Overview/History – First sighted by Columbus on his initial expedition in 1493, Martinique played host to its first European “tourists” in 1502 when Columbus landed there during his fourth voyage. Dubbed Martinique by Columbus, the island was inhabited by Kalinago Indians who had driven away the Arawaks (both tribes had come to the island from South America). Martinique was claimed by France in 1635 and officially annexed in 1674. France and Britain fought over the island until 1815, when France prevailed. Slavery was abolished in 1848. In 1946, Martinique became a Department of France and in 1974 a Region of France, its current status.
Modern day Martinique is truly “a little bit of France in the Caribbean.” It exudes an alluring and distinctly French sensibility in the excellence of its cuisine and rhums, the chic sophistication of its fine resorts and hotels, its fashion and art scene, and more. Yet Martinique has a cachet all its own; an endearing West Indian warmth in its personality, a special spice in its music and dance, its local dishes, cultural heritage, and way of life. It is an island with style and so much more. A special place, to be sure, with so much to offer – Martinique c’est magnifique!
~ The Basic ~
Location – Nestled in the heart of the Lesser Antilles between Dominica to the north and St. Lucia, Martinique lies 1,965 miles from New York, 1,470 miles from Miami, 425 miles from San Juan, and 4,261 miles from Paris.
Size – 436 square miles (50 miles long and 22 miles across at its widest point), or 1,128 square kilometers.
Population – 386,486
Capital City – Fort-de-France
Electricity – Voltage is 220 AC. Visitors traveling with hair dryers, electric shavers and other appliances made in the U.S. will require power adapters.
Money Exchanges & Banks – U.S. dollars can be converted to euros at locations throughout the island. Hours of operation vary, though Fort-de-France banks are generally open 7:30 a.m. to noon and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Bank-operated 24-hour ATM’s can also be found throughout the island.
Climate – Temperatures average 79°F with two regular alternating wind currents (les Alizés) keeping the island cool. There is only about a 5° difference between average summer and winter temperatures.
Topography –Mountainous and lush in the north with plains in the center and rocky hills (Mornes) framing pristine beach coves (Anses) in the south.
Currency – Euro
Languages – French, Creole and English.
Religion –Roman Catholicism, Seventh-Day Adventist, Jehovah’s Witness, Methodist, Evangelical, Baptist, Jewish, Hindu and Islamic.
Accommodations – Martinique is home to 6,000+ hotel rooms with budget, moderate and luxury properties scattered throughout the island. For the rustic and truly budget-conscious, beachfront and rainforest camping can be arranged. Those seeking a more luxurious experience can opt for villa and private island rentals.
~ Getting There & Getting Around ~
Entry Requirements – U.S. and Canadian citizens may enter without a visa for stays of up to three months, however a valid passport is required. A visa is also not required for stays of up to three months for the following:
- Nationals holding a valid ID card or passport from a EU member country or other European Economic Area (EEA) countries, Andorra, Monaco and Switzerland.
- France residence permit holders (carte de séjour).
For more details, contact your Regional French Consulate.
Arrival/Departure Taxes –None for air or cruise arrivals.
By Air – American Airlines Up to 6 weekly flights out of Miami
Seaborne Airlines – Year-round out of San Juan on Wednesdays, Fridays & Sundays
Air France – 3x’s a week from Miami. Connecting service through St. Lucia, Barbados, and St. Martin is also available via Air Caraibes and LIAT.
By Sea – 3x’s per-week ferry service is available between Martinique (Fort-de-France) and Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, and Dominica aboard sleek catamarans operated by:
- Express des Iles (leaving from Fort-de-France)
- Tel: 011 596 596 63 05 45
- Jeans for Freedom (leaving from Saint-Pierre)
- Tel: 1-767 255 1200
Additional Ferry service is available between Martinique (le Marin) and St Lucia with:
- Compagnie Maritime West Indies
- Tel. 011 596 596 74 93 38
By Cruise –Lines featuring Martinique in 2014 include Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Aida, Seabourn, Star Clippers, Club Med, Compagnie du Ponant, Costa, MSC, Sea Cloud and Swan Hellenic.
Yachting – Bareboat or crewed charters can be arranged at most hotels. Yachtsmen can choose among several marinas, most notably Port de Plaisance in Le Marin.
Getting Around by Rental Car – 5,000+ cars available from Avis, Budget, Hertz and more. Driving is on the right. A valid driver’s license is required; min. age is 21.
Getting Around by Taxi –Taxi stands are located at the airport, in Fort-de-France, and at major hotels. All cabs are metered. Martinique has 200+ taxis.
~ Activities & Attractions ~
Culinary Travel –World-renowned for its cuisine, Martinique’s 365+ restaurants feature the best of French and Creole gastronomy. Seafood abounds, prepared Creole-style with spices, or in a classic French manner with herbs.
Rum – The Rum Capital of the World, Martinique is home to 12 brands, each produced utilizing a unique rhum agricole method yielding blends comparable to fine cognacs. Martinique rhums are the only rums to carry the exalted Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) designation formerly reserved for the finest wines. Free tasting is available at all of the island’s distilleries.
Shopping –Martinique offers the best of Parisian fashion, jewelry, perfumes, etc., as well as unique local treasures. La Galleria Mall is a top shopping spot, while Rue Victor Hugo is to Martinique as Fifth Avenue is to New York.
Scuba Diving – The best-kept secret in Caribbean diving, Martinique offers abundant marine life, historic shipwrecks and healthy reefs. The highlight is Diamond Rock, an offshore island with a deep undersea cavern.
Family Attractions – From underwater sightseeing to hands-on nature experiences at Domaine d’Emeraude or canopy tours at Balata Gardens, zip lining at Mangofil, or discovering a uniquely designed zoo, among the ruins of a former plantation, Martinique has much to offer to families.
Cultural Heritage – Birthplace of the famed poet, Aimé Césaire, Zouk and Napoleon’s bride, Empress Josephine, Martinique boasts a rich cultural heritage kept alive in the island’s 25+ museums and exciting annual festivals.
Ecotourism – Martinique’s natural wonders, headlined by majestic Mount Pelée, inspire awe and wonder among eco-travel enthusiasts. Two-thirds of the island is designated as protected parkland, affording visitors a wide range of nature-themed vacation adventures – hiking the island’s 27 well-marked trails, kayaking, canyoning, horseback riding, enjoying a 4×4 tour, and more.
Casino Gaming – Martinique’s two casinos, Casino de la Batelière Plaza located just north of Fort-de-France and Casino des Trois Ilets, offer slots, blackjack, roulette and more. Patrons must be 18; dress is casual.
Golf & Tennis –Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., the 18-hole Golf de l’Impératrice Joséphine in Trois Ilets, is the island’s sole golf course. Tennis is available at the course and at resorts throughout the island.
Destination Weddings –Required documents include original birth certificates; certificate of good conduct; residency card (bride or groom must reside on-island min. 1 month); medical certificate issued within 3 months of marriage; French translation of all documents.
Canoe-Kayak at Anse Michel