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How To Experience Martinique Like a Local
Written by Cimoan Atkins
With its bright and detailed architecture, crystal-like waters, and incredible cuisine, Martinique is an island like no other. Considered the flower of the Caribbean, Martinique is a dream destination for many. The island is part of the “Lesser Antilles” or “Windward Islands” and is nestled in between the Caribbean Sea to the West and the Atlantic Ocean on the East.
With nonstop U.S. flights from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and New York, Montreal in Canada and a handful of major cruise lines making the island a port stop; the dream of visiting Martinique has become all the more accessible. When and how long you plan to stay in Martinique is up to you, but there are multiple ways to experience the island like a true Martinican no matter if you are just passing through or planning to stay awhile.
Where To Stay
If you are planning to stay in Martinique for more than a day, consider renting a villa or an apartment through an accommodations site instead of staying at a hotel. Staying in a traditional Martinican Creole apartment or house will connect you more with the local lifestyle as opposed to a hotel which can be somewhat of a tourist trap. If you are worried about accessibility to restaurants, beaches, shopping and other local amenities, fear not. There are plenty of vacation apartments available for rent all over the island.
Staying in cities like Fort-de-France and Trois Ilets are great starting points, as they are centrally located with easy access to the entire island from north to south by car or boat. The Martinique Tourism Board website has a list of vacation rental pages. Airbnb is also a great choice for searching traditional Creole homes available for rent on any budget.
What to Eat
While on holiday or just passing through, there is the temptation to look for and indulge in comforts that remind us of home, but it is always a good idea to step outside of that and enjoy the local cuisine. There are so many restaurants, cafes and juice bars to choose from that serve up the best in well-known Martinican delights ready to satisfy any palate.
However, like everywhere, it may be best to dine away from the major tourist areas as the establishments in these areas tend to cater to the tourist needs as opposed to the local needs. Some of Martinique’s most popular dishes include:
Tasty little pastry patties that are filled with either meat or fruit and can be purchased at food stands or local outdoor markets anywhere on the island for only a couple euros.
A popular curry spice that can be purchased at any supermarket and is used to season meat, vegetables, and/or seafood. Colombo dishes are served with rice, lentils or ground provisions like yam. Because of its popularity, many restaurants on the island serve a variation of this dish.
Accras De Morue
Commonly made with codfish, rolled into a batter and then fried into a round-ish fritter. What makes this dish signature to the island is its round shape instead of it fried flat as seen in other islands. This spicy Martinican staple is often served as an appetizer or a daytime snack.
A cocktail mixed with white rum, sugar cane syrup, and lime. Some add ice, but locals drink without it. At bars, instead of being served the cocktail already mixed, the bartender leaves the ingredients out and everyone prepares their own drink to taste.
What To Do
Carnaval de Martinique
One of the best things to experience in Martinique is Carnival. The drums, the whistles, the blaring island music, and of course the colorful costumes. Four days of celebration, the parade ignites city of Fort-de-France alive. Starting from Fat Sunday all the way to Ash Wednesday, the tradition of carnival in Martinique has all the local Martinicans dancing and parading through the streets and moving to the music from early in the morning into late into the night.
La Savane, Fort-de-France
Lined with cafes and restaurants, this garden is the perfect view over breakfast, lunch, snack or even dinner. The garden is also great for spending an afternoon relaxing on a blanket under one of the many palm trees or to kick back and people watch on one of the many benches. Adjacent to the beach and with the beautiful Martinician architecture right in front, La Savane is definitely part of a local Martinican’s afternoon schedule.
Sunday is the day to beach. Stores and shops are closed so you will see many people on the beach or on their boats. Some of the best beaches can be found in Le Diamant and Trois Ilets. A quick ferry from Fort-de-France will get you to these beaches for only a few euros each way and they operate from early in the morning until late at night Monday to Sunday.
Outdoor Market in Fort de France
To experience Martinique as a local, you have to shop like a local. To get the very best in fresh produce, locally made jams, and packaged spices, skip out on the boxed supermarket and head to the largest outdoor market in Martinique. It is located on Rue Blenac in Fort-de-France.