My husband and I spent 10 days in Trois-Ilets. We stayed in the small area of Trios-Ilets called Pointe du Bout. it is touristy, but we actually wanted to stay somewhere like this because we speak very limited French (seriously, all we know are 8-10 French words), and hoped that some shop owners and waitresses would speak some English. Most did, but it is rare to find someone who can speak fluent English anywhere in Martinique. Don't let this discourage you! This is a wonderful island and if two country bumpkins from Alabama can do it, you can too!
Day 1: Arrival
We used Air France since Norweigan Air is seasonal and was no longer flying after March 21. We had a layover in Guadeloupe and then to Martinique. The Guadeloupe airport is unique, to say the least! They herded all the Martinique passengers into a fenced in area and then made us go through security along with all the other people leaving Guadeloupe. I talked to a lady who frequently travels to Martinique, and she said every time she had a layover in Guadeloupe, it was a different procedure!
When we made it to the Martinique airport, all we did was get our luggage and find a taxi! That was it, no customs or anything. We found a taxi and I showed the driver (he was driving a very nice Mercedes SUV) our address to the apartment we were renting. He took the information and the contact number and talked to the lady and received instructions from her. It was really nice, because I was worried about calling the apartment manager. He drove us straight to our apartment (more info later) and we met Nadine, the apartment manager. Her English was the best we heard our whole trip!
She took us down to the Creole Village and showed us around the marina. We ate supper at Ice "n Coffee, a small outdoor/indoor cafe that sells crepes, salads, desserts, coffee, etc. It's just a great go to restaurant and we ate there several times during our trip. I had the salmon crepe and a daiquiri. Nobody spoke English but Nadine helped us order before she left for the evening.
Day 2:: Trois-Ilets beach
We went back to the Creole Village (1-2 minute walk) and ate at Ice n' Coffee again. I had a nutella crepe and my husband got the continental breakfast (bread, jam, butter, fruit croissant, juice and coffee for 10-12 euros). After this, we went to the local grocery store (they didn't open until 8;30). We took our groceries, went back to the apartment, and went to the beach across from the marina. You walk down a semi-paved road toward the Hotel Bakoua. I didn't know if they had chairs to rent, so we walked to the right and went past 2 small beaches that were pretty full.
We stopped at the third beach and found a spot there. It was rocky right when you got into the water, but was sandy after that. It became deep fast and many people were snorkeling. After a bit, we walked around and realized that this area was very small and the marina bay was on the other side from our beach.
We went back to our apartment for lunch and just enjoyed the property until dinner time. We ate at Havana, right across from Ice N Coffee in the Creole Village. The waiter spoke English and the menu had English too. I ordered the mussels in a saffron coconut sauce. It came with a side of delicious fries. My dish came out in a big pot and it was wonderful, except it turned my hands yellow from the saffron!
Day 3: Anse Mitan
On this day we walked to Anse Mitan. This was about the same distance from our apt. but in the opposite direction from yesterday. This is a larger beach without many rocks. It is a touristy beach with several restaurants and small shops. You can rent jet skis, water trampolines, and also take a ferry to Forte-de-France. If you go by Hotel Bambou, you can rent chairs. We saw several topless women on this beach. We ate at the restaurant, Ti Taurus, attached to Hotel Bambou and was right by the ferry. This menu also had English choices on it. I ordered the seafood salad. It was a basic salad with salmon, scallops, and a white fish on it. I thought it was tasty, but my husband did not like his food or the price we paid for it.
Day 4: Grande Anse
Ok, now the adventures will begin! This is the day we rented a car. Before we left the US, I looked on google maps at rental places at Troi-Ilets. Only one came up: Rent-A-Car. Well, when we arrived, we saw every rental company there (Avis, Eurocar, Avis, Jumbocar, etc) BUT Rent-A-Car. Now I'm getting nervous because I didn't even get a confirmation e-mail from this rental place. I do have the conf. # and an order #. We finally decide that Rent-A-Car is another name for Jumbocar. Our apt, manager even called the company and found our reservation, so we're thinking everything is going to be ok.
