Where to Stay in Martinique

SD › Best Places to Stay in Martinique
Updated: February 14, 2023
By Santorini Dave

Our Favorite Martinique Hotels

• 4-Star Hotel: Apolline
• Boutique Hotel: French Coco
• Cheap Hotel: Hôtel Pélican
• Villas: Domaine de Mapou
• Family Hotel: Club Med Buccaneer’s Creek
• Adults-Only: Bahi Villa
• All-Inclusive: Club Med Buccaneer’s Creek
• Best Pool: Apolline
• Near Airport: B&B Hotel

Best place to stay in Martinique.

Fort-de-France in Martinique.

The Best Area to Stay in Martinique

Welcome to Martinique, and welcome to France – literally. Martinique has been a région of France since 1974, meaning that when you set foot on the island you are technically in France (and the EU). Not a territory or colony, Martinique has the same political status as regions and departments in mainland France, and some expats will even claim they work “in France” rather than Martinique. Visiting here is essentially the same as visiting Nice or Paris – with the same laws, driving rules, French pavement cafes and boulangeries, hypermarkets, bargain French wines, and the Euro as currency. Everyone here speaks French, with Martinican Creole very definitely a secondary language.

Obviously, though, Martinique is markedly different – this is a tropical island, with fabulous beaches, unique music and dance traditions, local Creole cuisine alongside French, and a thriving domestic rum industry.

France colonized Martinique in the 17th century. As with the rest of the Caribbean, enslaved Africans were brought into to work the sugar plantations (the indigenous Carib population was expelled or died out) – slavery was abolished in 1848. Today the island has a population of around 400,000 (mostly of African descent), squeezed into a space a little smaller than New York City. The island is broadly divided into two: the mountainous north with its rugged, undeveloped coastline, and the rocky hills (mornes) and pristine beaches and coves (anses) in the south. In between, there’s the busy capital, Fort-de-France, the airport, and the built up areas of the central plains. Though it’s worth exploring the capital for a day or so, most visitors wisely opt to stay near the coast or a beach.

One unexpected pleasure in Martinique (at least for drinkers) is the quality of its rums, or “rhum agricole”, which is made from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice rather than molasses, and rarely sold in North America. The island is home to 14 different distillers, each producing a distinctive brand. As with French wine areas, you can visit most of these to enjoy tours and free tastings, and Martinique rum even has its own appellation d’origine controlee (AOC). Take an organized tour (or designated driver), as the penalties for drunk driving are severe.

There are very few resort chains on Martinique – Club Med is the notable exception. Accommodation consists mostly of a selection of independent boutiques and chic guesthouses, plus a vast range of studio, apartment, and villa rentals. Quality tends to be high – think south of France – and the island is an extremely romantic destination for couples. Popular with French groups from Europe (for obvious reasons), it can be an expensive destination for North American families, especially when factoring in the Euro-exchange rate and comparisons with neighboring islands. We break down the options below.

• If it’s your first time in Martinique, aim to stay on or near the beaches of the South Coast, or in one of the more romantic hotels on the East Coast. We don’t recommend staying in or around Fort-de-France, which can get congested with traffic and can be a long drive from the beach.

Martinique Travel Tips

  • The Aéroport international de Martinique-Aimé-Césaire is the island’s primary gateway (though there are also ferries to St Lucia, Dominica, and Guadeloupe). Non-stop flights from Miami with American Airlines, and from Montréal with Air Canada, are the only direct services from North America.
  • The best way to get around Martinique is in a car, either a rental or via taxi – though using taxis for more airport transport and maybe a day in Fort-de-France isn’t cost effective. All the major companies have a presence on the island: Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Dollar, Sixt, etc. Driving is on the right, and the minimum age is 21. If you’ve driven on other Caribbean islands be prepared for a shock here; Martinique can seem very congested by comparison, with major rush-hour traffic in and around Fort-de-France, and major roads to the beaches often jam-packed at weekends or on holidays – allow plenty of time.
  • Minibuses (“taxi collectifs”) do zip between Fort-de-France and major settlements such as St-Pierre, Trois Îlets, Le Diamant, and Ste-Anne. It can be fun (and cheap) to use these services for a trip or two, but overall you’ll have a lot more freedom (and save a lot more time) with a rental car.
  • Like most of the Caribbean, Martinique’s high season is November–April, when it’s mild and mostly dry (and hotel rates are much higher). Rain is more likely June–November, but it rarely lasts long, and the island is largely devoid of tourists at this time (May and June are the best times to visit overall). Temperatures average 79°F (26°C), with just a few degrees difference between summer and winter.
  • Language can be an issue for some visitors. Martinique’s official language is French, and though most hotels and tourist services will usually have some English speakers, don’t assume that regular Martinicans (including in shops, restaurants and at sights) will understand or speak English – the vast majority of the island’s visitors come from France itself. You’ll get a much better response if you try to speak at least some French at first, rather than English.

