If you’re taking advantage of Norwegian Air’s new flights from the U.S. to Martinique for $69, I’m betting your vacation goals include crystal-clear waters and white sand beaches. If that’s the case, you’ll want to make a beeline for Trois-Ilets, or French for “Three Islands,” Martinique’s top resort town. Located about a 30-minute drive from the airport in Le Lamentin, Trois-Ilets is ultra touristy but provides a good home base for those looking to explore during the island during the day and have restaurants and shops within walking distance of their hotel at night. You can also reach Trois-Ilets via ferry from the capital city, Fort-de-France.
Where to Stay in Trois-Ilets, Martinique
I visited Martinique with my parents and sister for our annual family vacation, and we stayed at Hotel Bakoua, a resort located right on the waterfront. Rooms start at around $174 per night, but if you’re looking to splurge, go for one of the rooms with an ocean view balcony (around $300 per night). The amenities make it worth it: a substantial breakfast buffet, welcome cocktails and access to the resort’s private beach.
Paddle boards, kayaks and snorkels can be rented right on the beach at the hotel, and the location is also convenient to a number of restaurants that are within walking distance. The Hotel Bakoua staff went out of their way to make sure we had a great time, and they even had a private fireworks show for guests on New Year’s Eve. Does it get any better than that?
The only part of Hotel Bakoua that I didn’t love was the fact that the Coco Bar, where you can sip daiquiris with your feet dangling over the water, closed up at 5pm. Doesn’t it just look like heaven?? There aren’t really many bars open at night in Martinique, so if you’re looking for a big nightlife destination I’d urge you to look at another Caribbean island.
A budget-friendly alternative that is located literally next door to Hotel Bakoua is Village Creole, which offers apartment-style accommodations starting at around $85 per night. We dined at several of the restaurants in the Village Creole complex during our stay and the location is great (sadly, you’ll forfeit the ocean view).
If you’d prefer to escape the hustle and bustle of Trois-Ilets and get “off the beaten path,” Residence Les Cayalines is another apartment-style complex located further south in Saint-Luce (rooms start at around $120 per night). While the area lacks the restaurant scene of Trois-Ilets, it is within walking distance to much more beautiful beaches and offers convenient driving access to a few of southern Martinique’s top attractions.
Note: the above paragraph contains affiliate links to Booking.com, meaning I earn a small commission on any resulting bookings. As always, my opinions reflect my experience and personal knowledge.
Things to Do in Trois-Ilets, Martinique
While Trois-Ilets is the happening area for French vacationers of Martinique, there isn’t much to do in the actual town. Instead, you’ll want to book a boating excursion or hop in the car for a road trip.
If you’re planning a trip to Martinique, by now you’ve probably realized that there’s little logistical information online about what to do when you get there. I really struggled to book tours in advance – but don’t worry! Once you get there, you’ll realize that you just need to walk down to the marina of Trois-Ilets to find companies where you can book all kinds of tours, from adventurous water sports to booze cruises (well, the classy French version of a booze cruise).
See Dolphins in the Wild, Snorkel with Turtles
If you get planning anxiety like me and are dying to book in advance, I recommend Planete Dauphins, which accepts reservations via email. The small group boat tour took us up to the northern coast of Martinique to spot dolphins in the wild. While being able to say I’ve seen dolphins in the wild was cool, it wasn’t exactly a highlight of the adventure since there were so many other boats around trying to finagle photos. However, the real reason to book a boat tour here is the view of the island from the sea. It’s gorgeous!
The second part of the tour took us back to the south, where you’ll hop into the water and snorkel with some colorful fish and even a few sea turtles. Even though the tour description focused on dolphins, this was my favorite part.
See Le Diamant and the Anse Cafard Slave Memorial
After a morning tour with Planete Dauphins, we drove further south to see one of the most beautiful natural wonders of Martinique, Le Rocher du Diamant or Diamond Rock. An uninhabitable diamond-shaped islet, the rock was once used by the British as a stronghold as they fought the French over control of the island.
Another nearby sight is the Anse Cafard Slave Memorial. While it’s easy to forget when you’re surrounded by beautiful beaches and tropical cocktails, the Caribbean region has a history closely tied with slavery and in Martinique the stories are prominently remembered throughout the island. This memorial, located within view of Le Rocher du Diamant, was created by Martinican sculptor Laurent Valére to pay a sobering tribute to a horrific shipwreck. In 1830, a ship carrying a cargo of Africans destined for the by-then-illicit Caribbean slave market crashed into the rocky shore nearby. Forty six bodies were recovered, all but four of them Africans who were buried in a mass grave. The Anse Cafard memorial features 15 massive 8-foot-tall statues arranged in a triangle. Representing the slaves who lost their lives, the hunched statues stoically face the ocean, and the home they were forced to leave.