Well, we walk to the place (it's just a min. from our apt.) and of course, no one can speak English, and they can't find our reservation. So we head across the street to 2 other rental places. They do speak English, but don't have our reservation. I finally call our apt. manager again, and go back to Jumbocar. She talks on my phone to another guy who looks more competent than the first gentleman, and lo and behold, he finds our reservations!
So, off we go on our first adventure of driving in Martinique. We were going to go to Anse Dufour and Anse Noir, but our apt. manager didn't recommend it on a weekend due to the terrible parking. She recommended Grande Anse and to find a beach restaurant called Ti Sable. We followed the signs to go south, and off we go. The roads are like the curvy mountain roads you have in rural America, so they weren't too bad for us. If you're not used to that, it may be a shock.
We passed Anse Dufour and even passed the sign for Grande Anse and had to back track. When we got there, we saw a sign for Ti Sable, but finally had to stop someone who looked like they knew English (he had a Miami shirt on,) and they told us it was just down the beach.
We get to Ti Sable and it's just 10AM, and there are tons of chairs available. Well, evidently they are ALL reserved!! We stayed for 4 hours and never got a chair, even though at least 8 were still available at 2PM. It was frustrating and somewhat ruined our trip. One of the positive points was that the food at Ti Sable was really good and some of the waiters spoke English. There was a small gift shop, someone giving massages, and you could rent jet skis. I estimate the distance to this beach was a 10 mile round trip, so not bad for our first drive.
Day 5: Les Gorges de la Falaise
I read on this forum about a gorge that was close to Montagne Pelee, so off we go to find it. Did I mention that our car had GPS, but we couldn't get it to work nor could I get my phone to hook up to the internet? We used a map and I took screen shots of the directions before we left the apt. All the rural road are D roads and the busier highway roads are N roads. D7 is the main road out of Trois-Ilet. We drove about 7 miles to N5 and headed towards Fort-de-France. It was a Sunday, so the traffic was light on N5. We then took D41 to N3. While we were in the mountains above Fort-de-France, we got in a traffic jam because of church! People were parking on the side of the road and anywhere they could (like it is EVERYWHERE on this island), and had traffic backed up. After we passed the rather large church (it wasn't even on the main road!) traffic was better.
We passed Jardin de Balata and kept on going. We stopped at Domaine d'Emeraude (gardens similar to Jardin de Balata) for a restroom break and their gift shop. A wonderful lady who had relations in the US spoke great English and told us about the place. i wanted to go back, but we never did.
We finally made it to the gorge with only a small u-turn (the signs are easy to miss) and drove down a semi-paved road to basically a dirt parking lot and a small hut by a house. This was our destination. I think this destination would have higher ratings on TA if they had a nicer area when you first arrive.
A group had just finished and was milling around. After they left, we found someone who spoke limited English and he told us what to do. You pay 10 euros per person to go walk down into the gorge. There is a guide in the parts where the water is swift and sometimes deep. The other parts you're on your on.
You can REALLY tell you are on a island with a tropical rain forest at this place. It was beautiful!! We were with about 25 other people and we all walked through the water to an amazing waterfall. You need to wear a swimsuit, good sturdy shoes that can get wet, and a waterproof camera/phone case to really enjoy the experience. You also should bring a change of clothes since you will be soaking wet (there is a place to change).
When we finished, we went left and drove to N1 and went south down the Atlantic coast line. I had read a forum post about the Caravelle peninsula, so this was our nest adventure. If you are driving south, you will pass several signs going toward Trinity. Take the last one where there is finally a sign for the Caravelle nature area. Keep following signs for the Ruines ou Chateau and don't park until you get to the big sign saying the ruins are down a hill, or you'll be walking forever down a dirt road trying to avoid cars.
