Sandwiched between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean is a windswept corner of paradise.
Of all the Caribbean islands, why Martinique?
Martinique is often overlooked by tourists outside of France in favor of some of its flashier neighbors, but this island doesn't seem to mind. Hotels are smaller, restaurants and cafes are more intimate, and the pace of life truly free and easy. If you haven't considered Martinique yet, here are 10 reasons to keep this corner of paradise in mind.
1. Culture and festivals
Most of Martinique has largely managed to avoid the Caribbean tourist frenzy. Apartment rentals are common and resorts are small, leaving a pristine coastline unmarred by highrises and clubs. Locals are friendly and open to showing tourists around their incredible island.
Martinique is also home to a number of vibrant festivals including the ubiquitous Carnaval, but expect this Carnaval to look a bit different than that of its neighbors. It's very common to see men and women dressed in drag during Le Mariage Burlesque, which takes place on the first Monday of every Carnaval festival. Other notable events include Jazz à la Martinique, a world-renowned jazz festival that brings musicians from near and far to the island.
2. Sandy shores
Martinique is manageable enough that it's easy to see all the beaches the island has to offer by car. The wide, golden swath of the Grand Anse des Salines is probably the most well-known, and for all its popularity it rarely gets too crowded during the shoulder seasons, in the mornings, and on weekdays. Les Anses d'Arlet are home to several smaller beaches that are less known with fewer amenities. With their anonymity comes more pristine beaches and wildlife. For example, on Anse Noir, a volcanic black sand beach, you can even spot sea turtles with or without a guide.
3. Natural wonders
Martinique's topography undulates from verdant jungles perched at high altitudes down onto powdery beaches shaded by palm trees. It's home to some of the best hiking in the Caribbean along with swathes of unspoiled shoreline.
Although lacking beaches, the northern section of the island is the greenest. It's where you can find Martinique's highest point, Mount Pelee, a 4,583-foot-tall active volcano that laid waste to the nearby city of Saint Pierre in 1902. A hike to the top of the volcano is superb, but can be challenging.
For an easier trek, head to Presqu'île de la Caravelle, a nature reserve with a varied landscape including mangrove forests, grasslands and wetlands. The trail is an easy to moderate walk and offers incredible views over the coast, as well as a handful of historical sights along the way. Keep an eye out for the "violinist crabs," who peek in and out of their subterranean burrows and can be identified by their oversized right pincer.
4. The flower island
Martinique is often called the Flower Island thanks to its boundless flora of all colors and sizes. The species of flowers vary from region to region, with many of the most vibrant growing in the verdant north. There are thousands of species of flowers on the island, and if you can't see them all, many are showcased in the Jardin de Balata, Martinique's botanic gardens. With these vibrant blossoms come many species of delicate hummingbirds.