First sighted by Columbus on his initial expedition in 1493, Martinique played host to its first European “tourists” in 1502 when Columbus landed there during his fourth voyage. Dubbed Martinique by Columbus, the island was inhabited by Carib Indians who had driven away the Arawaks (both tribes had come to the island from South America). Martinique was claimed by France in 1635 and officially annexed in 1674. France and Britain fought over the island until 1815, when France prevailed. Slavery was abolished in 1848. In 1946, Martinique became a Department of France, and in 1974 a region of France, its current status.
Modern day Martinique is truly “a little bit of France in the Caribbean.” It exudes an alluring and distinctly French sensibility in the excellence of its cuisine, the chic sophistication of its fine resorts and hotels, and the sensuality of its language. Yet Martinique has a cachet all its own – an endearing West Indian warmth and friendliness in its personality, a special spice in its music and dance, its local dishes, cultural heritage, and way of life. It is an island with style and so much more. A special place, to be sure, with so much to offer – Martinique c’est magnifique!
LOCATION – Nestled in the heart of the Lesser Antilles between Dominica to the north and St. Lucia, Martinique lies 1,965 miles from New York; 1,470 miles from Miami; 425 miles from San Juan; and 4,261 miles from Paris.
CLIMATE – Temperatures average 79°F with two regular alternating wind currents (les alizés) keeping the island cool. There is only about a 5° difference between summer and winter temperatures.
SIZE – 425 square miles (50 miles long and 22 miles across at its widest point) or just a few blocks smaller than New York City.
TOPOGRAPHY – Mountainous and lush in the north with plains in the center and rocky hills (mornes) framing pristine beach coves (anses) in the south.
POPULATION – 400,000+.
CURRENCY – Euro.
CAPITAL CITY – Fort-de-France.
LANGUAGES – French, Creole, and English.
ELECTRICITY – Voltage is 220 AC. Visitors traveling with hair dryers, shavers, and other appliances made in the US will require international power adapters.
RELIGION – Roman Catholicism, Seventh-Day Adventist, Jehovah’s Witness, Methodist, Evangelical, Baptist, Jewish, Hindu, and Islamic.
MONEY EXCHANGES & BANKS – US dollars can be converted to euros at locations throughout the island. Hours of operation vary, though Fort-de-France banks are generally open 7:30 am to 12:00 noon and 2:30 to 4:30 pm, weekdays. Bank-operated 24-hour ATMs can also be found throughout the island.
ACCOMMODATIONS – Martinique is home to 6,000+ hotel rooms with budget, moderate, and luxury properties scattered throughout the island. For the rustic and truly budget-conscious, beachfront and rainforest camping can be arranged. Those seeking a more luxurious experience can opt for villa and private island rentals.
GETTING THERE & GETTING AROUND
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS – US visitors must have a valid passport.
ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE TAXES – None for air or cruise arrivals.
BY AIR – AA/American Eagle connects via San Juan twice daily. Air France operates daily from Miami. Connecting service through St. Lucia is also available via Air Caraibes and LIAT.
BY SEA – Air/sea connections can be made via Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, Dominica, and Les Saintes aboard sleek catamarans operated by Express des Iles. Ferry service operates daily.
BY CRUISE – Lines featuring Martinique in 2010-2011 include Carnival, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Disney Cruises, Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Sea Cloud Cruises, and Star Clippers.
GETTING AROUND BY RENTAL CAR – 5,000+ cars available from such notable companies as Avis, Budget, Hertz, and more. Driving is on the right. A valid driver’s license is required; minimum age is 21.
YACHTING – Bareboat or crewed charters can be arranged at most hotels. Yachtsmen can choose among several marinas, most notably Port de Plaisance in Le Marin, the island’s largest and best equipped marina.
GETTING AROUND BY TAXI – Taxi stands are located at the airport, in Fort-de-France, and at major hotels. All cabs are metered. Martinique has 200+ taxis; 80 percent of them are Mercedes-Benz.
ACTIVITIES & ATTRACTIONS APLENTY
CULINARY TRAVEL – World-renowned for its cuisine, Martinique’s 365+ restaurants feature the best of French and Creole. Seafood abounds, prepared Creole-style with spices or in a classic French manner with herbs.
CULTURAL HERITAGE – Birthplace of the famed poet, Aimé Césaire, Zouk, and Napoleon’s bride, Empress Josephine, Martinique boasts a rich cultural heritage kept alive in the island’s 25+ museums.
RHUM – The Rum capital of the World, Martinique is home to 12 brands, each produced utilizing a unique rhum agricole method yielding blends comparable to fine cognacs. Martinique rhums are the only rums to carry the exalted Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) designation formerly reserved for the finest wines. Free tasting is available at all of the island’s distilleries.
ECOTOURISM – Martinique boasts a whole world of natural wonders, making it one of the Caribbean’s top eco-destinations. Two-thirds of Martinique is designated as protected parkland, affording visitors a wide range of nature-themed vacation adventures – hiking the island’s 27 well-marked trails, kayaking, horseback riding, enjoying a 4×4 tour, and more.
SHOPPING – Martinique offers the best of Parisian fashion, jewelry, perfumes, etc., and local treasures. La Galleria Mall is a top shopping spot, while Rue Victor Hugo is to Martinique as Fifth Avenue is to New York.
CASINO GAMING – Martinique’s two casinos, Casino de la Batelière Plaza located just north of Fort-de-France and Casino des Trois Ilets, offer slots, blackjack, roulette, and more. Patrons must be 18; dress is casual.
SCUBA DIVING – The best-kept secret in Caribbean diving, Martinique offers abundant marine life, historic shipwrecks, and healthy reefs. The highlight is Diamond Rock, an offshore island with a deep undersea cavern.
GOLF & TENNIS – Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., the 18-hole Golf de l’Impératrice Joséphine in Trois Ilets, is the island’s sole golf course. Tennis is available at the course and at resorts throughout the island.
FAMILY ATTRACTIONS – From sightseeing trains to the Butterfly Gardens and Mangofil, Martinique has much to offer families. The main attraction is Aqualand, a US-style water park featuring water slides, wave pool, and young kids play area complete with its own pirate ship.
DESTINATION WEDDINGS – Required documents include original birth certificates, certificate of good conduct, residency card (bride or groom must reside on-island minimum 1 month), medical certificate issued within 3 months of marriage, French translation of all documents.
For more information, contact the Martinique Promotion Bureau/CMT USA, 825 3rd Avenue, 29th Floor, New York, NY 10022 – Tel: 212 838 6887 – Fax: 212 838 7855 – Email: email@example.com – Web: www.martinique.org .