When you park there is a Y in the road. The right side takes you to the Chateau ruins and the mangrove trail. The left takes you to the lighthouse and the ocean view trail. Since we couldn't read French, we went right to the ruins. They have a bathroom there and a small gift shop. It cost 5 euros to tour and I don't recommend it unless you are a French history buff. We briefly toured the ruins and then went to the map outside the entrance to see it lead to the mangrove trail.
This is the lower part of the peninsula and leads you through a forest to a mangrove area by the ocean. There are not many ocean views. Later, when we returned to the peninsula again, we would realize we were within 5 minutes of seeing some of the spectacular ocean views. Since we didn't know (there are few maps or signs on the trail; just a blue circle stating you're on the the main trail or a yellow circle if you do the mangrove loop), we turned around and left. It was a good walk, but I was disappointed I didn't get to see the lighthouse and ocean views.
Day 6: Anse Dufour and Anse Noir
We arrived at Anse Dufour a little after 8AM and still had to park behind about 30 cars that were already parked on the steep hillside leading to the beach. It is a beautiful but small beach that had snorkeling on the right side. It became crowded really fast, so we went over to Anse Noir. This was about a 5 min walk uphill around the small peninsula that separates the two beaches. It was another steep climb to Anse Noir. This beach is about the same size, maybe even smaller. There is a small hut that rent snorkeling gear and a ramshackled deck in need of repair. There was seaweed on the black sand and it was very rocky.
We didn't stay long and had lunch at Ice n' Coffee. That night we went down by the marina and ate at L'embarcadare. My husband got the pizza and I had the Creole menu which was your choice of an appetizer, main course, and a dessert for 22 euros. I got the fritters, mahi, mahi, and coconut flan. I suggest going early because it became busy and I don't think there are enough waiters for the crowd.
Day 7 Montagne Pelee
We arrived at Mont Pelee around 9:30 Am (after horrible traffic around Forte-de-France) and the dirt parking lot was already full, so we parked on the road leading away from the mtn. From the parking lot, it was very impressive to see the volcano and we almost turned around and went back to our apartment. After a little convincing to each other, we started up the pathway to the top of the mtn. It was steep, rocky, slippery, and amazing!
There were several maps along the way with the distressing detail telling us how far we were from the caldera. We kept thinking the distance was wrong, but it wasn't. I read on this forum that it was a 2 hour round trip, but it took us 2 hours just to get to the caldera! We could see the path to the very top (what is left after the 1902 explosion). It went down and then back up what looked like a goat trail. I wish we could have made it to the top of the mtn, but we didn't have any food with us, just water and it was already 12PM.
It didn't take as long to go down, but it wasn't a picnic either! You really had to watch your footing and not look too far along the path. The path down was full of breath taking views of the valley and the parking lot that was a ridiculously tiny spot from the top. At the parking lot is a small cafe that sells food and ice cream.
BEWARE the speed traps!! We just had a letter in the mail saying we were driving less than 20 km over the speed limit and was going to have to pay a 15 euro processing fee on top of the ticket, which supposedly is coming in the mail sometime soon. Ridiculous!!
That night we had reservations at a wonderful restaurant in Pointe du Bout called Le Samcielo. This is #6 out of 703 restaurants in Martinique and it was walking distance to our apt. We read on TA that reservations are needed, so I asked our apt. manager to make us some. I'm so glad we did! The outside of the place isn't very interesting and it's almost impossible to park there since it is on a steep hill on the way into Anse Mitan.
When we arrived at 7pm we were the first ones there and it was never super busy while we were there, but they turned away several walk-in customers saying they were full for the night. I guess they have a quota and when they reach it in reservations, they no longer take customers. Our waitress didn't know but a few phrases of English and my google translator wasn't working, but we did the best we could. At one point she was quacking like a duck to help us understand duck was on the menu!! Fun times indeed! I ordered Sainte Jacques, which turned out to be scallops (Score!!) and my husband ordered a fish fillet. Both were wonderful. We split a dessert and an appetizer as well. Everything was marvelous and we wanted to come back, but never found the time.
