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5 day rum excursion in Martinique

5 day rum excursion in Martinique

Old Jan 29, 20, 1:50 pm
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5 day rum excursion in Martinique

I went to Martinique for 5 days in August. It's not a very popular tourist destination for English speakers, I'm guessing because not many people on the island speak English and the island is against "all inclusive" places that most American tourists like on tropical islands. In fact, it was difficult to even find a flight here from the US. AA and Air France only have flights to FDF once or twice a week, and only during certain times of the year.

The high tourist season is December - March so I thought going in August would be interesting. Overall the island felt really empty because so many people leave Martinique for vacation during the month of August. As expected, the weather was hot and sticky. The mosquitos were brutal at dusk, so I was stuck under the mosquito net after 6pm or so.

Anyways, my journey started at ORD, had a connecting flight in MIA, then finally landed at FDF. It took a lot of time to get checked bags. Welcome to island time! I believe we waited for 30-45min and unfortunately the wifi was barely usable in the baggage claim area. The view from the terminal was very beautiful.



After exiting the airport, I headed over to a little "shack" that had all of the offices for rental companies. I signed the paperwork, handed over my credit card for a deposit and was told to get in a van which will take you to the main office with car lot. At this point it was close to 6pm and was already getting dark so this day was pretty much over.

My AirBnB had an amazing view! Not too shabby for like $35 per night.



OK, so I am a HUGE rum fan so one of my main priorities on this trip was to visit as many distilleries as possible. My goal for the first day was to drive to Grand Rivière, the northernmost city in Martinique to go to Rhum JM. It was about a 1hr drive according to Google Maps but because the roads are so narrow and winding it ended up taking 1.5hr.

On the way I stopped in Sainte Marie and saw a beautiful church.



The views here were amazing!



I also stopped by Saint James distillery. This place was interesting because there is a train ride that takes you through fields and they tell you about types of trees and plants that grow on the island. The tasting wasn't great and they seemed to cater to locals who prefer cheaper white rum, so I bought a few bottles and left without doing a tasting.





After another 45min or so, I finally arrived at Rhum JM. Holy cow, the views were amazing!

The rum tasting here was very good! They had about 8 different varieties to try. Since I was driving, I limited myself to 5.









After leaving JM, my next stop was the beach at Anse Couleuvre which is known for having black sand. It's relatively close to Rhum JM and Grand Rivière but there is no road at the very northern part of the island, so you have to go back south, then back west, then north again. The way the crow flies, it's probably about 20km but the drive is 1.5 hours.

Also, some roads in Martinique are VERY scary. They are narrow and there are tons of blind corners. And the locals like to drive very fast. I was driving 40-50km/h and they were passing me going 65 around corners. At one point I was going up a very steep hill and the car was in 3rd gear and was really struggling. By the time I downshifted into second gear, the car had come to almost a complete stop. By the time I got it into 1st gear, it stalled. Getting the car going again on such a steep hill was VERY challenging. Fortunately there were no cars around.



Finally made it to Anse Couleuvre! It was about a 15-20min walk through the woods to find the beach but it was well worth it. It was about an hour from getting dark and I wanted to be at least halfway back to the AirBnB (which was 1.5hr drive), so I only stayed 30min or so.





I mentioned the scary roads earlier. See for yourself here. I was about halfway back to the AirBnB when it got dark. And when I say dark, I mean dark! No lights of any kind except for on your car.

https://streamable.com/00bxj
https://streamable.com/034tk

The next day I went to Fort de France. It's the capital city of Martinique and sort of feels like a mix of New Orleans French Quarter, Paris, and a dirty city in Eastern Europe. Highlights included a beautiful church, and market selling spices, fruits, homemade rum, and other little trinkets.













The next day I went to the La Caravelle nature park and hiked up to the lighthouse for some great views.



The food on the island was quite good but a little expensive. Seafood and creole cuisine are the most popular. This fish, beans, and salad was around 17 euros.



