Martinique Island

As summer is slowly coming to an end & I'm in full work mode on restructuring the website and prepping new exciting content for ya, I'm taking a little break to write this post about the holidays I spent with my sister & favorite visits in French Caribbean island Martinique! 
I could start of this post by simply getting straight into the list, but truth is, there's a more honest side of the story that I'd like to tell you about first! 

If you're on my blog for the first time, or just don't know, my parents have moved from Tahiti to Martinique about 5 years ago, when I was still a student in Canada. I used to come back home (Tahiti) about twice a year from Montreal, so when they moved from Pacific to Atlantic, believe it or not, I was kinda devastated not to have an actual, physical home in the place I called home anymore. 

here if you're visual:

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 So to be short & honest, when I first visited Martinique, I hated it. 
Actually, take this back, when I first visited Martinique, I probably was around 6 years old, on a family holiday. I don't remember much of it, but this t-shirt is proof it happened:

Anyways, back to previous sentence. When I first visited my parents who moved to Martinique, I hated it. I was sad and nostalgic about my friends, my beautiful island and its wonderful turquoise blue lagoon and deep ocean, wild waterfalls, lush greens and mostly amazing welcoming vibes, spirit and people of French Polynesia. Martinique felt like the total opposite. I visited the island a couple of times after that, and every time I felt like I didn't understand why my parents could live here after knowing Tahiti. The weirdest thing about that place - and my mom & sister will agree on that - is some parts literally don't feel like an island.. Maybe if Martinique is your island, you will hate me for saying this, but I think in cities and suburbs they really ruined the atmosphere and authenticity of the island with hideous buildings and industrial zone and shopping center. Sure there is a LOT of people to feed and live here; but I've been to many other islands, Pacific islands, European islands, and even other Caribbean islands (my love for st-barth is real..) , and it sure did not feel like this!..

This post is starting very negatively but bare with me there's a plot twist somewhere near! 

I've then been visiting my parents a few times, in between moving countries & travelling, and I even lived with them again for a few months as a transitionary phase.. Another relevant thing to add is that my sister & her boyfriend have also lived in the caribbean sea for a couple of years on the island of Saint-Martin - which you might have tragically heard of after 2017's devastating hurricane Irma.. Fun fact, did you know this island belongs to 2 different countries and so there's 2 official languages, 2 currencies, and 2 main airports!? Crazy right! Anyways.. why does that even matter? I'm trying to explain the reason why I would step foot in Martinique for holidays since it seems like it's not a full-on love affair. Getting there. So long story short: my sister & I both found super convenient to store our extra stuff and parcels and bags and clothes at my parent's place, because that's what parents are for, and there's just room for our stuff, not like our little parisian flats (right? mom, dad? i'm sure they'll agree!). Ok if you didn't catch it, that was obviously a joke and i'm super grateful they've been able to hold & care for our stuff and be available for us. 
But so, my parents are moving (again!), YAAAY! goodbye Martinique..! i mean.., awwwww goodbye Martinique ;) ! 
Hence why me and my sister decided to pay our parents a little visit this summer, to sort our stuff, help them start packing and selling, deep cleaning couch & car (very important/funny part of our stay!), and let's be honest, get a little tan and obviously see our beloved parents! 

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This time in Martinique, was different. Firstly because I had a travel companion, aka sister, but mostly because, believe it or not.. I actually LIKED Martinique ! A lot of different factors can probably explain this sudden change of opinion, like, the fact that it was SUNNY on the whole island the whole time except for 2 days (out of 10..) which is.. EXTRAORDINARY since it basically rained all the other time I went. And, the fact that it was MANGO season, which is my favorite fruit. But mostly, the fact that we've come to try & see so many places of the island over the years, that as a result we finally narrowed down which are really worth visiting! (side note but, can you tell i'm getting excited with all those CAPS ?) So, if you wanna skip the mediocre, overly touristic & not so authentic stuff.. i'm here to reveal our family's favorites! but shhhh.. keep that between us ok ? 
Here are 10 recommendations (sorted from North to South) of vegan-friendly eats, must-sees, hikes and beaches through little stories and iPhone & camera photos from my various trips to the island ! Enjoy!