Day 8: Anse des Salines
So this was the day we made our biggest driving mistake. We were driving south on N6 and were looking for D9. We completely overlooked the small 6 x 6 inch sign saying D9 was towards Sainte Anne. I knew it was in Ste Anne, but thought there were two ways to get there and we wanted D9.
Well, I'm terrible at reading maps and didn't recognize any of the towns we came to until Vauclin. This town is waaaaay over on the Atlantic side of the island! It was interesting to see this part of the island because you could tell they didn't much rain. There were irrigation systems all over the place and where they were not, the banana trees and other crops were in poor shape.
When we finally get on D9, my husband accidentally turned in a roundabout too soon and we drove through the small town of Sainte Anne. It looked really cute, but we didn't stop. It was the beach or nothing! We finally made it to the beach and parked. The place we walked to had several beach restaurants (mainly shacks), portable shops selling souvenirs, a portable massage tent, and a place to rent chairs. Our area had some seaweed, but other places nearby didn't. I loved that this beach had some wave action. We walked toward Ste Anne and crossed a tiny brush section to another beach that was deserted. You could see another small beach in the distance.
We ate at one of the beach restaurants but I don't know which one. I've looked and looked and couldn't find ours based on pics travelers posted on TA. Anyway, it was another adventure of trying to order when the waitress/cook didn't know any English. I ordered (really pointed at the chalk menu) the cheapest meal (10 euros for chicken and fries) and it turned out to be delicious!
I felt really bad for the local cat that was asking for food. It had the mange and had babies somewhere.
We stayed just a bit longer, but we were getting really hot. I don't know if it's always that hot or not. We could see the breeze blowing in the trees, but couldn't feel it. As we left, we decided to go to one of the many grocery stores on the island. We stopped at a Leader Price. It was a lot different than the little store in Pointe du Bout. Not only was it larger with more stuff, which was super interesting, but the clientele was different since there were more local people than tourist.
Day 9: Jardin de Balato
Today, we drove back towards the mountains above Forte-de-France and traffic was terrible, coming and going!! We muddled through and finally arrived at the gardens. I think you pay 13 euros per person, which sounds high, but it was a beautiful experience. It is self guided with lots of signs pointing in the right direction to take. My favorite part was climbing on the swinging bridges during the tree canopy part of the trip. As we were leaving, there was a beautiful view of the mountains that previously had clouds obscuring them. It was a great way to end our garden trip.
After the gardens, we drove on N2 toward St. Pierre and along the coast towards Forte de France. This is a wonderful drive because it takes you past some really pretty beach/sea scenery. You could actually see where the water splashed over the road during high tide (our car missed being splashed) at La Carbet beach. Other parts were up in the mountains with stunning views of the Caribbean Sea. There was a lookout between La Carbet and the suburbs of Forte-de-France where we pulled over to eat a picnic lunch.
When we finally made it to Trois-Ilets, we stopped at the Pottery Village and walked around and looked at some of the shops. A lot of the stores were closed for an extended lunch, so I don't think we had the full experience.
That night, we went back to the creole village ate at le Bistror D'en Face. The waitress could barely speak English and we had a hard time communicating and even reading the chalk menu (cursive and French is a terrible combo for us). I played it safe and ordered fish and my husband had steak. It was ok, but I wasn't too impressed.
Day 10 Presqu'ile de la Caravelle
This was our last full day, so we were going down our list of places we haven't been too. We talked about doing a rum tour, and other things, but that stupid lighthouse on the Caravelle peninsula kept beckoning me, so off we go to the Atlantic side of the island. We arrived at 8:30AM and were stunned to see that the parking lot was already full! We parked up the road a bit and walked to the left of the Y in the road toward the lighthouse and weather station.
