Family Vacations to Martinique
|From volcanoes and museums to waterslides and beaches, Martinique has it all. (Weststock)|
Martinique Family Travel Tips
- Horseback ride through the lush, tropical countryside.
- Zip through the trees attached to a cable on a canopy tour.
- Hike to rivers and along scenic spots in the Parc Naturel Regional de la Martinique.
- Splash down slides at Aqualand, a water park.
- Explore Saint-Pierre and learn about Mount Pelée's devastating 1902 eruption.
Part of the group of islands that make up the Lesser Antilles, Martinique's varied terrain comprises 409 square miles of rolling hills, picturesque beaches, and an enormous extinct volcano. Because of the tradewinds, there's only a five degree difference in temperature between winter and summer, making Martinique a beautiful, seasonless destination.
More than a third of the population (about 400,000 people) lives in or near Fort-de-France, the country's capital. The traffic, combined with the often narrow and steep streets, makes exploring here with young kids a little trying. A market near the harbor and La Savane, a garden-like park with shops and cafes lining the perimeter, are considerably easier to navigate with offspring in tow. As a reward for enduring the bustle of Fort-de-France, take your kids to Aqualand, about an hour north of Fort-de-France; there, take on the challenges of the Giant Slalom and Black Hole (yes, you slip down in total darkness), and splash in the wave pool.
Across the bay from Fort-de-France is Pointe du Bout, a very developed resort area offering man-made beaches. Also see Les Trois-Ilets, made famous as the birthplace of Napolean's wife Empress Josephine. The small Musée de la Pagerie, housing some letters from the emperor to his beloved, probably won't please kids as much as the region's adventures. Two popular Trois-Ilets stables, Ranch Jack and Black Horse, lead guided rides through the lush countryside. Mangofil lures adrenalin junkies with a canopy tour. For this Tarzan-like treat, best for older grade-schoolers, 'tweens, and teens, you don a harness, climb a wooden ladder to a series of platforms, get tethered to a cable, and then let go, allowing gravity to zip you through the treetops. Hollering for dear life is part of the fun.
The 4,586-foot high Mount Pelée, a now-dormant volcano that wiped out the town of Saint-Pierre in 1902, dominates the northern tip of the island. The Musée Volcanologique vividly portrays the 1902 disaster and exhibits some bizarre relics, including petrified spaghetti and mangled clocks melted and frozen in time at eight o'clock, the hour of the eruption. A small train, the Cyparis Express, tours the historic town; however, commentary is likely to be in French.
Hikers should be pleased: two-thirds of Martinique is designated protected parkland, and there are some 31 marked and maintained trails throughout the Parc Naturel Regional de la Martinique. Each trailhead has information on the length and difficulty of the hike, as well as points of interest. The park office in Fort-de-France (05.96.64.42.59; PNRM@wanadoo.fr) organizes guided excursions for beginners to seasoned hikers.
For some of the island's best beaches, head south to picturesque Anses-d'Arlets, with its fishing boats and pristine beaches, and to Les Salines, a long palm tree lined swath of white sands. Keep in mind that some sunbathers may be topless. To the north of Fort-de France you'll find black sands, courtesy of the volcano.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication