If you want to have a St. Tropez feel without St. Tropez flights and prices, you might want to consider visiting the French West Indies. While most people immediately think of St. Barths, there is Martinique, which is a more low-key version of French island flair. The island speaks French, so definitely brush up or download Google Translate and though it’s in the Caribbean, it doesn’t feel like the Caribbean. The island has approximately 375,000 inhabitants and you can drive from the bottom to the top of the island in under four hours.
The people of Martinique are friendly and personable. This was unlike any other Caribbean island that I have been to as I felt there were a lot of Europeans (mainly from France) that were either there on vacation or have moved there full-time. The island is predominantly black; however, at many of the nice restaurants and beaches, I found it to be less diverse.
The island seems to be open and encouraging more tourism, making the country accessible to many. There are more affordable flights popping up. Norwegian Air has a direct flight from NYC to Martinique, so no need for a pesky stopover in Miami for a cheaper flight.
Thanks to Norwegian Air, HomeAway, and the Tourism Board of Martinique. I was able to spend 5 fun-filled days in Martinique where I got to learn about the people, the food, the history, and culture. I spent the time with six incredible women and I would highly recommend this trip as a girls’ trip. From my trip, I’ve curated an experience that everyone in your crew will enjoy.
The airport in Martinique is pretty small and we cleared customs within 20 minutes. There really isn’t accessible wi-fii, so organize your transportation before you arrive. If you have an international plan, you will switch over to Digicel (Caribbean carrier) with no problem.
WHERE TO STAY
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Learned so much in Martinique! It was my first time to the French West Indies. This island is full of cultural things you should do to explore. Thank you to @flynorwegian for the direct flight and to @homeaway for the incredible villa (this was the backyard, y’all!). I don’t normally vacation in winter and now I’m like, what have I been doing all my life?! 📸: @charlipenn #MartiniqueMagnifique #MelaninInMartinique
We stayed in a HomeAway villa in Cap Macabou. The backyard was the ocean, albeit too rough to swim. Nevertheless, it was beautiful and the outdoor pool and jacuzzi both within views of the ocean isn’t a bad second. A travel hint: in the Caribbean, if you want to swim, be on the Caribbean part of the ocean vs. the Atlantic. The Atlantic is almost always rough.
Upon arrival at the villa, there was the woman who managed the villa there to receive our group. There was an organized dinner for us via Sarah Heusel, who is the owner of Sweet Caribbean Holidays.
It was so delicious consisting of appetizers featuring tasty bites like fish tartar and fritters. The local fish (pictured above), called balou, was served with almost like a side soup. While it had a lot of bones, this fish is historically significant as it was eaten by slaves in Martinique.
We were about a 30 to 45-minute drive away from many activities, but only about 20 minutes away from a beautiful beach.
If you rather stay in a hotel, I’d suggest Le Cap Est Lagoon & Spa. This would be perfect for couples or if you just want some time away to read and enjoy the sea. The buildings are low so you’ll have beautiful views with minimal obstruction.
WHERE TO EAT:
The food in Martinique proved to be quite interesting to me. It was a mix of the African and Caribbean inspired dishes. Instead of curry chicken, something that is prominent in places like Trinidad and Tobago or Jamaica, they have chicken colombo, which tastes like a light curry stew. If you are new to Caribbean food, these dishes will delight your palate. Naturally, being a Caribbean island, you’ll find a surplus of tasty fish like grouper or dorade. Lobster was plentiful so it’s easy to indulge for a reasonable price. Here’s where you need to take your girlfriends!
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Still thinking about the incredible lobster dinner I experienced at Zanzibar. This is Caribbean fine dining done well. By the end of the evening they had given me so much Japanese whiskey (my guilty pleasure), my top knot was tipsy and so was I! 🙃 📸: @ravaldavis #MelaninInMartinique #MartiniqueMagnifique
This was the best meal that I had in Martinique. Zanzibar is on the expensive side, but well worth it. The two-floor restaurant allows for you to have drinks and appetizers downstairs, they have little areas for you to relax and eat and enjoy a cocktail in a more secluded area. After a couple drinks, you can walk upstairs and be seated for your meal. I enjoyed a meaty lobster dinner with ti’ punch to start and Japanese whiskey to finish.
