Dreaming of volcano treks and idyllic beaches? Then, Martinique should be your next destination! This volcanic island recently caught my attention when I found a flight deal from Montreal to Fort-de-France for the ridiculously low price of $390… and that’s return (5-hour direct flight! Beat that!)
Nomad Tip: By booking on FlightHub instead of directly from the Norwegian Airline website, I scored one free checked luggage! #WIN
It seems as though very few backpackers consider Martinique a backpacking destination. It’s perceived as an expensive country in which to travel, which isn’t false, really. The backpacking circuit in the West Indies isn’t so developed… but thankfully, the flight was cheap! Don’t worry, though, as there are quite a few ways to visit Martinique on a budget.
The good news is that access to all hiking trails in Martinique is free, even the ones under the jurisdiction of the Office National des Forêts don’t charge an entrance fee! And the views… they’re priceless!
In this hiking paradise (Martinique has over 180 km of marked trails), you’ll find it hard to pick only one trek. We’ve selected for you some of the most noteworthy treks to discover on your next trip to Martinique.
Trekking to Didier Waterfalls (Cascades Didier)
- Level of difficulty: Intermediate
- Duration of the trek: 1h45 for the return trip (half-day activity)
- Distance: approximately 3 km
- Landscape: lush jungle, rivers and waterfalls
This non-official trek (you won’t find this one on the maps provided by the Office National des Forêts) is mind-blowing! Your challenge will be to follow the clues to reach the Didier Falls while tracing the river upstream.
⚠️ Follow these directions carefully to get to Didier Falls:
- Type in “Didier Fall” on Maps.me to find its exact location on the island
- Use your GPS to drive to the site and park your car at the nearby water treatment plant.
- Look out for the “Zone interdite” (restricted area) sign: that’s the start of the trail. Just walk over the chain at the gate and follow the path. Rules are meant to be broken… right?
- At some point, you’ll have to cross a muddy bridge. Keep going, you’re on the right way!
- Then, things get a bit sketchy as you’ll have to enter a gloomy tunnel. Make sure to pack a frontal lamp since you’ll need both hands to steady yourself as you find your balance on slippery pipes.
- Once you exit the “Tunnel of Horrors,” you’ll reach a stream. If you look all the way to your right, you’ll spot a trail that follows the water. Go right on this trail which runs parallel to the Duclos River.
- When you see a tiny waterfall, you’ll think that you’ve made it to your destination, but you must carry on to get to the first “real” waterfall.
- Don’t make the same mistake as most tourists who stop at the first waterfalls. You should arrive to the right of this first set of falls, so you’ll have to walk over some rocks and get your feet wet as you make your way across the river to get to the Didier Falls. From there, follow the trail going up the falls to the left.
- Keep walking along the river (and sometimes, in the actual river with water up to your knees!) I know what you’re thinking, with all these obstacles on the path, you’ll doubt that you’re even on the right track… Trust me, you won’t want to give up now!
- Voila! You’ve finally made it to the section of the river where you can bask in the majestic beauty of the Didier Falls. Time to swim, chill and enjoy the stunning scenery before making your way back on the same trail.
Hike the “Trace des Caps” Trail
- Level of difficulty: Intermediate
- Duration of the trek: 12 hours (either a REALLY long day or multi-day trek)
- Distance: 34 km
- Landscape: picturesque beaches, imposing rock formations and hidden coves
In the south of the island, you’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches of Martinique. In order to make the most of this picturesque scenery, we decided to set up our base at an Airbnb in the lovely village of Sainte-Anne. It did not disappoint!
Sainte-Anne is also the starting point of the Trace des Caps trail (or the endpoint depending on the direction which you chose to hike the trail). This 34 km trek on a marked trail can be divided into five sections:
- Petit Macabou to Cap Macré (5 km – 2.5 hrs)
- Cap Macré to Cap Chevalier (7 km – 3 hrs)
- Cap Chevalier to Baie des Anglais (6.5 km – 3 hrs)
- Anse Trabaud to Salines (5 km – 2 hrs)
- Salines to Anse Caritan (4.5 km – 1.5 hrs)
Although this trek is on somewhat flat terrain, don’t underestimate the challenge posed by the tropical heat!
Always make sure to carry enough water with you.
Many hikers will prefer to walk this coastal path over a two- or three-day trek. However, it’s also possible to explore only certain sections of the trail if you’re not interested (or don’t have time) in doing a multi-day trek. Just park your car at one spot, follow the path in one direction and make your way back along the same route.
