exploring the island Despite the comfortable, inspiring amenities found within Martinique’s hotels and resorts, most visitors here spend only a fraction of their time in the place where they’re staying. And with good reason: the island’s fine dining, fascinating historical attractions and chic European ambiance lure clients out into its unique cultural mix. Here, after all, is where you’ll find one of the most important sites of French colonialism in the Caribbean, La Pagerie Museum. Set on the former sugar plantation where Josephine de Beauharnais, the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, grew up, its restored buildings now house paintings, furniture, dinnerware and other artifacts from the late-1700s and early-1800s.
Clients can also see the other side of plantation life at La Savane des Esclaves, an outdoor museum dedicated to the island’s slave history and the legacy of its escapees. As they walk from thatched hut to thatched hut—themselves modeled after homes escaped slaves erected for themselves in the wilderness—clients learn about what life was like on the plantations, witness the furniture, dishes and tools they made for themselves and used after escaping. An onsite garden grows herbs and plants that once sustained communities of escaped slaves, including bay leaves and cassava.
For a more comprehensive sampling of Martinique’s flowers and plants—which number as many as 3,000—tell clients to head to the Balata Botanical Garden. Set high in the mountains, the Balata Botanical Garden is one of the most picturesque botanical gardens in the Caribbean, showing off the island’s most significant tropical plants. Walking its winding, concrete paths, clients will see fern trees towering above them, with their roots springing up from the ground and covered with bromeliads and orchids. Tropical flowers of every color line the walkways. But the most stunning views here are the vistas visible from the cliffs, where the trees part to reveal cloud-topped mountain peaks across lush, green valleys. A popular attraction for cruise passengers, the Balata Botanical Garden offers visitors two different trails through its grounds: a short path for visitors on a tight schedule, and a longer, more extensive path for clients with the luxury of wandering to their hearts’ content.