About 15- 20 min. down the road is a sign and and path leading to the right. This was the elusive lighthouse. It is a steep climb to see the lighthouse view, but really worth. We stayed there for a bit and then went toward the weather station. I was disappointed that we couldn't actually go to where it was because you could see from the lighthouse that the view was spectacular at the weather station.
There was a trail on the right side that lead to a very nice ocean view. We stopped here and had our picnic lunch. No one was there when we arrived, but we could see people coming towards us and decided to follow the path we were on. It was one of the best decisions we made the entire trip! If you want to be reminded that Mother Nature is in charge, then head down this path.
This path (blue) went from one of the highest points on the peninsula to the mangroves, which is the lowest point. I LOVE doing things from high to low, so I was in heaven. The path led right along the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in places and the waves were crashing right below you in an impressive display of nature at its finest. You came to a point where you could keep going around the perimeter of the peninsula or head inward towards the ruins. I wanted to go on, but my husband was ready to be finished since we really just came to see the lighthouse, not do a 10-15 mile hike (our round trip was 8.5 miles and 74 floors)!
We headed inland and came across a rocky beach where the water was calm, but full of seaweed. It amazed me that there was a calm place around after the magnificent display we saw. We eventually made our way to the mangroves and came out at the ruins. We were ready for a restroom break and maybe some cold drinks at the gift shop, but the ruins were closed! Why, I don't know.
We drove south to Le Diament and took some amazing pics of the diamond rock and walked along the beach there. It was a long, but extremely narrow beach. I don't know if it was always that narrow or if it was high tide. I got the impression that if it was high tide, that there wasn't a wide beach available even at low tide.
That night, we went to the marina area again and ate at L'Explorateur. This was our last dinner during our trip, so I splurged and ordered the spiny lobster here (it was 38 euros). It was alright. I expected more for the price. It was chewy and hard to pull from the shell and didn't come with a butter sauce. The sauce it did come with was a vinegar based sauce with carrots, celery, and onion. The best part of the meal was the appetizer. It was the basic fritters offered all over the island. They were large and tasty.
The service was ok. There was only one other couple there when we arrived but I had to ask 2x for water. Also, another couple ate and left before we got our main course. The waiter/owner was gruff, but friendly. He tried to speak to us in his broken English and told us he had relatives in the US.
TIPS AND GENERAL INFO
Dress code: I found Martinique to be a very casual island (I even saw two men peeing on the side fo the road). I brought lots of dresses to wear, but really wished I had brought more tank tops and shorts.
Food: Eating out in the restaurants was expensive (the cheapest meal we had was 10-12 euros per person), so I STRONGLY suggest renting an apartment or a room with at least an efficiency kitchen to offset the price of food. It wasn't hard buying groceries on this island.
Places to stay: I enjoyed staying at Trois-Ilets. It was a central location from where it didn't take you long to go any direction on the island. The only other place that I found comparable was Sainte Anne, but it is in the south, so its location is not so good.
Rental Properties: We thoroughly enjoyed our rental property that we rented from VRBO. It was a bit scary not going with a hotel in a foreign country, but I would do it again in a heart beat. Our property was a 2 bedroom 2 bath condo (and 2 balconies!) in a very nice complex of 35 units. It was called T3 apartments and T1 at Résidence Le Karacoli. The apartment name/unit was Le Taino with the property #1287379.
The property owner actually has two properties listed here. When you look at the pics listed on the VRBO site, only 1-12 are the property we rented. The apartment complex has a pool and a small man made beach with a dock going out into the bay. Lots of sailboats like to stay here, so that makes the view extra pretty. It also had a fenced in parking area with remote control access. What made this property extra special is the property manager Nadine. She went above and beyond her duty to help us.
Overall, I really enjoyed my stay on this island and would go back! I hope you enjoyed this forum article and that it helps you in some way. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.