Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Martinique

  • Published 2021/10/21

See also: Where to Stay in Martinique and Best Hotels in Martinique

Nothing gets as Caribbean as Martinique—vast tropical jungles, the majestic Mount Pelée, ivory-white beaches, and sunny skies create the perfect paradise.

This island is an overseas department of France, with a population speaking mainly in French and Martinican Creole.

It’s also part of the Lesser Antiless, a region of the Caribbean that’s close to the equator and South America, so you’re guaranteed warm and clear weather.

Martinique has a storied past, with histories of indigenous occupation, European colonization, and slavery, all of which are still remembered in various sites.

From these cultural attractions to the forests and beaches in every corner, the island has something for the history buff, nature lover, adrenaline junkie, and everyone else.

So for your next international vacation, make this destination your top choice.

Here are the 15 best things to do in Martinique.

Explore the Sights of Fort-de-France

Aerial View of Fort-de-France

Tony Moran /

As the capital of Martinique, Fort-de-France is the first location that most visitors would get to explore upon arrival.

While this metropolis doesn’t have the sandy beaches or beautiful jungles found in the rest of the island, there are hidden wonders in the city waiting for the curious traveler.

One of these wonders is Grand Marche, where you can find regional spices and condiments that are hard to find in other places.

View of Cathédrale de fort de France

Dunston thomas evans, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

From aromatic pods of vanilla to dried bois bande, there are many rare products here that have unique and alluring properties.

Place de la Savane is home to the statue of Empress Josephine, a native Martinician who had a controversial reign that until now is a topic of debate on the island.

A Street in Fort-de-France

Marc Bruxelle /

The Cathédrale Saint-Louis is a majestic and historic church that serves as a reminder of the Catholic Faith practiced predominantly on the island.

Fort-de-France is also the launching point and base for many island tours and sightseeing adventures.

You’ll find many businesses here ready to provide fully-equipped trips to the other attractions of the island.

Dive Into the Waters Surrounding Diamond Rock

Two People Watching at Diamond Rock

El Greco 1973 /

While Diamond Rock was the site of an unfortunate tragedy in the early 1800s, it still became a favorite of modern-day adventurers because of the exceptional scuba diving opportunities.

The seas surrounding the island are teeming with vibrant reefs, colorful fish, coral fans, and other marine creatures that create a magical sight.

The island itself is steeped in history, playing a crucial part during the Napoleonic Wars.

You’ll see remnants of naval battles like cannons and traces of shipwrecks sunken underneath the waters.

Commune With Nature at Jardin de Balata

View of Jardin de Balata

Pack-Shot /

When you hear the word “tropical paradise,” one of the things that you might conjure in your mind’s eye are beds of flowers and palm trees gently swaying against the ocean breeze.

Jardin de Balata is where that dream is turned into reality.

Located just outside the capital, this botanical garden was created by passionate horticulturists and houses more than 3,000 species of tropical flora.

View of Jardin de Balata

dpVUE .images /

Flowering vines, vibrant bushes, lanky bamboos, and tall tropical palms create a riot of colors and shapes that resemble a well-kept jungle.

You’ll also find beds of colorful begonias, showy stalks of bromeliads, ferns of all shapes, and lotus blooms as you explore the winding paths.

Don’t be surprised if you see a hummingbird or two; they are just as enticed as you are with the blooms all around.

So don’t miss this lush destination during your visit to Martinique.

View of Jardin de Balata

Petr Kovalenkov /

Make a Stopover at Le Musée de la Mer

Le Musée de la Mer, or the museum of the sea, doesn’t focus on human history or the nautical heritage of Martinique as you might initially think.

Instead, you’ll find collections of beautiful seashells displayed like rare jewelry in this attraction.

These were collected from various Caribbean islands like Guadeloupe, Dominica, and St. Lucia.

From quaint lettered cone shells to whole preserved sharks, from crab carapaces to sea urchin spikes, you’ll find an array of aquatic creatures on pedestals and viewing shelves.

Visiting here gives you an idea of the rich resources of the region as well as the animals you might encounter during scuba diving sessions.

Brave the Harsh Landscapes of Savanna of Petrifications

View of Savanna of Petrifications

Marc Bruxelle /

Quiet different from the lush jungles on the rest of Martinique, Savanna of Petrifications offers rugged seaside sceneries that resemble deserts and barren grasslands.

The wilderness preserve is actually a thriving habitat for the flora that can tolerate such conditions, so don’t be surprised if you find cacti here.

View of Savanna of Petrifications

Marc Bruxelle /

But the views are magnificent, with long stretches of rock battered by strong waves, windswept meadows, and scenic headlands.

The trails that wind along the shoreline and onto the high cliffs are perfect for adventurers who like challenging routes.

