Martinique Must Do's
5 February 2019
From hiking through the rainforest to sunbathing on paradisiacal beaches and cooling off in waterfalls, read on for Jenni's must do's and top tips for Martinique!
In my four month stay at the Université des Antilles I embarked on a mission with my new-found friends to do as much as physically possible before we left - beaches, rivers, museums, hikes (very occasionally when we felt like braving the heat), plantations and restaurants. These are my top ‘must do’ experiences in Martinique!
Hike at Canal des Esclaves
Less of a hike and more of a long walk (about a three hour round trip), the Canal des Esclaves was built as a route for slaves between plantations, skirting around the edge of the valley. The views of the mountains, valley and sea are absolutely stunning, and the jungle surroundings feel a bit like a fairytale. It’s not too hot because of the shade in the rainforest, and a lot less hard work than hiking the montagne pelée - there’s also a really pretty restaurant at the end.
Sunbathe at Cap Chevalier
This beach in the south is honestly the closest thing to heaven I have ever seen. The sand is sugar-white, the sea is crystal clear and turquoise, and there are palm trees everywhere. There are also a fair amount of tourists, so other beaches in the south like cap macré are better if you want the beach all to yourself.
Canyoning at Gorge de la Falaise
UAG runs some really good trips at the weekends, including canyoning, but spaces are really limited so Gorge de la Falaise is a cheap-ish alternative. You pay €10 to wade through the stunning ravine, climb up and jump off rocks to get to the waterfall at the end - it’s a shame it’s not longer but we found it was worth it! It’s worth calling ahead because they often close without warning.
Buy food at the side of the road
Driving around at the weekend you’ll notice the smell of poulet boucané - this is a method of cooking that comes from the Amerindians, Martinique’s original inhabitants, and is delicious. The best way to experience this is to buy an entire roast chicken (€10-12) at the side of the road (follow your nose, literally) and take it to the beach with you - eat immediately or hang the chicken from a tree to avoid ants getting there first. You can also buy veggies at the side of the road, and boudin, which is a type of sausage normally spread on bread.
Swim in a Waterfall
When it’s really hot in Martinique people tend to head up to rivers and waterfalls rather than the beach because the water’s a lot colder. The hike to the waterfalls at Didier are extremely popular but there are others you can get to with less effort - you can park right next to Absalon waterfall and although it’s a little smaller it is still stunning.
Taste rum at a Habitation
Martinique’s main export during the slave trade was sugar cane, and when the sugar markets realised that beet was a cheaper source, the plantations turned to their secondary product - rum. Because of this rum is very cheap and very good all over the island, and there are numerous habitations that you can tour and go for a rum tasting. Clément near Vauclin is one of the biggest with a lot of interesting information and a beautiful garden - so much that I went twice.
Sing at a Chanté Nwel
In the run up to Christmas, starting as soon as early November, a chanté nwel is the créole version of a carol service - except with a lot more drumming, dancing and drinking. Some of these will be private parties but towards the end of December there will be public chanté nwels in Fort-de-France and Schoelcher, the capital and the town closest to university respectively. The events are free and song books can be bought for less than €5 in supermarkets, and although you won’t know a lot of the tunes, the experience is amazing.