Island Hop on the Atlantic Coast
On day 2 in Trois-Ilets, we took our rental car and drove to the other side of the island hoping to book an island hopping tour in the town of Le Francois. However, we didn’t realize that it would be a dead zone on Jan. 1st thanks to the holiday. If you’re in Martinique on a Sunday or a holiday, make it a beach day – NOTHING is open!
So we had to re-do the hour-long drive and come back the next day. Luckily, it was worth it! The drive through the hilly center of the island alone is fascinating, and I’ll give you $20 if you don’t hop out of your car at least three times to take photos of the view.
We arrived at the marina in Le Francois to discover that we’d had a mix up with a tour we booked and they didn’t have our reservation. #LanguageBarrierProblems. Fortunately, a man standing nearby wanted to help us, and he introduced us to some fishermen hanging out in the marina. One of them, whose name was Dimitri, agreed to take us out on his boat island hopping. He didn’t speak a word of English, but seemed nice enough!
Our first stop was La Baignoire de Josephine, or Josephine’s Bathtub, which is essentially a sandbar in between two islands named after the Martinique-born French empress Josephine. Here Dimitri pulled out a slightly sketchy plastic bottle of liquor concoction and began pouring us drinks. Did I mention it was about 9:30am?
After enjoying these questionable drinks (hey, when in Martinique!), we plopped down on one of the islands nearby for an hour of swimming and lounging. The half-day tour ended on the Ilet Oscar, which is where the party is at, apparently. Martinique locals were pulling up in their boats, armed with coolers of food to cook on the grills and bottles upon bottles of booze. Dimitri introduced us to some of his friends and we had a couple more drinks with them. While communication was a little rough, it was definitely an adventure – and much less expensive than the tour we’d originally booked!
As we exited the boat at the end of our tour, Dimitri handed me his business card. If you want to arrange a tour with him, you can call him at 06.96.29.48.76. Or, just show up in Le Francois and ask around!
Visit a Rum Distillery
After a half-day island hopping tour from Le Francois, it was convenient to stop by one of the most interesting rum distilleries in Martinique, Habitation Clement. However, if you’re crunched for time and/or not a rum enthusiast, I’d recommend skipping this one. While every guide book pushes the rum distilleries as one of the island’s top attractions, they’re basically museums. And did you come to the Caribbean to go to museums? I didn’t think so. Worth a quick walk through if you’re truly interested, and the tasting if you happen to love rum (I don’t).
Hit the Beach
Well, duh. You can’t go to the Caribbean and not spend time on the beach, right? Now it’s time for a confession: I kinda hate going to the beach. Walking on the beach, fine. Photographing the beach, great. Cocktails and meals on the beach, fantastic. But the lay your towel down, pile on the sunscreen and prepare to plop yourself on the beach for five hours kind of day? Really not my thing. So I must confess that I only spent a few hours of my time in Martinique on the beach.
The first beach we visited was in the town of Les Anses d’Arlets. A tourist favorite, the beach has very calm waters and is dotted with restaurants where you can dine with your feet in the sand and rent lounge chairs afterwards. We wandered into a random restaurant run by a husband and wife and ordered up some poisson grille for lunch.
A slightly more scenic beach can be found, as I mentioned before, to the south in Saint-Luce. The water is a lot rougher here, so swimmers have to be careful. But the views of Diamond Rock and the southern coast are amazing. There are also quite a few eateries on this beach, but most were closed the afternoon we visited.
Where to Eat in Trois-Ilets
Already time for another confession: I don’t really like French food. Ok, so they’ve totally nailed bread and their pastries are pretty yummy. But authentic French dinner food just doesn’t really appeal to me. By the time we arrived in Trois-Ilets I was over the French meals and ready for some variation. Luckily, the resort town has a ton of restaurants. A few that I liked:
- Havana Cafe in Village Creole is where I found Mexican food in Martinique. They also have really tasty burgers.
- Also located in Village Creole, L’Annexe is focused on meat and brings a grill to your table so you can cook each piece to perfection. So fun for a group! The service here was ridiculously slow, but that’s the case almost everywhere in Martinique, as you will discover after a few meals.
- Le Kano was a more upscale dinner, right on the beach. While the food and vibe were great, unfortunately I think our waitress was drunk. She never came back to our table after bringing us our food (even though she forgot a few things) and we had to pay the bartender on the way out.
And that was Martinique! I still have one more post to share about our adventures in the northern volcanic part of the island, so stay tuned (and hit subscribe below). Now tell me: are you going to look into Norwegian’s $69 flights to Martinique?!?