 

Hike, Waterfall & Bath at Anse - Couleuvre

Anse-Couleuvre, which means 'grass-snake cove' (apparently there are some - but I didn't see any!), is the Northest place you can reach by car if you're following the road all the way on the west-coast. I had never been to this place in my previous visits but I wanted to go see a waterfall and my mom thought we were going to like it, and we did! After passing Fort-de-France, Schoelcher, Case-Pilote, Prêcheur and all the little towns, the road gets really wild, jungl-y like, and takes a loooooot of turns. Warning for car sickness! But the road is lush & beautiful and almost feels like you're in a subtropical jungle and Monkeys, Tigers & Tarzan are gonna come out of nowhere (I didn't see any of that either!). Once you reach the final destination, you can either go straight away to the beach, which is a 3 minute walk, either go on a hike, which we did! At a good pace i'd say the hike is a 40-50 minutes walk. You're walking on natural terrain (and mud if it's been raining) and crossing ankle-height rivers, so make sure you pick the shoes you feel comfortable in (I picked flipflops and finished barefoot, but others got sneakers). If you're in the same season as us (August - although, they might be all year round!) you will see some cacao trees & pods along the hike, and they'll fill you with their divine chocolate smell! 

At the end of the hike is a (medium) waterfall, and some clay in which you can roll yourself in for a free skin treatment! There's no room or deepness to swim, but you can stand under the fall and that does feel refreshing! Then heading back to the "parking lot" (which is just the side of the road), and going to the beach for a swim at sunset light was one of the best beautiful things! The beach is so pretty and not so popular as it's remote, so that was a win! 

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Spots worth a pit-stop on Northern Caribbean shore

Once you overpass Fort-De-France going to the North, you'll pass some cute little towns, which may be worth a little stop. I like Case-Pilote's colorful beach huts: there's also a market on friday afternoon . In between Morne-Vert and Bellefontaine there's a nice view point high on the cliff, where you can kind of walk a little further from the structured area. We saw a secluded beach on the right from there which looked like it was a very nice spot! Le-Carbet is a cute beach town & also my first eating reco on this post! There's an ice-cream maker (they make sorbets too), and a restaurant called 1643, they've made me a nice vegan plate with local veggies preps, grains and all, super flavorful! I was really pleasantly surprised! Very near this restaurant, but a little bit more inside the island is a hike called "Canal des Esclaves". I didn't do it again this time but it's kind of a funny hike because you are following and walking just next to a little water stream all along! And the views are beautiful! Saint-Pierre is a town to have a glance at if you wanna find those Colorful Caribbean-style houses - but other than that, pass your way! Then further pit-stop at Distillerie Lapaz, it's got a big garden and some 'wild' trees and we mostly go there to get some mangoes where in season.. but again, keep that a secret ;) Habitation Céron is the next thing you'll encounter and the house itself isn't so worth it, but there's a botanical parc so if you're into trees and flowers, this is your place! (although my mom told me entries are kind of pricey for having the right to walk in a natural parc! And then further than that, just keep driving until you've reached Anse-Couleuvre.. which you already know about now! 

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Presqu' île de la Caravelle & surfer's vibes at Tartane

This is probably my favorite place on the island! It is a peninsula situated in the North on the Atlantic side (east-coast). I love this place because it carries a really cool vibe and atmosphere, totally different from everything else on the island, I cannot explain through words, but it reminds me a little of south of france surf towns or just some chill out vibes! It takes a little while to get there as there is only one road, but I promise, it is worth the trip! First of all, at the end of this peninsula there's a cool hike/walk to do which is probably around 1h30 long but as there are various paths, you can pretty much adapt to what you like! It looks very different from lush green parts of the island, as there's lot of wind, it's more desertic and rocky! It's a pretty cool place tho! Without going as far, there's a town called Tartane, with few really cool beaches and clean water: there's the big/major one that you can't miss, located right in the town, a little further, there's one called Anse L'Etang, which we've go all the times! We all love this one because there are 2 cool restaurants, showers, clean water that goes deep quickly (with some waves!), and not as many people as the major beach! I've eaten at both restaurant (Ratelot & Cocoa beach café) and they've been able to serve vegan food on demand no problem! I got a huge veggie plate & rice & potatoes at the first, and a vegetarian bobun at Cocoa. What's also really nice is Beach Café has a slack line, and that's where we spent the majority of our time at the beach! haha . Next beach doesn't have a name but you'll see some 'surf school' sign on your left as you're driving there : this is one of the 2 surf spots on the island! You can take a lesson or paddle out with your board, or just sit on the beach and enjoy the show!

