Martinique fits the picture-perfect definition of a treasure island. It is a sublime location for those dreaming of tropical forests, paradise beaches of black (and white) sands, charming seaside villages, mountain and volcano hiking trails, turquoise waters, fishing coves, curry chicken, pork colombos, lambi and accras, ti-punch and banana-rhum, sunsets on the Caribbea Sea… Martinique truly offers the best possible recipe for a week-long honeymoon.
Situated south of Dominica and north of Saint Lucia in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, this department of France knows how to dish out the best of all worlds for newlyweds looking to celebrate their love.
THE ISLAND’S MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES
For lovers who enjoy relaxing and reading side by side on soft sands, the abundance of beaches, all very different from one another, will satisfy your desire. Some feature an unbelievable view of the island’s hilly landscapes while others are sought after for the color and clarity of their waters, their volcanic black sands or baby powder soft white sands, and for the cafés and bars you can find on them. Some beaches will make you feel like you’re on a beautiful deserted island while others are situated close to marinas, shops and nightlife.
At the northern tip of Martinique, at the foot of Mount Pelée, lays the Anse Couleuvre, a small cove surrounded by rocks which offers the most transparent water imaginable. You can swim from the beach to a tiny hidden grotto and take a few minutes to meditate or let your imagination flow inside the cave, listening to the water come and go. It is the last beach accessible by land towards the north. North of that, the only access will be by boat.
Driving south from the northern part of the island, we stop for a moment in St-Pierre, which used to be Martinique’s capital. Before it got destroyed in 1902 by the eruption of Mount Pelée Volcano (30 000 casualties), St-Pierre was also called “Petit Paris” because of its cultural richness and architecture. However, don’t worry about another possible eruption as the volcano is well monitored, and it is fast asleep right now. It is very pleasurable to stroll around St-Pierre and to wander through the alleys of its market where spices, veggies, meats (live chickens as well), fruits, and coconuts are all on colorful display for you.
What is interesting about the coastal villages alongside the west coast of the island is that many of them have their little church, colonial houses, dock, beach, cafés, and their own history. One can enjoy the beach, a meal on a nice seaside patio, a stroll, a little visit of the neighboring streets and a bit of shopping in the same afternoon.
If you keep driving south from Ville St-Pierre, you can take a break at Carbet beach, well hidden behind route N1. I find it the ultimate relaxation spot. It is a wide beach with a nice little restaurant, “Le petit bonhomme”, where the menu offers catches of the day and local products only. It also has a nice terrace with a bar and you can rent a couple of chairs and an umbrella to maximize the relaxation potential of your afternoon.
Back in the car, we keep driving towards the capital and we pass through Bellefontaine, a fishing village, where you can buy their catch right alongside the road. For 10 Euros, we buy a kilo of balaou, a delicious little fish you can fry and eat like corn on the cob. There is an abundance of it in Martinique and it is a specialty of the island.
If you happen to be driving the N1 just before sunset, it is essential to make a stop in the heights of the Anse Marigot, a few kilometers south of Bellefontaine. The view is breathtaking and all the colors of the sun going down are at their richest. You can also enjoy a nice stroll in the town of Schoelcher, where there is a children-filled park and basketballers enjoying the end of the day, then head to the beach to order a nice little ti-punch and watch night fall in the arms of your partner.
To maintain the romantic side of the honeymoon trip, we don’t find it necessary to spend much time in Fort-de-France, with its McDonalds, its malls, its intertwined little highways and the port neighborhood, which is not recommended to be around at night. After a good night’s rest at our friends’ house, located a little outside of the capital, we head further south, still on the Caribbean coast of the island.
Our day is spent at l’Anse Dufour and l’Anse Noire, two small welcoming beaches where we dream of coming back one day with our kids and our friends. Colorful fishing boats are resting on the sand decorating the beach with joy, alley cats wander around the cafés, and the water is perfectly transparent. The beach is a semi-circle situated between two hills, providing a feeling of intimacy and tranquility. While I take a long, well-deserved nap on the sand, my husband goes for a swim and encounters a giant sea turtle only a few meters away from the shore. Before heading out, we make a pit stop at the Anse d’Arlet, where we enjoy a beautiful meal on a covered terrace, with our feet in the sand. We enjoy having a local beer, cod accras, curry chicken and an excellent coffee while looking at the horizon, or at the surfer shop right beside us with its youngsters and chill-out vibe.
