When you find a cheap direct flight to a French Caribbean island during the coldest month of winter, ONE MUST GO! Norwegian airlines flies direct to the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe from Boston and New York City during November through March for under $300 dollars. You can fly to an exotic island cheaper than flying within the United States.
Note: Norwegian no longer flies direct from Boston, but you can fly direct from Providence if you live in New England.
Only a four hour flight, my friends and I spent four nights on Diamant beach in February. Martinique currency is the Euro but the prices are reasonable and you can get by with less than $100 dollars a day on food, drink and entertainment. I would recommend renting a car to explore the island, especially if you reserve a hotel away from Martinique’s capital, Fort-de-France.
The official language of Martinique is French, but you will find a combination of Antillean Creole being spoken as well. The French and Creole cuisine also dominate the culinary landscape of Martinique. Dishes consist of mainly seafood with curries and fritters. Luckily, being a pescetarian, I was able to find a variety of food to eat, but for my vegetarian friend, it was a bit more difficult. She found herself eating cheese sandwiches and rice and bean dishes.
We stayed in the town of Le Diamant at the Diamant Beach Hotel. The hotel was basic with no frills but you will enjoy an excellent view of the diamond rock formation on the ocean and one of the best restaurants in town. We booked a studio apartment that slept three people. If you love cats, you’ll see some cute friendly strays around the property. You might also run into a lovely banana tree near the restaurant. The hotel is within walking distance to Le Diamant’s small town center, where you’ll find gift shops, grocery stores and cafés.
A beautiful slave memorial sits on the top of a mountain in Le Diamant, called Memorial Anse Caffard. Much like other Caribbean islands, the slave trade was a heavy part of Martinique’s history. The stone statues memorialize an 1830 accident when a slave ship crashed into Diamond Rock mountain, killing the slaves handcuffed in the cargo areas of the ship. The 20 hunching statues stand about 8 feet high and depict the grave events of that tragic day long ago.
We also took a drive one day to what is noted as one of the most beautiful beaches in Martinique, Grande Anse des Salines in Ste. Anne. The crystal clear blue waters with miles of palm trees is a photographer’s dream. Les Salines beach is worthy of a full day of sunbathing. Besides the warm beach waters, there is plenty of food vendors for travelers who did not pack a picnic lunch. There is also shopping all along the beach if you want to buy some Martinique keepsakes.
Food and Drink
The French Caribbean food is made for fish and seafood lovers. If you are a carnivore or vegetarian it’s tougher to find good dining choices. If you do not eat meat or fish like my friend, you can find a lot of chefs on the island who will substitute beans in many of the dishes or cheese sandwiches in place of the meat. I’m someone who does not eat meat, but love fish and seafood (and spice) so my options were plentiful. However, being three foodies, we had a harder time finding the type of quality gourmet meals we were accustomed to in Boston. Luckily, the hotel we stayed at had one of the best restaurants which we ate at a few times. Carre Bleu is the restaurant at Le Diamant Beach Hotel and the chef is very accommodating. The wait staff was outstanding and could understand English and speak it as well.
The next restaurant we stumbled upon one night. We wanted to find a place to have a drink and La Voile Blanche was on the path between the walk to our hotel and the little town. It was the closest place you can get to a restaurant/lounge bar in Le Diamant. The restaurant had open doors with tables inside and outside near the beach. There were also some lounge chairs near the water if you were just ordering drinks, which is exactly what we did on our first visit to this restaurant. The second time we came for dinner and sat outside. The menu had a lot more options for a variety of eaters (vegetarians, carnivores, etc.) along with a wine list and variety of cocktails.
The next place we kept going back to was a little beach shack off the side of the main road. On our first walk to beach shack we walked past a beautiful cemetery and right after we saw a road sign labeled “Rue Barack Obama” which we couldn’t be happier to see two months after our devastating U.S. election. You’ll find the small little turquoise shack right by the beach with the best, freshest piña colada and sweetest wait staff in Diamant.
Top 5 Favorites
- The view from the balcony at Le Diamant hotel.
- The turquoise shack on the beach in Diamant
- Anse Caffard
- Les Salines in St. Anne
- Carre Bleu