The Best Places to Stay in Martinique

Best Places in Martinique for…

  • Best Place to Stay for Diving: South Loop (South Coast)
    Though it’s still not as widely known as other Caribbean destinations, Martinique is a scuba diving hotspot, with abundant marine life, historic shipwrecks and thriving reefs. If diving is your primary aim, stay on the South Coast, where you’ll be close to the best dive sites and dive operators. The highlight is Diamond Rock, an islet with a distinctive cone shape just offshore from the beach town of Le Diamant – in addition to the prolific marine life that hangs out around the rock, there’s a deep undersea cavern to explore. Other top sites near here include Obian’s Caye, a coral-strewn drop-off, the “Church” drop-off, “Cockroach Cove”, and many others. Contact AN DLO Diving, DSC Club de Plongée, or Centre de Plongée du Diamant to arrange an excursion. The other major diving hub on the South Coast is Les Anses d’Arlets – there are at least 19 popular dive sites within minutes of the town, including the Anse 3 Airs and Nahoon wreck dives, the turtles at Pointe de la Baleine, and the spectacular Arbre Mortdrop-off. Try Aliotis, Alpha Plongée, or Bubble Dive in this area.
  • Most Romantic Destination: East Coast and Presqu’Île de la Caravelle
    The tranquil East Coast of Martinique is a patchwork of small coves and beaches, broken up by the Caravelle peninsula, most of which is a pristine nature reserve. You’ll find some of the most intimate boutique hotels on the island over here, perfect for couples, though you’ll need a rental car to get around. Top choices include French Coco, Hôtel Plein Soleil, and the ultra romantic Maison de L’Ilet Oscar, on its own idyllic tropical island. Romantic highlights include the isolated village of Grand’Rivière at the northern tip of the island; hiking the Gorges de la Falaise; tastings at the Saint-James or Rhum Clément rum distilleries; exploring the ruins of Château Dubuc, an old sugar plantation; and taking a private boat ride to sample the crystal-clear “fonds-blancs” (sand banks) and white beaches on islets just off shore.
  • Best Place for Beaches: South Loop (South Coast)
    Martinique’s best beaches all lie on the South Coast – base yourself here if beach hopping is your primary aim, though you’ll need a rental car to make the most of it, as the best spots are fairly spread out. Ansedes Salines is the island’s most beautiful beach, a long strip of white sand backed by palm trees and a handful of snack stalls – there are no hotels here, but it can get very busy at weekends and on holidays. Grande Anse d’Arlet is another pretty stretch on a calm bay (good for snorkeling) that can also get very congested – there are plenty of services and restaurants here, though, in the town. The Plage du Diamant, the long beach in front of the town of Le Diamant, is also a popular spot (blending volcanic black and golden sand), with palm trees offering plenty of shade from the sun. It can be windy and choppy, however. Anse Figuier is much calmer and better for swimming and snorkeling (with palm trees and silky soft sand), whereas gorgeous Anse Trabaud is much harder to get to (via dirt road) and therefore far less busy (often deserted, with no amenities). We also like black-sand Anse Noire, where it’s common to spot turtles, and Anse Mitanon the Pointe du Bout for the views, soft sand, and nightlife, but there are numerous other beaches to explore.
  • Best Place for Nightlife: Fort-de-France and Pointe du Bout/Les Trois-Ilets
    Beach bars are scattered all over the island, serving as the hubs for modest nightlife in most seaside towns, but you’ll get slightly more choice in the capital, Fort-de-France (though there’s no nightlife district as such, and downtown gets fairly deserted at night). The most chic spot for a cocktail is Le Cloud rooftop bar, a short taxi ride east of downtown. For a more local vibe Garage Popular in the downtown back streets offers cheaper drinks and live music. The O’Pub Restaurant & Bar is another fun place, overlooking the waterfront. A bit further out, French expats like the Kinky Mangoin Le Lamentin, which knocks out delicious cocktails, craft beers, and good music. The best beach bar near downtown is Le Sunset (Pointe de la Vierge, Rue du Petit Pavois 60), which morphs from seafood restaurant to dance club on the weekends.

