Le François, Martinique

Relax on a black-sand beach or learn a new language? Play on a white-sand beach or eat at amazing restaurants? Hike through the rainforest or shop for designer clothing? It’s usually so hard to find a location that combines everything you’re looking for in a vacation. The French island of Martinique, in the Caribbean, is one of those rare places.

Photo: © Slidepix | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
Photo: © Slidepix | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

You’ll arrive in Fort-de-France, the stylish capital filled with luxury shops and wrought-iron balconies. Les Pitons du Carbet rise behind the city. Fort St-Louis protects the entryway. Cathédrale St-Louis awaits voyagers returning home. Restaurants and shops line La Savane, a large park filled with palm trees. Take a ferry across the harbor to Les Trois-Ilets, the birthplace of Joséphine Bonaparte. The beaches on the dry southern half of the island have powdery white sand and are lined with cacti and acacia. Watch brightly painted boats dock in the small fishing village of Anse-d’Artlets. See Diamond Rock from the long beach in Le Diamant. Visit the hillside Jesuit church or the huge yachts in Le Marin. Stay for crayfish fricassee and a glass of rosé wine–French, of course–at Le Mango Bay along the waterfront. And finally make your way to Sainte-Anne, the southern tip, where you’ll find Les Salines. It might become your favorite beach on the island.

Photo: Le Cap Est Lagoon Resort & Spa
Photo: Le Cap Est Lagoon Resort & Spa

There’s no rush, though eventually you’ll want to find your hotel. Head north, through banana plantations and coconut trees, to Cap Est on the quiet east coast, an area known for its snorkeling and cool trade winds. The hotel’s minimalist suites have plunge pools and outdoor showers. Bougainvillea surrounds the resort. Hummingbirds dart quickly out of sight. Steel drums begin to play when dusk starts to fall. Select from more than 100 types of rum at Cohi-Bar, and then enjoy the panoramic view from the terrace. Later move to Le Belem, an open-air restaurant with an amazing wine list, for grilled lobster or red snapper with eggplant caviar.

After feasting on crêpes that were delivered to your suite in the morning, start heading even further north toward the mountains and the rainforests. Climb among the ruins of Dubuc Castle and watch the surfers at Presqu’île de la Caravelle. Take in the stunning view of active Mount Pelée from Basse-Pointe. Drive to the northernmost part of the island between Macouba and Grand’Rivière to see giant bamboo and ferns the size of people. Head inland to Le Morne-Rouge, to find a guide who will help you hike up the volcano. And see the remains of Saint-Pierre, the town it destroyed. Stop at Anse Ceron, where the thick, green forest sweeps down to the black-sand beach. FInally, go to Neisson Distillery for a tour and rum tasting in Le Carbet.

What could possibly be missing from this trip? Having seen and done it all, it’s time to return to your plunge pool.

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