A trek here is the ultimate escape from modernity and busy lives.

Reach the Summit of Mount Pelée

View of Mount Pelée

Damien VERRIER /

At 1,397 meters above sea level, Mount Pelée is the highest point on the island.

It’s an active volcano, infamous for causing destruction and death on Martinique during its last eruption in 1902—the worst volcanic disaster in the 20th century.

But today, it sleeps in a relative calm that has allowed many adventurous tourists to trek its slopes and reach the summit.

You might also pass the ruins of old Saint-Pierre, the town razed by volcanic ash and stone during the last eruption.

View of Mount Pelée

Drone Caraibes /

It’s an eerie sight that serves as a reminder of the power of nature and how we’re all at its mercy.

While exploring the slopes of Mount Pelée, keep an eye out for the many endemic birds and reptiles that call this place home.

There are also deep gorges, ravines, and fields of fern on the path to the summit.

Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of the island and the deep blue seas surrounding it.

Try Aromatic Drinks at Habitation Clément

View of a House at Habitation Clément

Pack-Shot /

Habitation Clément was once a thriving sugar plantation that now serves as an important heritage site and rum distillery.

It’s actually the birthplace of Rhum Creole, which was based on the winemaking and sugarcane tradition of the locals.

The most prominent feature of this attraction is the traditional Creole house that has been around since the 18th century.

It serves as a museum and art gallery that contains many artifacts, artworks, and collections that showcase the history of the location and the area.

Kids at Habitation Clément

Bastenbas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s also a botanical garden with winding paths, old trees, and tropical flowers that add another level of beauty to the estate.

Of course, you’d get a chance to sample the rum aged here, a sharp and peppery drink that will invigorate your senses.

Don’t forget to bring home a bottle to open during special occasions!

A Lake at Habitation Clément

Carolyne Parent /

Have Fun Under the Sun at Plage des Salines

Scenic View of Plage des Salines

SariMe /

The first beach in this list is dedicated to Plage des Salines, a scenic stretch of ivory sand on the southern edge of Martinique.

With its turquoise waters, tall coconuts, salty winds, and endless blue skies, this destination is what most imagine the Caribbean looks like.

It’s arguably the most postcard-perfect beach here on the island, and that’s saying something.

Scenic View of Plage des Salines

El Greco 1973 /

While here, you’ll experience the classic tropical island vacation—soft sand underneath your toes, waves lapping gently against your feet, and the sun shining bright above you.

But aside from sunbathing and swimming, the beach also offers many other activities like snorkeling and paddleboarding.

Scenic View of Plage des Salines

El Greco 1973 /

There are also many bars and restaurants on the edge of the beach, perfect for cravings after a whole day of beachside fun.

Most of them also offer the aforementioned Rhum Creole, so don’t feel guilty for drinking a glass or two.

You’re on vacation, after all!

Swim With Turtles at Anse Noire

View of Anse Noire

Larwin /

Anse Noire is a cozy inlet surrounded by lush hills on every side.

With its deep blue waters, black volcanic sand, and relative isolation, this destination is perfect for those who crave a bit of peace.

Hang out all day on the beach if you want a truly relaxing time in paradise.

Or you can go scuba diving, as this place offers the best opportunities for sea turtle sightings.

People Playing in Anse Noire

Marc Bruxelle /

The sheltered inlet has portions of rocky seabed filled with vibrant corals and sponges, and within the crevices are green sea turtles going about their day.

There are also many tropical fishes and other sea creatures swimming from corner to corner, such as butterflyfish, Caribbean sergeant majors, and curious eels.

For those who want some adrenaline rush, try cliff diving at Grotte aux Chauve-Souris, a small inlet located on one of the hills of Anse Noire.

Challenge Your Hiking Skills at Gorges de la Falaise

A Man Standing in Waterfall Les Gorges de la Falaise, Martinique

photoshooter2015 /

At L’Ajoupa-Bouillon, near the base of Mount Pelée, lies a magical gorge that cuts through the forests of the area.

It’s the ideal destination for intrepid travelers who want to see the wild and treacherous side of Martinique.

You’ll be led by local guides as you trek small gorges along the length of the Falaise River, with steep descents, stream crossings, and slippery surfaces that will challenge your grit and endurance.

The final destination is a stunning waterfall with deep and cold waters.

You can either wade to the drop and feel the pelting water massage your skin or simply swim in the pool and cool down after an exhausting trek.

Make sure to bring the right gear like trekking shoes and sturdy garments to stay protected from hazards.

While here, make sure to visit the nearby Les Ombrages nature center, a wild and flourishing garden featuring the indigenous plants of Martinique.