We love: The picture-perfect Salines beach, although it’s unlikely that you’ll have the beach to yourself as it’s the most popular spot for tourists. Coming in close second is Anse Michel, a paradise for kite surfers!
Trekking the La Caravelle Peninsula
- Level of difficulty: Intermediate
- Duration of the trek: Loop of 4 hours (half-day trip)
- Distance: 8 km
- Landscape: Arid forest, rocky seashores and panoramic views
While many surfers flock to La Caravelle Peninsula for the best breaks on the island, La Caravelle also attracts hikers who can access two marked trails for a half-day trip.
The loop can be completed from either direction. You’ll be surrounded by a variety of exotic vegetation such as mangroves, arid forests and tropical beaches.
The most impressive viewpoint is undoubtedly at the Caravelle Lighthouse, whose construction dates back to 1862. You won’t want to miss it!
Pack your swimsuit and snorkelling gear as you’ll also stumble upon a few smaller beaches to refresh yourself along the trail.
⚠️ There is nowhere to get drinking water on the way. Make sure you have enough water for the trek and bring sun protection… seriously. You won’t regret it!
Hiking Mount Pelée
- Level of difficulty: Difficult (steep incline)
- Duration of the trek: 4.5 hours (round trip)
- Elevation: 700 metres
- Distance: 6 km
Mount Pelée is an active volcano infamously known for its cataclysmic eruption in 1902. It is the 3rd deadliest volcano eruption in the world, killing all 30,000 inhabitants of Saint-Pierre and destroying the town in less than five minutes.
As a matter of fact, Safia’s great-great-grandfather was among the unfortunate victims while her great-great-grandmother and their daughter sought refuge in Morne Rouge, narrowly escaping this devastating catastrophe. Don’t worry though, it’s not likely to erupt again anytime soon!
Several trails will allow you to explore Mount Pelée. Regardless of which you choose, this is a trek that will have to be earned. The “Route de l’Aileron” is the most popular trail with a direct (read treacherous!) access to the caldera.
The volcano receives 8 to 10 metres of rainfall a year, so plan accordingly. Bring a rain jacket and a rain cover for your backpack. Watch your step as the path winds along the rim of the mountain with steep drops on both sides of the trails. The rocky ground can make for a challenging ascent at times. Also, prepare yourself to climb up quite a few stairs, but I swear it’s all worth it!
The spectacular views will blow your mind as you make your way to the summit.
Nomad Tip: Begin your climb very early in the morning, around 6:30 am. From 10 am onwards, clouds cover the mountain, thus considerably reducing the visibility.
What to bring in Martinique
For a trip to Martinique, pack clothing that will be suitable for the beach, but also for physical activity.
What to Pack for Hiking:
Bring a day bag like the Osprey Daylite 13L or if you’re planning a multi-day trek, a bigger pack such as the Osprey Rook 50.
The weather can be sometimes unpredictable, even during the same day, so be sure to pack a raincoat and a windbreaker. The wind gusts might make it feel a little chilly up on Mount Pelée, so a long sleeve merino wool shirt will come in handy for your climb up the volcano. For your footwear, invest in a good pair of water sandals like Chacos that have a sturdy sole perfect for hiking to waterfalls and crossing rivers. Pack your favourite pair of hiking boots for more extreme trekking.
You would also like: 10 Pack Accessories That Will Change the Way You Travel
What to Pack for the Beach:
Pack basic items such as a swimsuit, a sarong or a beach blanket (you won’t find many sun beds on the beaches), sunglasses, sunscreen and mosquito repellent.
Which Activities Can You Do in Martinique?
In addition to hiking, which is accessible from practically everywhere on the island, the best spot for surfing is at La Caravelle Peninsula (Presqu’île de la Caravelle). Surfing lessons are offered from four or five different surf schools for about €25.
For scuba diving, there are four main areas:
- The northern coast (black volcanic sand seabed and shipwrecks)
- Around Anse d’Arlet (white sand seabed)
- Diamond Rock Bay (natural cave near Diamond Rock Tavern)
- The south of the island towards Sainte-Luce and Sainte-Anne (huge coral gardens)
For the best kite surfing spots in Martinique, head to the beach of Anse Michel, the beach of Pointe Faula (just outside of Vauclin) and Point du Bout in Trois-Ilets.
Money Saving Tip: Pack a mask and snorkel to avoid the cost of renting a set.
We love: Anse Dufour where you can snorkel with giant turtles just a few metres off the beach. It’s an incredible experience that’s accessible to everyone!