Martinique is one of the showcases of the French Caribbean. The capital, Fort de France, fully lives up to that description, celebrating every aspect of the island’s all-encompassing French culture with style and panache. What’s fashionable in Paris today is à la mode here very swiftly. Shops sell the latest goods from France. Art galleries, theatres and museums showcase French culture.
While the capital and other towns provide the comforts, elegance and sophistication of France, not least in Martinique’s 150 restaurants, other parts of this highly-developed and popular tourist destination offer visitors the classic Caribbean vacation.
There are flawless beaches – white sand on the south coast, black in the north; secluded coves for swimming and reefs for snorkelling; unspoiled fishing villages; hot springs, lush rainforests and woods; rugged peaks and gorges; and everywhere flowers and fruit – bougainvillea, orchids, lilies, bananas, pineapples, papaya and coconut palms.
Martinique lies in the heart of the Caribbean Archipelago and is one of the many islands which make up the group of lesser Antilles, or "Breezy Islands."
The waters lapping at its shores are those of the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Caribbean Sea to the west. The island is located 4,261 miles from Paris (8 hours by plane), and is 273 miles from the American continent (4.5 hours by plane, direct flight). The closest two neighboring islands are Dominica (15.5 miles to the north) and Saint Lucia (23 miles to the south). Martinique is 1,965 miles from New York City, 1,470 miles from Miami, 2,270 miles from Montreal, and 425 miles from San Juan.
The island has a surface area of 426 square miles and at its greatest length and width, measures 50 miles by 22 miles, respectively. The land rises gradually from the coast toward the center and northern parts of the island. It is in the north that we find the two peaks of the Carbet and Mont Pelée, a dormant volcano that is the highest mountain on the island at 4,586 ft. This part of Martinique is also a legendary tropical rainforest. In the center of the island, the Lamentin Plain, made up of small, rounded hills and enclosed valleys, slopes down toward the south. The Salines Beach at the southernmost tip of the island comes straight out of a beautiful postcard.
Martinique's ultramodern International Lamentin Airport near Fort-de-France, has regular flights daily on American Airlines (from N.Y., Newark and other U.S. cities to San Juan) with connections on Air Guadeloupe from San Juan. From Miami, Air France flies jets (737's) daily. BWIA offers daily service from JFK with a LIAT connection in Antigua or Barbados. Air Guadeloupe and Air Martinique fly to and from San Juan, Guadeloupe, Barbados, St.Martin, Dominica, Antigua, St. Martin, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Vincent, Grenada and Trinidad, and fly several times a day to and from Guadeloupe. LIAT also serves nearby islands. Air Calypso flies daily from Guadeloupe and St.Martin. In 1998, Martinique welcomed 592,863 stay-over visitors.
Mount Pelee Volcano Martinique
Hotels range in size from large (300 rooms) to very small (under 10), in atmosphere from seaside resorts offering every tourist amenity to family-run establishments called "Relais Créoles," and in price from expensive to quite modest. All of the larger hotels have sports facilities, a choice of restaurants, and evening entertainment; all beachfront hotels have full watersports programs. Some hotels have kitchenette studios. For 2004, there are approximately 6,000 rooms in some 117 hotels. The twenty establishments with over 60 rooms are called the "Grande Hôtellerie."
About 100 small and medium-sized hotels in Martinique are grouped together under the name "Relais Créoles." Scattered all over the island, they are probably the best way to discover the hospitality and charm of Martinique.
For the ultimate in get-away-from-it-all type vacations, Martinique in the French West Indies offers Ilet Oscar, a tiny private island offshore from the town of Le François on the windward coast, with its own rustically charming, well-equipped 19th-century house, staffed with full-time maid, cook, and boatman. The island which, together with nearby Ilet Thierry, is part of Ilets de l'Impératrice, has its own beach, water sports, and wooden dock for fishing or swimming; it is approximately 10 minutes by motorboat from the shore.
The house on Ilet Oscar, a 20-acre tropical landfall, is at ground level and has five bedrooms, each furnished with double beds and a private bathroom containing two sinks, a toilet and a shower. There are wonderfully comfortable areas, indoors and outdoors, for informal dining, relaxing, and reading, as well as a veranda decked out in hammocks and chaises lounges.
Martinique Hotels : Resorts : Villas : Vacations :: CaribbeanMag.com