With its innate natural beauty, turquoise waters and temperate climes, the island of Martinique has long been a popular Caribbean destination for European travelers in the know, as Martinique is a French overseas territory. But with limited direct flights, the Flower Island has flown under the radar for North American couples with their sights set on Caribbean honeymoon locales. The good news is that Norwegian Air is poised to change all of that. The airline will offer direct routes between Martinique and New York City, Providence, Rhode Island, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, during the upcoming peak Caribbean travel season this winter (November through March)—and fares start at a shockingly low rate of $79 one way, or $158 round trip.
So if your idea of a dream honeymoon is to completely unplug and unwind in a slice of Caribbean paradise with options for eco excursions aplenty, look no further than Martinique's protected Caravelle Peninsula, a designated nature reserve that extends into the Atlantic Ocean from the island's eastern shores and remains largely undeveloped other than its beach access points, hiking trials, historic monuments and a cluster of civilization around the fishing village of Tartane. Here's what else you need to know to plan a Caribbean honeymoon with plenty of authentic island charm.
Check In to Zen Out at French Coco
Last summer, a new eco-luxe retreat quietly opened its doors on the Caravelle Peninsula. A labor of love by husband and wife hoteliers Robert and Nadège Pellegatta and Martinique's only property to be a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, French Coco features just 17 suites, each with its own private patio, plunge pool and decorative art pieces commissioned from local artists who work with repurposed materials. Walkways to the suites meander through the property's lush, native gardens, a wonderful sensory introduction to the island's abundant flora. In the spirit of the peninsula's natural ethos, "the buildings must disappear into nature," notes Nadège, ever the consummate host, who is likely to be spotted offering guests botanical tours of the grounds, which also include and an organic chef's garden and paths that lead to the beach. (In total, six different beaches are within walking distance.)
Take a Hike in the Nature Reserve
Extending several miles into the Atlantic Ocean, the peninsula's far end is laced with hiking trails, including routes for "le petit" (the small trail), which takes about 90 minutes to complete, and also for "le grand" (the large trail), which takes approximately 3 1/2 hours to complete. Both routes start and end at Château Dubuc, the awe-inspiring ruins of a 17th century plantation that was later abandoned and eventually named a historic monument by the French government. Routes trek through mangrove forests and dry tropical terrain, with an optional detour for a dip in the Baie du Trésor, but what's most spectacular are the scenic vistas—those ever-changing ocean views that surprise and delight at every turn. One of Martinique's most spectacular vantage points, with all of the peninsula stretching out before you, is the 360-degree lookout platform near the Caravelle Lighthouse, built in 1862.
Hit the Waves for a Surf Session (or Lesson)
The Caravelle Peninsula is home to some of the sweetest surfing beaches in Martinique, notably Anse l'Etang on the peninsula's north shore. Chez Bliss, a local surf school, offers a variety of board rentals, including shortboard, longboard, bodyboard or SUP, that are available to rent by the hour, day, or week. The island's other surf school, Martinique Surfing, is based to the north in Basse-Pointe, home of the annual Martinique Surf Pro international surf competition, but the company can arrange for private surf lessons at any of Martinique's surf hotspots, including Basse-Pointe, Tartane (the peninsula) and southernly Diamant.
Set Sail for Les Fonds Blancs
No honeymoon to Martinique would be complete without a day spent sailing, swimming and snorkeling in Martinique's legendary Les Fonds Blancs—the shallow turquoise waters and white sand seafloor that surround many of the îlets (islands) in the Baie du Robert, just to the south of the Caravelle Peninsula. In fact, catamaran tour company Les Ballades du Delphis offers departures from Anse Spoutourne on the southern side of the Caravelle Peninsula directly, as well as from the marina in the seaside town of Francois a bit further south. In addition to Les Fonds Blancs, highlights include Îlet Chancel's iguana colony and ruins, a Créole lunch, numerous opportunities to swim and snorkel and the chance to sample Ti' Punch, a a typical Créole aperitif made with local sugar, fresh lime juice and local rum.
Indulge in Island to Table Cuisine
About that organic chef's garden on site at French Coco: It's not just for show. In fact, the fresh, organic ingredients grown throughout the property are omnipresent in the Créole and Caribbean menu offerings from Chef Nathanaël Ducteil, a Martinique native who returned home last year to lead the culinary team at French Coco after some years abroad in Europe—including time spent training with culinary legend Alain Ducasse. In applying refined, classically French techniques to traditionally rustic and homey island cuisine, Ducteil is breaking all sorts of culinary rules, and he's already raking in the accolades. French Coco was awarded the Grand Prix (Grand Prize) from the Académie de l'Art Culinaire du Monde Créole for 2016, a culinary arts institution that celebrates the gastronomic heritage of the Caribbean islands.
Just down the road, La Table de Mamy Nounou is another gastronomic delight, offering a nightly menu of Caribbean-inspired French fusion cuisine. Reservations are a must, but once you glimpse those sunset views, you'll understand why this tucked-away gem is beloved by locals and visitors alike.
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