The following day, we try the very popular Salines Beach, more touristy and crowded than the other ones. However, we can see from the shore the impressive view of the “lying down lady”, a series of mountains and hills arranged in the shape of a woman… lying down.
The southern beaches don’t have anything to envy of the Caribbean coastline. Newlyweds and couples will have their breath taken away in Ste-Anne, at the Anse Michel, a wild beach situated under giant coconut trees, with the purest sand and infinite water. To access it, we park the car in a lot and then walk a ways through a little lagoon sheltered under high tree branches, enhancing the impression we have of discovering a secret beach. When hunger finally hits us, we walk a few meters from the shore and we find ourselves at the restaurant Le Cocotier with its tables in the sand, under a canopy of palm and coconut trees.
Once again, the menu is composed of fresh local products, ti-punch and excellent rum, spicy and tasty sauces and amazing cod accras. Afterwards, we reach the Atlantic coast towards the north, on the other side of the island, to hike in the presqu’île of the Caravelle and Tartane. We keep driving until the road ends, and that’s where we park. The hike towards the top of the hill is wonderful, heading to the oldest lighthouse on the island from which we enjoy a 360 degree view of the whole east side of Martinique, as well as the neighboring island of Dominica. To freshen up afterwards, we dive once more into the waters of the Anse l’Étang, from which we have a view of Mount Pelée Volcano.
The next day, we travel inland between the high hills and the mountains to visit the Habitation Clément, a former sugar cane plantation that was once a rum distillery and which is still used to store and age barrels of rum. The museum is a fantastic compound, and we start the visit at a huge garden between the sugar cane fields. As we walk along the path, we can admire modern art statues created in harmony with the landscape by well known artists. Then, we go through the old former distillery itself, and the preserved colonial masters’ house where George Bush and François Mitterand once met in 1993 to discuss and try to find a solution to the Gulf War. Of course, visiting a plantation masters’ land is always quite troubling as we cannot feel other than saddened by what was once the life of slaves working in the fields.
The visit ends at the boutique, where we have a tasting session and discover all sorts of local Martinique rum, said to be the purest and the best. After tasting the varieties of the warming, spicy and sweet liquid, we absolutely concur.
We keep going north and inland on the small road that crosses the mountains, to reach the Balata gardens. This is where the happiness of the newlyweds’ future together is secured, hand in hand, all five senses fully open to the experience of the flora and the tropical forest perfumes, the bright colors from the sky, sea, and hills, all blue and green, to the soft wind whispering in our ears and caressing our skin, and the taste in our mouths of the delicious espresso and praline peanuts that preceded our visit.
After this beautiful morning, we keep driving through the mountains towards St-Pierre. On our way, near to the St-Denis fort, we stop at the entrance of a hiking trail under the summit of one of the two “pitons”, high twin mountains named after their womanly shape. There we find a cascade among the rocks, where I sit in the fresh water, eyes closed, feeling the current against my skin and the spraying water on my face.
We end our journey in St-Pierre where we feel fulfilled by all the beauty we’ve seen during our trip.
BLUE AND GREEN MARTINIQUE
For those who seek a honeymoon destination for a few days and do not wish to stay at a resort, yet still need to rest away from big European cities and avoid the jetlag, Martinique is ideal. The blue sky and sea, the green forests and hills, the sunset pink colors live permanently in that paradise, side by side. It will provide newlyweds with a well of beautiful memories to share, and to start a new life together.
– We recommend renting a car. There are buses but you would be at the mercy of their schedule.
– Anyone who easily gets motion sickness would be better off driving than sitting in the passenger side, as the roads are quite sinuous and hilly.
– Between December and April, it might be better to swim on the Caribbean side rather than the Atlantic side, to avoid the sargassum seaweed.
– For trained captains, it is worth renting a boat for a day to see the coast from the sea and reach otherwise inaccessible beaches.
– The rum that is poured in cocktails is abundant, and strong. Better to use moderation and drink slowly!
– The service in the restaurants is in sync with the rhythm of the island, very relaxed (perhaps a bit too slow at times), but perfect for long evenings we want to enjoy thoroughly. However, if you want to maximize the amount of time you have on the island, it is best to get an excellent sandwich for lunch at one of the multiple delicious bakeries.
– It is fun to enjoy your honeymoon without being constantly connected to cellular data and network, only using wifi from the hotels to keep up with life back at home.
– You can rent an apartment or house in more than one place during your trip, to enjoy different spots on the island.
Martinique will make your honeymoon memorable. Book your flight with Air Transat!
Cover photo credits: Florence Khoriaty Riley