Interiors of the Cap Est Lagoon Resort & Spa are a mix of classic and modern luxury



For a split second, I forgot where I was.

If it weren't for the bottles of flavored rum in my suitcase and the sunburn on my chest, I wouldn't have realized I had just returned after a five-day trip to Martinique in the Caribbean.

Tucked away in the heart of the Lesser Antilles, the island has all the gems that the rest of the Caribbean getaways offer-from beautiful beaches to fruity, mixed drinks to delicious seafood and friendly locals.

But the Mediterranean feel that Martinique offers along with an abundance of French touches, old libraries and beautiful churches, blends Europe and the Caribbean so well that you might forget which continent you are on. Here's a sampling of some of the cool hotels, beautiful landscapes and latest news from our trip to Martinique.

Martinique Hotels

From couples resorts that are hidden and off-the-beaten path such as Le Plein Soleil Hotel and the modern luxury-oriented Cap Est Lagoon Resort & Spa to the family- friendly Hotel Bakoua, Travel Agent discovered a hotel for just about any client seeking to travel to Martinique.

If you like the outdoors and don't mind a friendly visit from a frog or an insect or two, you'll love Le Plein Soleil Hotel. It is ideal for couples seeking to escape the outside world and all its distractions. Like all Martinique properties, there are no clocks in the rooms and hardly any TV channels in English. But the sounds of crickets at night and occasionally being waited on by the owner himself provide a quiet, personal getaway for couples. Agents should contact General Manager Jean-Christophe Yoyo at 011-596-596-38-0777, or [email protected].

Cap Est Lagoon Resort & Spa is Martinique's best luxury resort, the island's only five-star property and Travel Agent's personal favorite. There are 50 suites, 30 of which have private plunge pools. Room #133, an Executive Suite Duplex, has an outdoor shower and a TV that rotates so you can watch it either from the living room or the outdoor plunge pool. Book this property for affluent couples looking for the perfect mix of classic and modern luxury. Agents should contact Stephane Van de Kerckhove, director of sales and marketing, at 011-331-537-52-238, or [email protected].

Hotel Bakoua, in the destination's liveliest area-near shops, restaurants and a casino-is the best family resort we stayed at in Martinique. It has 137 rooms and suites, all with balconies or patios, two restaurants, a cocktail lounge, two tennis courts and a swimming pool. Agents should call Michel Balthazar, general manager, at 011-596-596-66-02-02, or [email protected].

A Taste of Martinique

Local tour operator Tak-Tak Martinique organized a full day for Travel Agent and other media members to get a taste of the Martinique culture. We toured Fideline 2000, a local laboratory that produces nearly 100 natural products from shampoo to syrup for strengthening a cow's feet. The facility offers tours, but reservations need to be made 15 days in advance. Agents should e-mail mailto://[email protected].


The intimate dining room at the Le Plein Soleil Hotel


We then went to a local beekeeper to see how honey is made before sampling some ourselves. We hopped back on the bus, and took a nearly one-hour drive to the rainforest of Martinique where we experienced one of the destination's more unique local attractions-storytelling. A popular actor recites a few moral tales in Creole to the sounds of drums while local Martinique children dance. You can book this or something similar by contacting Patrick Duchel, promoter for Tak-Tak Martinique, at [email protected]. Since Duchel doesn't speak English, agents may prefer to e-mail the Martinique Promotion Bureau's New York office at [email protected].

Other Gems in Martinique

The Clement Distillery and Plantation Home and the Neisson Distillery are two places to see the production of local rum and also pick up a few bottles.

The Diamond Rock, similar to one of the Pintons in St. Lucia, is a great landmark to drive by and photograph. Other beautiful landmarks include the St. Louis Cathedral and the Schoelcher Library. Also, get clients educated in Martinique's history while visiting the Anse Cafard Slave Memorial, an ensemble of 20 colossal stone statues overlooking the sea. It serves as a reminder of the tragic night on April 7, 1830, when a slave ship sank, along with its cargo of men, women and children.

Revisiting Tourism Strategy

We sat down with Madeliene Jouye de Grandmaison, chairwoman of the Martinique Promotion Bureau, who told us the French prime minister will hold a meeting in September to reevaluate Martinique's tourism strategy, including plans to start direct flights from the U.S. and allowing locals to work Sundays to keep shops open for cruise passengers.



Diamond Rock, one of Martinique’s most famous landmarks

"Although we have daily flights with American Eagle, we need more full planes [out of the U.S.]," says de Grandmaison. "It isn't easy, but we are trying to get there."

Currently, the destination offers flights out of San Juan and will soon start direct flights through Air Canada-which remains an option for U.S. travelers out of Boston and other cities.

Despite being hit by demonstrations in late February as part of a strike, Martinique still expects to see a 20 percent increase in cruise passengers from the same period last year, says Jacques Bajal, Martinique's cruise and sailing department manager. He expects 112,000 passengers from October 2009 to April 2010, which is a 20 percent increase from the same period last year.


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