet. Otherwise, take a direct ferry from Fort-de-France to Anse à l’Ane.
3. Anse Cafard Slave Memorial
Both humbling and beautiful, the Anse Cafard Slave Memorial in the southwest of Martinique was a moving experience for me. Overlooking the sea and Le Rocher du Diamant in the distance, 20 white stone statues commemorate a catastrophic event that took place in 1830 when a ship rushed into Diamond Rock Mountain. The majority of sailors and slaves were killed in the accident. Today, these giant effigies are a popular stop along the way and don´t just tell the story of the people who died in the shipwreck off the coast but also remember the thousands of enslaved Africans who were taken to Martinique as part of the transatlantic slave trade in the 19th century. The story and significance of this site are explained on several signs in both French and English.
How To Get There: From Les Trois-Ilets follow the D7 towards Le Diamant. Upon reaching Le Diamant, go to Grande Anse de Diamant and follow this road (D37) until you find the memorial on the left.
4. Les Salines
Les Salines is the island´s most famous beach and a perfect spot for families as well as anyone who enjoys lazing in the sun. This palm-lined beach with clear turquoise waters and white sand is a real paradise and reminded me a lot of Nacpan Beach in the Philippines and Leleuvia Island in Fiji. For a refreshment in between swimming and sunbathing, numerous food vendors walk the sand selling delicious local treats, such as coconut ice cream.
The whole area around Les Salines is also great for hikers and nature lovers. Towards the south of the beach, you will find Anse Meunier where the Atlantic and Caribbean Oceans meet. Walking along the beach also gives you many amazing photo ops for portraits and palm tree action photos. 🙂
How To Get There: From Trois-Ilets, take the M5 and make your way to Le Marin. From there turn right and follow the D9 to Sainte-Anne, the closest town about 2.5 km from the beach.
Tips ‘n’ tricks: Consider visiting Les Salines during weekdays and in the late afternoon when most people have already left. You will not only enjoy a peaceful sunset but also get to see the unspoiled beauty of nature at this beach.
5. Kayaking at Anse Noire
Kayaking is a popular activity around the island of Martinique. You can explore the mangroves of Trois Ilets on an eco-tour or go island-hopping near Le Robert. However, my personal kayak highlight was in Anse Noire near Anse d’Arlet. L’Anse Noire is a beach with soft black sand making it unique on the island. The beach is at the bottom of a steep set of stairs and pretty much off the beaten path. There may be a handful of other people there with you as most tourists choose to go to Anse Dufour, a white-sand beach in the next bay.
In the small cove of Anse Noire, you can rent kayaks (and snorkel equipment) and paddle along the rocky shore, explore caves and rock formations. As you paddle along, you´ll find tiny coves that you have all to yourself. Since the water in the area is usually very calm, I recommend leaving your kayak at one of the desert beaches for a while and discover the underwater magic. The reefs are rich in colorful coral, fish are plentiful, and you may even get to see a turtle or two.
How To Get There: From Trois-Ilets, take the D7. After Anse à l’Ane continue driving the D7 and turn right into a small road once you see the sign “Anse Dufour / Anse Noire”.
Tips ‘n’ Tricks: I recommend bringing some food and drinks so that you can have a picnic in one of the beautiful, small coves you pass while kayaking. Also, there are no facilities at Anse Noire.
Island trips are your thing? Why not explore some of the fabulous and very inexpensive island destinations in the Pacific? Specifically interested in diving? Head over to my budget dive guides and learn how you can dive the world´s oceans in an affordable way.