It may be the birthplace of Napoléon Bonaparte’s first wife, Empress Josephine, but Martinique is better known for it’s rugged mountains, raw landscape, and rum. Here’s what to do in this French Caribbean island to satisfy one's inner art lover, hiker, and culture-seeker. Bonus: It's all completely affordable.
The Beaches: Rent a car (taxis are astronomical and a 40-minute ride can cost nearly 150 Euro) and steer through the island’s curvy roads for the warm Caribbean Sea. The popular Pointe Faula boasts shallow waters, ideal for wading or kitesurfing. Les Salines, another popular oasis, brims with miles of soft white sands and waves strong enough for body surfing. On site, you'll find quaint restaurants and a homemade ice cream vendor.
The Rum: The Fondation Clément museum, home of the Clément Plantation where -- in 1887 -- Rhum Clément was first distilled. The building, made of stainless steel, lava stone, and concrete, showcases art and sells local rum that you can smell when driving from the airport along the west side of the island. Even better, admission is free.
The Hiking: Sainte Pierre’s Montagne Pelée, a semi-active volcano (though currently dormant) that stands 4,583 feet into the clouds. The trek isn’t easy, but the struggle to reach the mountain’s top is worth it with views that stretch across green fields, blue waters, and soft black sands.
The History: The Cap 110 Memorial in Caffard Anse, created by artist Laurent Valere, pays homage to slaves who came before with 15 stone sculptures. Set in a triangular formation in an open picturesque field overlooking the serene Grande Anse du Diamant, the figures seem to rise out of the lush grass as they look towards Africa’s Gulf of Guinea. In addition to being free, it's worth visiting for being both beautiful and thought-provoking.
Getting There: Norwegian Airlines is practically giving away tickets to the mountainous French island (tickets can be snagged for less than $200 for direct, round-trip flights from New York City, which is cheaper than flying to Miami). Plus, island hopping from ports Forte de France or Sainte Pierre to close-by locales like Dominica, Guadeloupe, or St. Lucia is just a ferry or quick plane ride away. Check out express-des-iles.com for fares.