Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Martinique Beach Vacations: Tips, Attractions and Weather

Fort-de-France waterfront. © Scott S. Bateman
Fort-de-France waterfront. © Scott S. Bateman

Anyone offering Martinique travel tips will surely point out some unique differences for this very French Caribbean island.

English-speaking visitors will find the language barrier is an important tip to consider. English is not widely spoken, especially beyond the busy Fort-de-France waterfront by the cruise docks.

Don’t be surprised if someone simply points to a sign in response to a question, as we found out during our visit.

It may make the island a better choice for cruise visitors rather than anyone thinking about staying on the island for a week or more—unless they speak French. It’s worth knowing that the island is especially popular with French villa and hotel tourists.

Either way, Martinique falls into that category of Caribbean island that Hollywood loves—lush, green and exotic. It lies in the eastern Caribbean just south of Dominica and Guadeloupe, which have similar weather. All three islands are known for their rainforests, waterfalls and mountainous hiking.

The Martinique rainforests and waterfalls are the result of a hefty historical average of 76 inches of annual rainfall. That compares to about 16 inches a year for an arid island such as Aruba and 46 inches for moderate greenery on St. Kitts.

Despite the heavy rains, the island is growing in popularity. Martinique attracts about 500,000 villa, hotel and resort visitors and nearly 200,000 cruise visitors. The island seems clearly a destination for overnight stays, but cruise visits are growing because of investment in the waterfront.

The island’s appeal also includes the capital city of Fort-de-France, some of the best beaches in the Caribbean and and eco tourism for landscape made thickly green from the heavy annual rainfall.

Hotel and Resort Tips

Martinique Hotel and Resort Map

Hotel and resort visitors will fly into Martinique Aimé Césaire International Airport, which is five miles west of Fort-de-France. From there, they have either a quick drive to the hotels clustered around Fort-de-France or a much longer drive to the other side of the island.

In addition to the cluster of hotels around Fort-de-France on the west coast of the island, there is another cluster on the southern coast and a third one on the western coast. For example, Club Med Les Boucaniers is 25 miles or a 45-minute drive from the airport and sits on the southern coast along with a group of other hotels.

Prices range from small villas at less than $100 a night to luxury resorts at more than $500 a night.

Tourist Attractions

Anyone wanting a break from the sun and sand can take advantage of the island’s other attractions.

Martinique has a lengthy history as a French territory and ties to Europe going all the way back to visits from Christopher Columbus.

Schoelchert Library, Fort-de-France
Schoelcher Library attractions photographers with its beautiful architecture. © Scott S. Bateman

The capital city of Fort-de-France has a vibrant waterfront. The city is known for its architecture and history starting with the statues and gardens of La Savane park. Cruise visitors will see the park to the right of the docks if they are facing the city.

The park has a line of kiosks featuring cafes and local crafts. The park also has a headless statue of Marie Antoinette, decapitated former queen of France. The statue has splatters of red paint that add a macabre feeling.

Other historical and architectural attractions include St. Louis Cathedral, Schoelcher Library, Balata Cathedral and the Palais de Justice. Schoelcher Library has a beautiful architecture that draws many photographers.

Military buffs will find Fort Saint-Louis directly south of the park and to the far right of the cruise docks with a commanding view of the Fort-de-France bay. Tickets are available at a kiosk in nearby La Savane park.

The city of St. Pierre on the northwest side of the island is famous for 30,000 residents killed in 1902 by the volcanic eruption of Mont Pelee. Other cities and towns include Case-Pilote, Bellefontaine and Carbet, where Columbus landed in 1502 and where the artist Gauguin lived and painted in 1887.

The island’s most famous beach is Grande Anse des Salines, which is a one-hour drive from the Fort-de-France cruise port. Several other beaches lie within several miles of the city.

Tourism / Best Time to Go

Martinique tourism statistics
© 2020 Scott S. Bateman

Passports are required for U.S. and Canadian stopover tourists. Cruise visitors simply need to have their ship ID cards available when leaving the ship and returning. Some cruise lines advise having a photo ID in addition to the ship ID, but we did not find that we needed to use one.

Martinique has a steady flow of overnight visits each month. Although March is the most popular month, January, February, April, July and December all bring close to the same number of visits.

Unlike most other Caribbean destinations, October is the least favorite month followed by September, which usually is the least popular.

Weather Tips

A good Martinique vacation requires planning with weather in mind. The island’s most popular months are January, February, March, April, July and December.

Martinique monthly weather
© 2021 Scott S. Bateman

April has the best weather of the year because of a combination of warm temperatures and lower risk of rain. From February through April, the island averages about four inches of rain each month and temperatures in the low to mid 80s Fahrenheit each month. These are the best months to visit.

The least popular months are September and October because they receive the worst weather of the annual Caribbean hurricane season.

The overall average temperature year round is 79 degrees with only a 5 degree difference between summer and winter, which is reflected in the consistent year round tourism visits.

The climate is moderated by trade winds with a rainy season from June to October. The average hurricane arrives about every eight years, which is another reason for the island’s steady number of visitors.

When we visited in December, the temperature was nearly 90 degrees Fahrenheit and mostly sunny.

Currency / Tipping

The official currency of Martinique is the office currency of France, which is the Euro.

Unlike most Caribbean destinations, U.S. and other foreign currencies are not widely accepted. Visitors should either bring Euros or exchange their currency for Euros after arriving.

Major credit cards are a better choice because they are widely accepted. Be aware of what shop owners quote as an exchange rate if offering U.S. dollars or currency other than Euros. One shop quoted us 1.1 Euros for every dollar while another quoted 1.5.

For tipping, 15 percent is the norm at restaurants, which will usually add them to a bill, and 10 percent is the norm at hotels. Tip taxi drivers 15 percent as well.

Culture / Geography

The common language is French—reflecting its status as a dependency of France—with some Creole patois.

The economy is based on tourism, agriculture and light industry, with tourism surpassing agriculture.

The geography is mountainous with indented coastline. The island has Mont Pelee, a dormant volcano that is 4,586 feet high..

Sources / More information

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the America.
September 25, 2021