- Beaches of course! the most famous one is Grande Anse des Salines in the South. But there are many others, less crowded. From the ones I have visited, I recommend the following:
* South: Anse Trabaud (access during hike of Savane des Pétrifications); at St Anne, Anse Meunier and beaches of St Anne.
* Southwest: Anse Noire, Anse Dufour, beach of Anse d'Arlet.
* Southeast: Petite & Grande Anse Macabou, Anse Grosse Roche.
* West: beach of Tartane, beaches of the islets of François and Robert.
* North: Anse Couleuvre, Anse Céron.
- Water sports: boat trips, sailing, snorkeling, diving (reefs, sunken ships), parasailing, fishing, kayaking
- Hiking: wonderful hikes all over the island. Do not miss Presqu'île de la Caravelle, Savane des Pétrifications , Trace des Caps, trails of Montagne Pelée, trails of Pitons du Carbet, Trace des Anses du Nord.
- Great drives: do not miss route des Anses, route de la Trace, the D1 through Fonds St-Denis, the D10 North of St Pierre. I read route de Grand-Rivière is great but I did not have time to do it.
- Plantations: they are called "habitations" here, and are now museums with description of times during slavery, and always surrounded by beautiful tropical gardens where you can learn about plants. They also have museums about rum harvesting and making, and some about sugar making. Do not miss Habitation Clément and Habitation Anse Latouche.
- Rum distilleries: learn about sugar cane and rum making, visiting old and working distillery equipments. Do not miss Habitation Clément, Distillerie Neisson, Distillerie Depaz.
- Gardens: learn about local vegetation in beautiful tropical garden. Do not miss Anse Latouche (absolutely stunningly beautiful!), and Savane des Esclaves. Although I did not have time to see it, I read Jardins de Balata are beautiful too.
- History: do not miss Saint Pierre and its tragic ruins from the Montagne Pelée 1902 eruption. There is a museum about Joséphine, the wife of Napoléon, at the plantation she was raised at, La Pagerie (at Trois-Islets, I did not have time to see it). Savane des Esclaves is a great outdoor museum about life at the time of slavery. The rum distilleries mentioned above are museums of plantation life and economy, and the evolution of Martinique society through time.
- Visit lovely villages: Anses d'Arlet, Saint-Anne, Le Diamant, Le Carbet, Saint Pierre of course, Le Prêcheur, Tartane. Many others I am sure I did not have time to go see!
-Markets: exotic fruits and vegetables and lots of fish from the local fishermen.
It seems that if you do not speak French, you may have a hard time to find a recent guide on Martinique exclusively. The only one in English I could find on Amazon was from Ulysses and dates back to 2001! I still suggest you should try to get it (get a cheap used copy), because without a guide you are going to miss a lot of wonderful sights. There are more recent guides in English but there are on several islands of the Caribbean, not only Martinique.
In French I used the Michelin - Voyager Pratique, and the Guide du Routard, on Martinique, both updated for 2010. They are very well done. I bought the only Martinique map there is, from IGN (Institut Géographique National). Everything can be bought on amazon.fr. Note that when we rented a car, Hertz gave us a free Martinique map that was better than my IGN one, with brighter colors, more readable.
Once you get there, get the free Martinique guide called "Choubouloute". It is in French and very well done. Even if you do not know French, get it because the numerous illustrations and maps will be very useful to you. It also describes local flowers, fruits and vegetables, cultural objects, and has a free map to detach. Here is the web version: http://www.choubouloute.fr/
Finally, I really enjoyed reading "La Catastrophe; The eruption of Mount Pelée, the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century" by Alwin Scarth. The BOOK is IN ENGLISH! It documents the history of the 1902 Montagne Pelée eruption, from contemporary documents and eye witnesses. It is a fascinating read. I suggest you read it while you are in St Pierre, or after you visited it, because it is fun to know the places the author is talking about in his book. The book has lots of pictures showing you St Pierre before and after the disaster.
If you go to Martinique, don' t miss Fort de France and it's market, and go absolutely on the southern part of the island, because you won't find anything nice, not even beaches, going north.
Nice place to visit is Village Creole at Trois Ilets.