This was a food experience like no other. If you are hosting a bachelorette party, a group of friends or couples and want a special experience, call Chef Prisca Morjon. The young, Martinique chef is self-taught and uses her family recipes to teach and create a meal that tastes out of this world. We met her at La Mauny Distillery and had a meal created my Morjon and her mother (talk about a treat) that came along with a rum pairing.
La Dunette is a restaurant placed right on the water and also has an accompanying hotel (if you are still looking for accommodations). We went for dinner, but I’d go here for lunch, grab a cabana and enjoy the beach that’s only steps away. This place is casual upscale. It’s great for a large group and if you do stay for dinner, you’ll undoubtedly also have some dancing in between or after your meals.
WHERE TO DRINK:
Martinique is an island known for their rum. They have several rum distilleries throughout the island that each have their different flair. They also have an unofficial national drink called Ti Punch. Ti Punch has rum, cane sugar, and fresh lime. It’s like a capriniah or fresh daquiri. You can find Ti Punch everywhere and anywhere and it is really engrained in the culture.
This was the first rum distillery that we visited and it’s huge. The distillery is placed on an old Creole plantation that was owned by Homére Clément and later Charles Clément (after he died). The rum distillery is on the property which also houses an art gallery and a new museum they opened. The museum will house prestigious art from all over the world. You can literally spend half a day just roaming the grounds and taking in all the history of how to make rum, the history of the distillery, the history of the property and more. It’s a cultural trip, with a kick!
LA MAUNY DISTILLERY
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#TBT: these incredible women. The truth is you can’t travel with everyone. These women are open to adventure, thoughtful, fun, resilient, uplifting and more. This was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on and it was 100% because of the people in attendance. You should follow all of these inspirational and magical ladies. (L to R: @kimberlynatasha, @krystalfranklintv, @natashasalsford, @ravaldavis, @angellenise, @charlipenn) Thank you to @flynorwegian and @homeaway for an incredible experience! #MelaninInMartinque #MartiniqueMagnifique
This was my favorite distillery on the trip. The distillery feels like it’s tucked away. It’s vast and peaceful. This would be perfect for a relaxing afternoon. The distillery is affordable and makes delicious rum.
We got to meet Daniel, the distilleries’ rum expert. He even allowed us to try rum that he created and aged himself. It was a rum made out of sugar cane and the only of it’s kind. Oo la la!
DISCOVER BLACK CULTURE:
Martinique may be owned by the French, but it has a history rich with black culture. The people of Martinique are serious about not only preserving, but also sharing their history. Art is a huge undercurrent of the country, with many sculptures (including underwater) throughout the city.
LA SAVANE DES ESCLAVES
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Martinique is an island with rich history and culture. I visited La Savane des Esclaves (The Savannah of the Slaves). This open air village/museum is a replica of a slave village started being built in 1999 by Gilbert Larose (who gave us personal tour). It shows life pre and post slavery. During slavery, the huts that slaves lived in fit 2 people. I had the opportunity to go in one and instantly felt claustrophobic. Here I am standing in the doorway of a post-slavery home meant to fit four people. It was the size of a large NYC bedroom (which y’all know is still small). Most activities, cooking, hanging out, etc. happened outside the home due to the small space. The grounds are eerily beautiful given such a somber experience. It’s incredible to see what Gilbert has created. I’m thankful to @FlyNorwegian for the flight and @HomeAway for a fantastic villa where I could come back and reflect with the ladies. #MartiniqueMagnifique #MelaninInMartinique
This place is also known as the Slave Savannah. It was created by Gilbert Larose who is from Martinique and a descendant of slaves.
From oral history and visits to Africa, he was able to derive what an actual slave village looked like back in the day. The village is beautiful though it’s reasonings are somber.
You can meander through the village, moving through and in huts, reading history.
This left my heart heavy and angry. When you literally stand in a hut that was made for two people to live in and you can barely turn around. It gives a visual and physical depiction of slave life, so mentally prepare yourself.