    Across the bay in Pointe du Bout/Les Trois-Ilets the nightlife is a little more relaxed (and tourist friendly). Le Kano is one of the better lounge bars overlooking the sea, especially good for local rum, while Le Coco Bar is the iconic beach bar at Hôtel Bakoua. There’s also Casino Trois-Îlets, which has its own bar and program of live music, in addition to the usual gambling entertainments.

    It’s also worth checking out Le Carbet, 17 miles (27km) northeast of Fort-de-France on the coast, where local legends such as Le Petibonum and Wahoo Café are fabulous beach bars and restaurants.

    • The drinking age in Martinique is 18.

    • Be sure to try a “Ti’punch”, a blend of rhum agricole, lime, and sugarcane syrup. It’s considered the national drink of Martinique, and every bar has its own version.

  • Best Place for Food and Restaurants: Fort-de-France
    With its blend of West Indian creole, African, and French styles, flavors, and ingredients, Martinique boasts some of the best eating in the Caribbean, though it can be very expensive (depending on the strength of the Euro). The Grand Marché (market) in Fort-de-France is a good place to start, with local bakeries and snack stalls providing a taste of the island’s cuisine. Good local Creole restaurants here include Chez Geneviève (which offers a cheap set menu for lunch) and Chez Carole, best known for crispy accras, or salted cod fritters. In the hills above the city, Galanga Fish Bar is also worth seeking out, famed for its fresh fish and octopus. In downtown Fort-de-France, The Yellow, with its namesake bright yellow décor, is a good choice for French/Creole fusion, while Le Ti Saint Louis is a great local diner next to the cathedral (serving Creole food but also burgers and Italian classics). We also like Spice n’Sugar for its jerk chicken and French-style desserts. Tom, a local favorite near Parc La Savane, serves the best burgers on the island.
  • Best Place for Shopping: Fort-de-France
    Martinique certainly isn’t the cheapest place to shop in the Caribbean, but with essentially duty-free French goods – including fashion, jewelry, perfumes, wine, and cheese – on offer, Francophiles will especially enjoy it here. La Galleria, on the outskirts of Fort-de-France, is one of the better modern shopping malls, with a huge range of Parisian fashion, accessories and cosmetics. The nearby Centre Commercial Carrefour Dillon sells clothes, jewelry and electronics in addition to the usual supermarket offerings, while the Centre Commercial La Cour Perrinon is more conveniently located downtown, but with far less choice. Downtown’s Rue Victor Hugo is the city’s traditional shopping street, though you’ll find mostly local stores and fashions here. Pura Vida (at Victore Hugo 39) is good for souvenirs and handicrafts, as is the Grand Marché, the main indoor market, though this is squarely aimed at tourists. Galeries Lafayette on Rue Victor Schoelcher is the city’s premier department store.

    • The Village de la Poterie, a craft village with shops selling local art, chocolates, soaps, cosmetics,and ceramics, can be found in Les Trois-Ilets.

    • Most of Martinique’s rum distilleries operate on-site shops that sell all sorts of local crafts and souvenirs, in addition to spirits.

  • Safety in Martinique
    Martinique is generally quite safe, though the usual precautions should be taken at night, especially in Fort-de-France. Petty crime (pickpocketing and bag-snatching) and car theft can be an issue – never leave anything of value in your car, or unattended on the beach. Credit card and ATM fraud has also been reported, so only use ATMs in banks or reputable businesses.

The 5 Best Places in Martinique for Tourists

1. Fort-de-France

Located on Martinique’s west coast, Fort-de-France is the island’s capital and largest city. Though you wouldn’t want to be based her for your entire trip to the island, it’s well worth a visit for a day or two; the island’s best shops, restaurants, and museums are here, and it provides a vivid glimpse of contemporary French Martinique life.

Though the city sprawls along the coast and up the surrounding hills, the city center is relatively small and easily explored on foot, maintaining some of its old colonial and Caribbean flavor. Downtown is anchored by Parc La Savane, a large grassy, waterfront park, which once contained the infamously headless statue of Napoléon’s first wife, Joséphine. She was born at Les Trois-Ilets (across the bay from Fort-de-France) in 1763 to a sugarcane plantation owner – she’s blamed for the reintroduction of slavery here in 1802, which is supposedly why the statue was beheaded in 1991. It was finally torn down and destroyed during the George Floyd protests in 2020.

