Hitting the Beach
The clean white-sand beaches of Pointe du Bout, site of the major hotels of Martinique, were created by developers and tend to be rather small. Most of the tourists head here, so the narrow beaches are among the island's most crowded. It doesn't help that Pointe du Bout also has several marinas lining the shore and serves as the docking point for the ferry from Fort-de-France. Even if you don't find a lot of space on the beach, with its semiclear waters, you will find toilets, phones, restaurants, and cafes galore. The waters suffer from industrial usage, although apparently the pollution is not severe enough to prevent people from going in. You'll often see the French standing deep in the water, smoking cigarettes -- not our idea of an idyllic beach vacation.
To the south, the golden-sand beaches at Anse Mitan are far less crowded and more inviting, with cleaner waters. But the steepness of Martinique's shoreline leaves much to be desired by its swimmers and snorkelers. The water declines steeply into depths, no reefs ring the shores, and fish are rarely visible. Nonetheless, beaches here are good for sunbathing. The neighboring beach is Anse-à-l'Ane, an ideal place for a picnic.
Robert Trent Jones, Sr., designed the 18-hole Golf de l'Impératrice-Joséphine, at Trois-Ilets (tel. 596/68-32-81), a 5-minute drive from Pointe du Bout and about 30km (19 miles) from Fort-de-France. The only golf course on Martinique has greens that slope from the birthplace of Joséphine across rolling hills down to the sea. Amenities include a pro shop, a bar, and a restaurant. Greens fees are 55€ for 18 holes. There are also three tennis courts, which cost 15€ per hour.
The premier riding facility on Martinique is Ranch Jack, Esperanze, Trois-Ilets (tel. 596/68-37-69). It offers morning horseback rides for both experienced and novice riders, at a cost of 54€ for a 4-hour ride (either daily 8:30am-12:30pm or 2:30-6pm). Jacques and Marlene Guinchard make daily treks across the beaches and fields of Martinique, with a running (English-language) explanation of the history, fauna, and botany of the island. Cold drinks are included in the price, and transportation is usually free to and from the hotels of nearby Pointe du Bout. Four to 15 participants are needed to book a tour. This is an ideal way to discover both the botany and geography of Martinique.
Also on the grounds of the Hotel Carayou is an outfit specializing in jet-skiing, Jet Caraibes (tel. 596/66-09-31). A 30-minute rental of a jet ski costs 60€ for 1 or 2 persons for 30 minutes.
Scuba Diving & Snorkeling
The beachfront of the Hotel Carayou is the headquarters for the island's best dive outfit, Espace Plongée Martinique (tel. 596/66-01-79; www.espace-plongee-martinique.com), which welcomes anyone who shows up, regardless of where they're staying. Daily dive trips, depending on demand, leave from Le Kalenda's pier every day at 8am, returning at noon, and departing again at 2pm, returning at 5pm. Popular dive sites within a reasonable boat ride, with enough diversity and variation in depth to appeal to divers of all levels of proficiency, include La Baleine (the Whale) and Cap Salomon. A dive shop stocks everything you'll need to take the plunge, from weight belts and tanks to wet suits and underwater cameras. Uncertified divers pay 55€ for a baptême ("baptism"), which consists of instruction and practice time in the hotel's swimming pool, followed by a brief experience with a scuba tank in open water.
Certified divers pay 50€ for a one-tank dive, or around 90€ for a full-day excursion to Baie de St-Pierre (St. Peter's Bay) on Martinique's northern coast. Here the excursion includes two dives (morning and afternoon, in different spots), excursions in a minibus to sites of natural beauty along the north coast, and continental breakfast and a picnic lunch. It departs whenever at least five participants show sufficient interest, at 8am. Participants return to the Kalenda the same day at 5:30pm.
Coral, fish, and ferns abound in the semiclear waters around the Pointe du Bout hotels, and snorkeling equipment is usually available free to hotel guests.
An enduringly popular sport in the French West Indies, la planche à voile (windsurfing) is available at most of the large-scale hotels. One of the best equipped (and longest lived) of Martinique's windsurfing centers is Windsurf Club Martinique, which occupies a site directly on the beachfront of the Hotel Carayou (tel. 596/66-19-06). Lessons cost 100€ for 3 hours, and boards, depending on their make and model, rent for 60€ for 3 hours. A 10-hour rental costs 185€.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.