The coolest thing about Martinique is that it is the birthplace of the Empress Josephine. You can visit La Pagerie where she was born and see all sorts of beautiful portraits of her. I didn't know much about Josephine until I visited La Pagerie, but afterward I became fascinated with her and to this day I read every biography I can find about Josephine. She's become my favorite historical figure, and it all began in Martinique!
Fondest memory: My happiest memory is the day I sent a message in a bottle off the end of the dock at Club Med. The bottle floated about 10 miles to the famous Diamond Rock, where it was discovered by a member of the French Gendarmerie who had been stationed in Martinique with his family. How often does somebody actually find a bottle, anyway, and how often do you actually get to meet them someday and have them be your tour guides? It was amazing!!
Fondest memory: Martinique is warm and welcoming country. It is an overseas department of France so they do speak French. I found few spoke fluent English, but as long as you try to communicate they are very accomodating in helping you get what you are asking for.
Favorite thing: Look out for the old guys with bunches of palm leaves - It is worth hanging around to see them make you things. One guy made a really cool hat (which we still have) in about 2 minutes. He didn't seem too bothered about being paid (sign of a true artist!)- but we paid him anyway (I think he knew we would!).
The primary reason for someone to go to Martinique (unless they happen to be there by virtue of a cruise itinerary) is to RELAX and enjoy the more peaceful island lifestyle. You MUST spend time on the beach and in the water. There are so many beautiful beaches here, even topless beaches. (While officially only topless, if one is so inclined, I doubt that there would be much objection to complete nude bathing as long as you are not in view of the many tour buses that scatter across the island with cruise ship passengers, many of whom are older people with more conservative views).
Fondest memory: I particularly enjoyed a beautiful evening glowing with the luminesce of a full moon with a beautiful companion on a more secluded, peaceful beach.
Go to the Internet Cafe in Fort de France called Le Web Cyber Cafe, 4 Rue Blénac
( bizness.cgit.com/LeWeb/ )
Young guys from the military stations nearby come here to email and drink. Theyre really sociable, and I spent a lot of time chatting to them. In return for my efforts I got bitten on the neck by one, another wanted to come with me, and another gave me the cutest wink ever! ;o)
Where else in the world can you swim in the sea in the middle of winter ?
Guys we had every day 24-27 degrees (C) and the water was around 25-27 too. Go also to Sainte Anne (on the South) it's a very nice village and you can also vist the Club Med resorts (see pictures below).
Fondest memory: The warm water, the beautifull beaches. Our sunset cruise with a big catamaran...
When visiting Fort-de-France take time to walk through the streets and shop at the local shops. The two tourist sites to see are St. Louis Cathedral and the Fort.
Fondest memory: The view from the Fort over looking Fort-de-France.
Throughout the island of Martinique, (pop: 399,000) the scenery is dramatic and very beautiful, with lush rainforest coating the slopes of the mountains and swathes of sugar cane grown on the plain. The island is 65 km long and 31 km wide with mountains in the north and south and a low-lying ‘waist’ where most people live. The coastline is irregular in the southern half, with peninsulas and promontories protecting islets and sandy bays. The Caribbean Sea is to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Martinique’s neighbouring islands are Dominica to the north and St Lucia to the south.
Martinique is volcanic in origin and one active volcano still exists, Montagne Pelée (1,397 m), situated to the northwest, which had its last major eruption in 1902. The rest of the island is also very mountainous; the Pitons de Carbet (maximum 1,196 m) are in the centre of the island and Montagne du Vauclin (504 m) is in the south. Small hills or mornes link these mountains and there is a central plain, Le Lamentin, where sugar cane is planted. An extensive tropical rainforest covers parts of the north of the island, as well as pineapple and banana plantations. The coastline is varied: steep cliffs and volcanic, black and grey sand coves in the north and on the rugged Atlantic coast, and calmer seas with large white or gold sand beaches in the south and on the Caribbean coast. The Baie de Fort-de-France bites into the western coastline creating a sheltered bay where there are mangroves and wetlands. The Atlantic coast south of the Caravelle peninsula is good for windsurfing and scuba diving, due to the shelter afforded by headlands and islands for its shallow bays. The population of the island is over 400,000 of which half live in Fort-de-France, the capital, and neighbouring communes, including Schoelcher to the west and the industrial zones to the east. The industrial town of Le Lamentin, slightly inland and nar the international airport, is the second largest town. The rest of Martinique is fairly evenly scattered with the small towns or communes.