On the northwest corner of La Savane lies perhaps the city’s most beautiful sight, the Bibliothèque Schœlcher, a gorgeous library building built in 1887 that blends Romano-Byzantine and Art Nouveau styles. Further along Rue de la Liberté, the enlightening Musée d’Archéologie Précolombienne et de Préhistoire is a museum that charts the Amerindian history of the island with a fine collection of pre-Columbian artifacts. Set inside a beautiful French colonial villa, the Musée d’Histoire et d’Ethnographie covers colonial history. A block inland from the park stands the Cathédrale St-Louis, built in 1895 and known as the “iron cathedral” for its steel-reinforced spire. That’s pretty much it when it comes to sight-seeing in Fort-de-France, though the shops and markets downtown might keep you occupied a little longer. The Marché aux Poissons (Fish Market), next to the river, is especially colorful, while the Grand Marché on rue Blénac is more tourist-oriented with stalls selling local fruits and vegetables, but also spices, rum, souvenirs, and local drinks, sandwiches, and snacks.

Assuming you have a rental car, fans of Martinican poet and politician Aimé Césaire might want to check out Maison d’Aimé Césaire, the home of the late mayor of Fort-de-France, out in the suburbs at 131 Route de Redoute. The other essential activity here is to drive the spectacular Route de la Trace (N3), which snakes north from the city across the mountainous interior to Le Mourne Rouge. Sights along the way include the Sacré Coeur de Balata, a mini version of the famous Sacré Coeur church in Paris, and the Jardins de Balata, tropical gardens with sensational views over Fort-de-France.

2. Pointe du Bout and Les Trois-Ilets

Martinique’s most developed resort area lies just across the bay from the capital, centered on the town of Les Trois-Ilets and the headland known as Pointe du Bout. It’s a beautiful region with beaches, lots of watersports, restaurants, bars, and a wide choice of accommodation, as well as a smattering of historic sights. It’s also within easy reach of the wilder beaches along the south coast, plus Fort-de-France, making it a good place to base your trip. Small boats (known as navettes or vadettes) zip across the bay from the capital to Pointe du Bout in just 15 minutes, but you’ll need to rent a car to explore the South Loop.

Les Trois-Ilets itself is the main hub of the area, with shops, services, and restaurants, plus the Village de la Poterie, a craft village complex knocking out all sorts of crafts and local ceramics. Les Trois-Ilets was also the birthplace of Joséphine, the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte – she pops up a lot on the island, though her legacy is a complex one (not least due to her association with slave-owners). The Musée La Pagerie preserves her birthplace on her parents’ sugar plantation. The nearby Savane Des Esclaves tells the story of the enslaved population that worked for the likes of Joséphine’s family, and includes a reconstructed Amerindian village, Creole garden, and medicinal garden. Finally, the Maison de la Canne, housed in an old rum distillery, showcases the role sugar cane (and rum) has played in Martinique’s history.

• This region features a lot of villa rentals – try agencies such as Bay Lodge or Coco Kreyol.

3. Saint-Pierre & the Northwest Coast

The less developed Northwest Coast of Martinique isn’t typical vacation territory, with only a couple of beaches and far fewer tourist services than in the south. Staying here can still be an interesting experience, however, with a series of smaller boutiques and guesthouses set in tranquil villages backed by soaring, forest-covered hills. There’s also plenty of historic sights and attractions – it’s worth a day or so of exploration, even if you’re not staying here.

The main settlement is St. Pierre, once known as the “Little Paris of the West Indies” before it was devastated by the eruption of Mont Pelée in 1902. Today you can wander the still-visible ruins (including the remains of the old church, theater, and jail cell where the sole survivor held out), and learn about the tragedy in which 30,000 people died at the Mémorial de la catastrophe de 1902. You can view more exhibits on the volcano itself at the nearby Centre de Découvertedes Sciences de la Terre. Today St Pierre has largely been rebuilt, with shops and a handful of cafes and restaurants along the seafront.

Just south of St-Pierre, the popular black-sand beach of Anse Turin is where the artist Paul Gauguin and friend Charles Laval stayed in 1887 before going to Tahiti (he painted the beach twice). The Centre d’Interprétation Paul Gauguin commemorates his stay (and has exhibits on the history of northern Martinique), with copies of letters and artwork. Nearby, the Zoo de Martinique is a small zoo set on a 17th-century sugar plantation, the Habitation Latouche.

Further south, the village of Le Carbet features another black-sand beach, though it’s claim to fame is that this is where Columbus is thought to have landed in 1502, as well as the first French setters in 1635. Le Carbet is also home to the Aqualand Martinique water park, and the Distillerie Neisson, offering free rum tastings and tours.

