When your Caribbean cruise docks in Fort-de-France, the capital of the French territory of Martinique, you’ll quickly be swept up by the city’s energy and natural beauty, which alternates between crystal-blue waters and laid-back beaches to dense, tropical rainforest. Whether you’re touring a distillery and sipping authentic local rum or hiking the lush trails of Martinique Natural Regional Park, the Fort-de-France area offers just enough to do without being overwhelmed by the options.
Feeling like doing nothing on your cruise to Martinique? Post up on the beach with an umbrella. Want to step back in time to French colonial occupation in the Caribbean? Walk the expertly-preserved grounds of the ruins of Chateau Dubuc. Hungry for Creole cuisine, crab cakes, or octopus stew? Martinique’s foodie scene is adventurous without being too frou-frou. Whatever your mood, Martinique will rise to meet you there.
There isn’t a more relaxing place in Martinique, perhaps, than the Balata Botanical Garden, which is home to over 3,000 species of tropical plants and foliage. This botanical garden is a loving homage to horticulturalist Jean-Philippe Thoze, and it’s a must-see for those who crave green spaces and want to stretch their legs after days at sea.
Kids and adults alike enjoy the Zoo de Martinique because it’s a haven for animals as well as a preserver of the beautiful natural landscape of Martinique. You’ll spot monkeys and jaguars, to name just a few species, and the zoo’s setting in a once-prominent sugar plantation is both beautiful and historically intriguing.
Fort Saint-Louis is a French naval base that’s still in operation today. History buffs shouldn’t miss a tour of the fort, where they’ll learn about French military history and enjoy incredible bayside views from the fort’s rooftop. Tours of the fort happen every hour, and it’s open from Tuesday to Saturday.
The ruins of this 17th century chateau are nothing short of impressive, and the grounds of the chateau make for a perfect, long afternoon walk during your stop on a Fort de France cruise. The harrowing history of the Dubuc’s includes illegal crimes, smuggling, and sugar production that occurred simultaneously under just one roof.
On your cruise to Martinique, one must-do experience is a tour of a rum distillery. Spend an afternoon at Rhum Clement, where you’ll learn about the history of rum in the Caribbean dating back to the 17th century. You’ll discover the differences between French and Spanish-styles rums and how the area’s sugar cane affects the rum’s flavor. End the afternoon with plenty of tastings.
Divers and outdoorists will love the chance to submerge at Diamond Rock, which was once the site of a British fort. Head out on a sailboat from Martinique to reach Diamond Rock, then break out some scuba or snorkeling gear to catch sight of the vibrant coral growing there. Experienced divers love the coral-rich cavern beneath Diamond Rock.
Take a day out in nature at Martinique Natural Regional Park, which has been said to be one of Martinique’s most well-kept green spaces. The park offers walking trails, swimming, waterfalls, and a lush tropical rainforest for travelers to explore.
Address: 51 Rue Victor Hugo
French meets Creole at Le Yellow, where octopus stew and duck leg confit are two main menu items. Everything is homemade, and Le Yellow manages the right balance of creativity without being pretentious. The interior is, keeping in line with its namesake, banana yellow. Knowing a little bit of French will help you with the waitstaff, too.
Hasta La Pizza
Address: Rue de la Liberté
Open on Sundays, Hasta La Pizza is a no-frills wood-fire pizza joint in Fort-de-France that offers classic pizzas plus waterfront views close to the cruise terminal. If you’re hungry for a bite before getting back to the ship,Hasta La Pizza checks all the comfort food boxes.
Le Vieux Foyal
Address: 22 Rue Garnier Pagè
The ambiance at Le Vieux Foyal makes it a perfect date night during your Fort de France cruise. Bonus points for the intimate bar and charming outdoor patio, plus there’s live jazz on Thursday nights. Fresh fish and traditional Creole dishes rule the menu here. Try the crab cakes and the strong rum punch.
Address: Rue Ernest Hemingway
Le Cloud’s main draw is its rooftop bar overlooking Martinique and the waterfront. The cocktails are creatively executed and include the classic concoctions you’d expect, plus Le Cloud offers finger foods, charcuterie, and cheese boards for when you get hungry.
Martinique is a French territory in the Caribbean, so French is primarily spoken here. It’s useful to learn some basic French phrases for your time on the island, though many locals who work with tourists speak English. France and Britain fought for control over the island various times from the 17th to 19th centuries until the French eventually claimed the island for the long haul in 1974. Fort-de-France is the capital of Martinique and has undergone a large-scale improvement of the city to make it more friendly for travelers and passersby.
On your cruise to Martinique, your ship will either dock at the Pointe Simon pier or nearby Tourelles, which is just a 15-minute walk to the center of town. Currency exchange and ATMs are available near the pier. From there, walking to the beach, exploring the center of Martinique, or heading out on a shore excursion are the most popular activities.
A ferry, called a vedette, can take you from the resorts of Martinique over to Fort-de- France. Taxis are also available in Martinique from the cruise port, but ridesharing hasn’t come to the area yet. Car rentals are a popular way for travelers to strike out on their own and drive the length of the island. Downtown Martinique is fairly walkable as well.
Local vendors sell their wares on the streets of Martinique, and the center of town boasts some high-end boutiques for clothing, handbags, jewelry, leather goods, and more. Martinique offers pricey, upscale shopping or laidback open-air markets for fresh fruits and vegetables. You’ll easily lose track of time walking around and shopping among the brightly colored, pastel colonial buildings.
While in Martinique, use the euro (€) as the area’s official currency. U.S. dollars are often accepted. Credit cards are also commonly used when at restaurants, but it’s good to carry a little bit of cash as needed. It’s polite to round up to the nearest euro for taxi rides and nights out at restaurants, but tipping is not a huge part of the culture in Martinique.