MEMORIAL DE L’ANSE CAFFARD
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Memorial de l’Anse Caffard is a series of sculptures created in 1998 by Martinique artist Laurent Valère paying homage to slaves. A slave ship failed to anchor correctly in the dangerous Caffard Coast. The ship ran aground into Diamond Rock killing most of the passengers and sailors. All the slaves died as they were chained to the cargo and had no way to escape. The slaves on land watched helplessly. They said you could hear the screams of terror from the shore. You step on the soil and immediately feel the sobering energy. I created the style guide for this trip and requested all the women wore shades of purple for this experience. Purple is a color synonymous with royalty, loyalty, and ambition. It’s also associated with peace, creativity and magic. Our ancestors suffered inexplicably, stripped of their names and from our homes. Descendants of royalty and intellectuals we were forced into bondage. While we are still struggling to break from evolved and new forms of systematic oppression, I find hope in how we still rise. I wanted us to be thoughtful in this experience as I’m thankful to all those who have came before me. #MartiniqueMagnifique #WelcomeToMartinique
This slave memorial is one of the most moving pieces that I have ever experienced. We were meant to go there during the day; however, we were running late and ended getting there closer to dusk. You arrive and immediately feel a presence once you step on the grounds, before you even see the striking, tall, 20 stone statues that are facing the water. Memorial de l’Anse Caffard is a series of sculptures created in 1998 by Martinique artist Laurent Valère paying homage to slaves. A slave ship failed to anchor correctly in the dangerous Caffard Coast. The ship ran aground into Diamond Rock killing most of the passengers and sailors. All the slaves died as they were chained to the cargo and had no way to escape. The slaves on land watched helplessly. They said you could hear the screams of terror from the shore. This is a must visit on your trip to Martinique. Please be mindful to respect the grounds, the history, and the statues during your stay.
WHAT TO DO:
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Sundays are for self care. Had a wonderful time with my ladies at @edenparadisespa_ecolodge in Martinique! It’s a get away retreat surrounded by lush forest and relaxing spa treatments including massages, body scrubs and more. This is definitely a must do in Martinique. They even have a few rooms if you want to do an overnight stay. Best part? It’s owned by a black woman! Thank you for the relaxation and the vibes. Sidenote: I know the Victoria’s Secret Show is tonight and I’m cheering on the models walking in the show. However, I’m side eyeing the leadership and upper management of the organization. Ladies, body image can be tough (and remember it’s a process and can fluctuate). Images matter and attempted erasure of fat women, trans women, cellulite, boobs of ALL sizes…sends a message. VS knows what they are doing. Don’t feel disempowered. Just know you have the power through your dollars. Shop brands that support inclusivity. Fill your feed with diverse bodies. Fight back and start your own shit. @itsmodelcitizen allows you to shop body types that look like yours. I hated seeing only one type when I online shop, so I created an inclusive space. I feature all body types on @hellobeautiful and @madamenoire because I can and I will. You are beautiful and valid. Don’t let one company make you feel less than. 📸: @charlipenn #MelaninInMartinique #MartiniqueMagnifique
Eden Paradise Spa And Ecolodge is a getaway within a getaway. Only 3 years old, this resort is up a winding road and perched overlooking the island. It has some beautiful views at sunset. You can get a massage and while you wait, enjoy the sauna, pool, or jacuzzi. They make fresh meals for you on site while tending to your every need. There was a bachelorette party there while we were there, so the spa was full, but it was still relaxing. Some of the massage rooms also have a shower in them, so after your massage (or before), you can rinse off. The best part about this place? It’s owned by a black woman.
If you are in Martinique, you must visit Sainte Anne, which is the equivalent to their quaint downtown. This is also where the cruise ships dock. It’s touristy, but a great way to see and meet locals. Their square also has photos of prominent black people throughout history, so it’s like getting a cultural lesson on the go.
No, you can’t go to Martinique without visiting the beach. The water is clear, there are mountains in the background and you can see yachts and sailboats lazily docked far out in the water.
We visited this beach which was about 5 minutes away from Sainte Anne. It seemed more like a local beach, with less tourists. We were told this is one of the most popular beaches in Martinique and I can see why. It’s unbothered, there are no restaurants, and you can just enjoy nature. Pack a lunch and some snacks and spend all day here with your friends. At the end of the beach, there’s a docked ship that looks somewhat like a shipwreck where you can snap some great photos for the ‘gram.
Now, Ti Sable is a restaurant ON the beach. You can eat a meal here and then lay out on the beach after and let your food digest. It’s a beautiful beach and I would consider this more family friendly. They have facilities for you to change and shower which is convenient. If you don’t feel like carrying food and drinks, Ti Sable can take care of that to you. Take a dip in the turquoise water in between ti punches.