North from St Pierre the coastal highway continues to the pretty village of Le Prêcheur before ending at a trail to a couple of beautiful and remote beaches. Inland, the town of Le Morne Rouge sits below Mont Pelée itself – you can learn more about the volcano at La Maison des Volcans. It’s possible to drive right up to the base of the volcano, where there’s a restaurant, but to reach the summit (4,583ft/1,397m) you’ll have to take one of the more challenging hiking trails from here.

4. The East Coast and Presqu’Île de la Caravelle

The East Coast of Martinique is a relatively tranquil region of mountains and small coves and beaches, sprinkled with some of the most exclusive boutique hotels on the island. It’s a beautiful place to stay, though not especially convenient if you intend to explore the rest of the island. You’ll need to rent a car to see the best spots.

Highlights include the drive to the fishing village of Grand’Rivière, at the end of the road on the northern tip of the island (you can see Dominica in the distance). Eat at the Le Grill Riverain here or stroll along the rugged coast. Just inland, the village of L’Ajoupa Bouillon is home to the Gorges de la Falaise, a series of narrow canyons and dramatic waterfalls deep in the rainforest. Back on the coast road, studded with beautiful beaches, tiny Ste-Marie is home to the Musée du Rhum et Distillerie Saint-James, a rum museum and distillery in business since 1765 (this is a good place to buy Martinican rum). A tourist train dubbed Le Train des Plantations runs through sugarcane and banana groves to the Musée de La Banane, a banana museum on a working estate. On the coast itself, “Le tombolo de Sainte-Marie” is a small spit of sand that connects the mainland to a small islet at low tide.

Several miles south of Ste-Marie, the town of Trinité is the gateway to the 8-mile (13km)-long Caravelle peninsula, much of which is laced with hiking trails and protected within the Presqu’Île de la Caravelle nature reserve. Highlights include the ruins of Château Dubuc, an old sugar plantation, a series of good beaches (popular for surfing), and the Phare de la Caravelle, a small lighthouse with sensational views. Farther south is the town of Le François, where you can take boat rides to the pristine “fonds-blancs” (sand banks) and white beaches on islands in nearby bays (like îlet Chancel), or to crystal-clear Baignoire de Joséphine (“Joséphine’s bath”, a stretch of shallow sea between two cays) for a swim. Le François is also home to Habitation Clément, a historic plantation house with a distillery producing the highly-rated Rhum Clément.

5. South Loop (South Coast)

The South Loop or South Coast of Martinique is home to the island’s most beautiful coastal scenery and its best beaches – if you’re primarily interested in swimming, fishing, boating, or just lounging on the sand, consider hotels in this region. As with the East Coast, you’ll need to rent a car to make the most of it. Highlights, beginning in the southwest, include the pretty village of Les Anses d’Arlets, which has a fine sandy beach backed by restaurants and a distinctive church. The neighboring village of Petite Anse tends to be less busy, with a small beach and good snorkeling off shore.

On the south coast proper is the larger village of Le Diamant, with a wide choice of hotels and restaurants and a long white-sand beach. On the west side of the bay, the Mémorial de l’Anse Cafard is a poignant memorial to the slave trade (a slave ship sank nearby, with the loss of 300 enslaved Africans), made up of a series of 15 bowed stone figures. Offshore sits Diamond Rock, a cone shaped islet of volcanic rock popular with divers. The next village is Sainte-Luce, featuring a series of beaches in small coves and the Écomusée de Martinique, an archaeological museum that displays pre-Columbian Carib and Arawak artifacts. Neighboring Le Marin is a bustling seaside town at the head of a long bay and large marina – it’s known as the yachting capital of Martinique. Its most famous resident artist, known as Habdaphaï, has an art studio and shop in town. Sainte-Anne occupies the peninsula at the very southern tip of Martinique – this is where you’ll find the island’s very best beaches. Anse des Salines is one of the most stunning strips of sand in the Caribbean, an idyllic (and undeveloped) strip of white sand and palm trees, with a series of tasty snack stalls on the road behind it. If Salines is busy (which can happen), there are numerous beaches all along this stretch of coast – you are guaranteed to find one without people.

About Santorini Dave

Santorini Dave Santorini Dave was started in 2011 by a guy who loves Greece and Europe, travel and great hotels. We're now a small team of writers and researchers dedicated to providing the best travel content on the internet. We focus on Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, and Greece, offering recommendations for top hotels, neighborhoods, and family-friendly hotels worldwide. Dave can be contacted at dave@santorinidave.com.