Caribbean Travel Info & Hiking Recommendations for Martinique
Martinique is a unique Caribbean island, and that holds true for its hiking trails as well. As an “over-seas region” of France and the 3rd largest of the Windward islands, Martinique has the best highways and road system I’ve encountered in the Caribbean, along with one of the largest network of hiking trails. The island is approximately 13 miles (21km) wide by 64 miles (103km) long, with a total coastline of 218 miles (351km). With Dominica to the north, and St. Lucia to the south, Martinique is pretty much the centre of the West Indies’ Lesser Antilles. The island has about half a dozen mountains above 2,300 feet (700m) tall, with the largest being the iconic (active) volcano Mount Pelee whose peak stands 4,583 feet (1,397m) above sea level.
At the north end of Martinique, south of Mount Pelee, there are a number of other tall peaks of interest, mostly located in the Pitons du Carbet or Parc Naturel Régional de la Martinique. These include Piton Lacroix [FYI – google maps shows it in the wrong location] at 3,870 feet (1180m); Morne Piquet at 3,691 feet (1125m); Piton de l’ Alma at 3543 feet (1080m); Petit Bonhomme at 2,755 feet (840m); Morne du Lorrain at 2,461 feet (750 m); and Morne Plume at 2,302 feet (702m).
Wildlife on Martinique includes hundreds of bird species, dozens of which nest on the island. This includes the white throat mocker, the colourful carouge and a variety of terns, as well as seabirds like the audubon puffin and brown noddi. The small green anolis lizard is quite common, and the island has Mongooses which were introduced to the Caribbean many years ago. Martinique has a very diverse flora, with the northern end of the island being heavily forested with species such as bamboo, mahogany, rosewood, locust, white gum, mangle vines and the guaiac tree, with it’s beautiful purplish blue flowers and orange-yellow fruit. The south is drier and dominated by savanna-like brush, including cacti, copaiba balsam, logwood and acacia. It should be no surprise that the “flower island” is home to 80 varieties of orchids. Martinique also has a number of wetland areas along the coast, including ponds, Lagoons and Mangrove swamps. In the sea surrounding the island, you can find white urchins, hawksbill turtles and octopus if you look closely.
Please note that there are poisonous snakes (the fer-de-lance and trigonocephalus bushmaster viper) and spiders (the Mygale tarantula) on the island, however they are rarely seen or are a problem for hikers. Like other Caribbean islands, The mosquitoes and no-see-ums (biting midges / sandflies) can be a problem if you’re stationary for long periods of time, particularly when there is no wind.
The people of Martinique speak French along with Creole Patois. While it’s good to know some basic French in order to read road signs and restaurant menus, you’ll find a number of store keepers also speak English. As a part of France, the island’s currency is the Euro. The island’s electrical power system provides 220-240 volt AC with the France style outlet/plug, so adapters/converters and surge suppressors (to handle the occasional dirty power) are required by North Americans.
The best time to hike in Martinique is between January and April. These months typically have the lowest chance of rain and the daily average temperatures range comfortably from a low of 73˚ (23˚c) to a high of 84˚ (29˚c) degrees. It’s much hotter and more humid, with a higher chance of rain later in the year.
Up-hill hiking on Martinique… There are well over 2 dozen marked trails on the island, along with a number of un-maintained trails. There’s about 10 decent uphill hikes to be enjoyed, and there doesn’t appear to be any fees for any of these trails. Featured trail for up-hill hiking on Martinique:
Recommended trails for up-hill hiking on Martinique include:
- Montagne Pelee – The island’s highest peak is located at the north end of the island
- The most famous hike up a semi-active volcano
- There are a number of ways to reach the peak. The most challenging are:
- From Chateaux a Desiles (Macouba)
- Difficult: 4-6 hours, 16km (return) with a 1220m vertical
- From Beausejour (Near Grand Riviere)
- Difficult: 4-6 hours, 15km (return) with a 1170m vertical
- Precheur – Grand Riviere is located on the north tip of the island
- Popular hike with a waterfalls and spectacular views of the Caribbean sea
- Intermediate: 6 hours, 20km (return) with a 780m vertical
- From Chateaux a Desiles (Macouba)
- Circuit de Saint-Cecile (loop) is located in the north-central part of the island (south of Le Morne Rouge)
- For experienced hikers (bog holes) / Nice views / Can be combined with Morne Jacob (below)
- Difficult: 4 hours, 8.5km with a 530m vertical
- Carabin – Morne Jacob is located in the north-central part of the island (south-west of Le Marigot)
- For experienced hikers (steep) / Nice views to the east / Can be combined with Saint-Cecile (above)
- Difficult: 4 hours, 8.4km (return) with a 460m vertical
- Reculee au Morne Bellevue is located in the north-central part of the island (south-west of Ste-Marie)
- Nice view of the town & bay of Ste-Marie, as well as Morne Jacob
- Easy: 3-4 hours, 9.6km (return) with a 430m vertical
Other potential 1/2 day hikes of interest include:
- Circuit de la Caravelle (loop) is located on the east point of Presqu’Île de la Caravelle
- Nature Reserve jutting into the Atlantic Ocean
- Intermediate: 2-4 hours, 8km loop
- Morne Larcher is located on the south-west tip of the island
- Spectacular panoramic views of the island and Caribbean sea
- Intermediate: 1-3 hours, 4km (return) with a 400m vertical
- Boucle de la Pointe du Vauclin (loop) is located on the south-east point of Pointe du Vauclin
- Variety of flora
- Easy: 1-2 hours, 6km loop
If you’re looking to backpack…There’s a couple of coastal trails worth exploring:
- Sentier Littoral Nord Atlantique – A 45km long hike along the north-east coast of Martinique from Basse pointe to Le Robert. Estimated to take 10 hours one way.
- Trace des Caps – A 34km long hike along the south-east point of Martinique from Macabou (south of Le Vauclin) to Ste-Anne. Estimated to take 7 hours one-way.
For more information about hiking on Martinique try to acquire the “Martinique – Terre de Randonnée” (Land of Hiking) map from the L’office National des Forets’ information booth in Fort de France. You can also try acquiring the map via their website at http://www.onf.fr/martinique/sommaire/loisirs/sentiers/@@index.html
Other things to do (besides hiking) on Martinique:
As the Northern part of the island is very mountainous and covered in rainforest, it is the ideal location for eco-tourism and outdoor activities such as canyoning, ATVing, and horseback riding.
The southern part of the island, with it’s palm trees, sand beaches and warm waters, is perfectly suited for beach goers and water sports like kite surfing, jet skiing, or kayaking.
As a long-time French colony, Martinique offers a unique Caribbean and French fusion which results in European influenced historical landmarks, art, museums and beautiful botanical gardens as well as a wide and welcoming choice of food. Local restaurants provide French cuisine along with regional favorites including calaloo soup, colombo, as well as plenty of seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables.
In the sea waters of the island, snorkeling and diving can be enjoyed. Along with the usual Caribbean reefs and colourful fish, Martinique also has unique man-made attractions to explore. Located in the Baie de Saint-Pierre, there are two subterranean sculptures that are the beginning of a new underwater gallery – Yemaya is a 40-foot-long siren, paying tribute to the power of the sea and the mythical female creature.
While most, if not all Caribbean islands have Rum factories, Martinique could be considered the rum capital of the Caribbean with it’s 11 distilleries and even more rum brands. Take note that French “Rhum Agricole”, is made from sugar cane juice, not molasses like the rest of the rums of the Caribbean.
Other useful Links (use your browser’s translator) to Martinique websites include:
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