Learn the Island’s Past at La Savane des Esclaves

View of La Savane des Esclaves

Jean-Louis Lascoux, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As part of the colonial route, Martinique has a tumultuous past with slavery.

One of the most comprehensive places to learn this history is at La Savane des Esclaves.

This panoramic, two-hectare destination sits on the northern part of the island in Les Trois-Îlets.

View of La Savane des Esclaves

Pack-Shot /

Within the gardens and traditional homes of this site, you’ll learn the history of Martinique all the way from four centuries ago.

You’ll get a glimpse of the life of the indigenous inhabitants and slaves in the countryside as they adapted to living under the rule of cruel masters.

View of La Savane des Esclaves

Pack-Shot /

It’s a sober reminder of the slave trade and colonialism, the effects of which are still felt today.

On a more optimistic note, the site also showcases traditional architecture and household implements used by natives from the pre-Columbian eras.

There’s also a medicinal herb garden where you can learn more about the plants used by Martinicians to cure many types of ailments.

Explore the Trails of Presqu’Île Caravelle

Aerial View of Presqu'Île Caravelle

KBardi /

Presqu’Île Caravelle is a peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic, an attraction full of surprises and wonder for the adventurous explorer.

It’s a narrow nature reserve that reaches more than 12 kilometers into the ocean—everywhere you look, you’d see the sea lapping against the high cliffs.

That isn’t to say that there are no beaches here, as there are many picturesque ones along the tiny villages of the peninsula.

But most people come here for the hike that brings them to the many attractions of the location.

Mangroves at Presqu'Île Caravelle

Skimel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As the elevation changes, you’d see thick mangroves change into beautiful jungles and into windswept meadows.

Then there are the dramatic cliffs, shaped by ocean waves into majestic formations that will take your breath away.

One of the highlights of the trip is the visit to Château Dubuc, a former sugar plantation that served as the dwelling of the most influential family in Martinique.

Caravelle Lighthouse on the Presqu'Ile de la Caravell

julian elliott /

Jump Through the Jungle Like Tarzan at Mangofil

Mangofil is not your run-of-the-mill amusement park.

Set within the forests on Les Trois Ilets’s borders, this destination is an open-air attraction that combines the beauty of nature with thrilling outdoor adventures.

From precarious bungee catapults to fun trampoline nets, there’s plenty of activities to try for the young and old alike.

The Adventure Course is a must-try for those who want to soar through a zipline, cross net bridges, and hop from tree to tree with only planks to walk on.

Another favorite is the Quick Jump, an exhilarating descent into the grounds 10 meters below that leaves a hollow sensation in your stomach.

You can also try wall climbing if you want to train your upper body strength and test your coordination skills.

For those who want to go deeper into the forests and hills surrounding Mangofil, the Quad and Motorcycle tours are your best option.

Remember History at Anse Cafard Slave Memorial

A Sign in Anse Cafard Slave Memorial

Marc Bruxelle /

Placed against the backdrop of a green mountain, Anse Cafard Slave Memorial, or simply Mémorial Cap 110, is a set of sculptures that memorialize slavery and how it affected Martinicians.

In 1830, a slave ship failed to make anchor and was subsequently driven against Diamond Rock, killing the slaves chained in its cargo hold.

By that time, slavery was already illegal.

View of Anse Cafard Slave Memorial

El Greco 1973 /

So this tragedy was only one of the many injustices people endured even after the abolishment of slavery.

The memorial consists of 15 statues in white concrete, with solemn and downcast expressions that look out to the sea where countless women and men lost their lives.

They’re arranged in a triangular formation to represent the relationship of Africa, Europe, and the Americas, one that ultimately led to the tumultuous past of Martinique.

When you visit, you will get a humbling and sobering reminder of some terrible moments in history.

View of Anse Cafard Slave Memorial

photoshooter2015 /

Play With Animals at Zoo de Martinique

Iguana at Zoo de Martinique

SariMe /

If the preserved animals are not your thing, then see the real ones at Zoo de Martinique.

It’s the premier animal attraction here in Martinique, with creatures from four continents living in a repurposed plantation.

You’d find intimidating jaguars and pumas, curious monkeys, giant anteaters, and other mammals from South America and Africa.

Two parrots at Zoo de Martinique

Dave Primov /

There are also avian species like colorful parrots, majestic lorikeets, and pink flamingos making a racket in their habitats.

What’s unique about this zoo are the ruins of the old structure, which add a charming ambiance to the whole place.

Final Thoughts

Most people come to Martinique during cruises, staying only for a day or two before moving to the other islands.

But the sceneries and activities here are well worth at least a week of exploration and tours.

So when planning your vacation, reference this list so you won’t miss the top spots of this tropical paradise.

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