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Jardins de Balata (botanical tropical garden)

I don't have much to say about it! I think it's a beautiful botanical garden, worth the visit/small entrance fee if you're into plants or just want a cool photo for instagram!

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Habitation Clément (museum + parc)

'Habitation' is a general term that designate beautiful colonial houses that belonged to wealthy families on the island, and where slaves worked to make things like rhum, cane sugar, crops.. That was in the other century! Now they're just houses - which for most still belong to the same families - turned into museums or continue their activity (without the slavery, obviously!). Habitation Clément is one of the most famous on the island and I really like it! The houses are cute, you can learn how rhum is made if that's your thing, there's a parallel art exhibition, and a beautiful garden/parc.. where you could just have fun playing Tarzan like we did ;)

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Les Anses d'Arlet

Love this little beach town with a cute colourful church ! We've been there twice and is seriously one of our best memory as we spent the whole day swimming & jumping in turquoise crystal clear waters from the deck! It's lots of fun and not as crowdy as other beaches! There is a lunch place there called L'oasis with super sweet staff! Their vegetable accras (local deep fried food) is vegan and they've made us special vegan plates with a soy patty, veggies and rice! A little further on the road towards North, there's an artist's hut with cute paintings that also happen to make fresh homemade juices if you're keen for a pit stop!

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Plage du diamant for a mythic coconut tree shot!

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Morne Larcher Steep & Short Hike

This is a hike I've done with my parents a while ago and I liked it as it's athletic and steep (basically you are just almost climbing the whole way) but it's short and the view is pretty breathtaking, and if you're lucky and sky is clear, you can spot St Lucia (other island) from there! 

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Pretty 5k beach path for your runs or active walks

Here's another good idea if you're into active holidays. Near the town of Sainte-Luce there's this beach path (sentier du littoral) that will take you through several beaches on the south of the island. You'll see people walking, jogging, hanging at the beach and it's a good opportunity to check out which is your favorite so you can come back and lay down another time! Oh, and also, there's lots of cats.. which is probably a good reason alone to go! 

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Paradise Vibes & Paddle at Plage des Salines & Sainte-Anne

Finally, if you are looking for Postcards-Caribbean-Paradise-#blueasswater-Beach, Salines Beach is THE one! It's a fine white sand beach, long enough not to be all stuck to one another, the water is clear and clean and there's enough parking spot too! There's a smoothie/juice guy there a few times a week, and there's also a hut where you can either book a paddle/kayak class or rent some for fun! I really recommend the people that own the paddles, they are super sweet and on the weekends they also organise Paddle Excursions through the mangrove and that was really really worth it (here's their website) . Close to Salines there's a town called Saint-Anne, where there's another cool white sand beach (not as cool as saline tho!) with Club-Med and another nice lunch spot with ocean views and swings! 

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Hope you now forgive me for starting off this blog post in a very critical, negative way.. there's def some fun stuffs to see and do in Martinique! On a vegan foodie note, as we lived at our parent's place, we had fun cooking & luckily there are a few organic/natural/health shops around the island where you can pretty much find anything you usually eat! There are also fruit stands and markets here and there where you'll be able to buy tropical fruits (depends which season you're going!). Overall, each time I went to restaurant I was able to accommodate for my plant-based diet, although i'm gonna warn you.. do NOT expect anything fancy aside salads, rice and fries/potatoes on a plate!

thanks for reading and let me know if you've been to Martinique, anything else you'd like to add? or other Caribbean islands! leave that in the comments section below and pin your favorite photos for some beach vibes inspo!

Lots of love! 

Amélie