And in the afternoon I headed down to Plage des Salines which is rated one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I certainly believe it. The waves were minimal and the water was sparkling clean. In August it wasn't very busy but I can see this place being packed in the tourist months. Unlike some of the other remote beaches, this one has bathrooms, vendors, and restaurants.





The next morning I went to Trois Rivières distillery. It's a nice facility with a decent tasting program.



And then I headed over to Les Anses d'Arlet which is one of the most beautiful beach towns I've ever seen.







Then I stopped in Carrefour to do some rum shopping. The impression was impressive with very low prices.





Next stop was La Favorite distillery. I really liked this one because it felt very "mom & pop". You can see the entire operation from where the sugarcane arrives to where they distill the product. The bottling operation was a small shelter shack near the parking lot.





Other distilleries I visited were HSE and Neisson but I forgot to take pictures at these.

For those who are interested, there are several duty free shops at FDF airport with decent selections. The price is higher than at the distillery or Carrefour, but much cheaper than what it would cost in France or the US.
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Old Jan 29, 20, 7:57 pm
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Interesting
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Old Jan 30, 20, 6:18 am
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That's a lot of rum!
Thanks for the pictures and TR.

As I am not familiar with Martinique, I read the following facts on wikipedia:
tourism-related jobs are now higher than agricultural jobs.
unemployment-rate for those <25 years is 60%
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Last edited by zip10001; Jan 30, 20 at 11:46 am
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Old Jan 30, 20, 6:47 am
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You had me at '5 day rum excursion'. Really interesting. I wonder if it would have been worth it to have hired a driver/guide for the day so you could enjoy the tastings more?
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Old Jan 30, 20, 7:54 am
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Thank you for this! A fascinating trip report and gorgeous photos.

My experience in the Caribbean has been limited to PR and St Kitts & Nevis, but I've often thought Martinique would be an interesting destination (like you, I like rum!) Is renting a car necessary, or is there semi-decent public transportation to main destinations? Those roads look scary hehe.
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Old Jan 30, 20, 9:14 am
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Originally Posted by bitterproffit View Post
You had me at '5 day rum excursion'. Really interesting. I wonder if it would have been worth it to have hired a driver/guide for the day so you could enjoy the tastings more?
It could have maybe been worth it, but the samples were really small (like maybe 1/4 - 1/3oz) and most places had 4-8 samples available so even if you had all of them it would have been maximum of 2oz. I would have been fine to drive, I just like being careful.

Originally Posted by M60_to_LGA View Post
Thank you for this! A fascinating trip report and gorgeous photos.

My experience in the Caribbean has been limited to PR and St Kitts & Nevis, but I've often thought Martinique would be an interesting destination (like you, I like rum!) Is renting a car necessary, or is there semi-decent public transportation to main destinations? Those roads look scary hehe.
The thing I like most about Martinique is it's very authentic feeling. The island really doesn't rely heavily on tourist money like other islands, so the tourist industry is small. Not having mobs of tourists, cruise ships, and Hilton/Marriott types of places on every corner was very nice.

Yes, I'd say renting a car is a must. I saw a few bus stops, but it didn't look like they came very frequently. Fortunately renting a car on the island was affordable. I think I paid something like $100 for 5 days.
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Old Jan 30, 20, 11:14 am
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Very cool! My dad was here with some friends back in the 70s. (He's from Montreal so he speaks French.) They rented a deux chevau (Citroen 2CV) and had to get half the guys to get out and push when they came to a stop at a crossroads facing uphill. Hopefully the cars are a bit better than that now (but still French, of course).
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Old Feb 2, 20, 2:33 pm
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Thumbs up

Poisson
Very nice good trip report especially on the rum. Martinique is one of the rum islands (Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica etc) on my list of places to visit in the not so distant future. Do you prefer the agricoles over the other styles of of rum?

Did you visit Depaz distillery? (Who also makes Dillion)
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Old Feb 3, 20, 4:48 pm
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Originally Posted by poisson View Post
The thing I like most about Martinique is it's very authentic feeling. The island really doesn't rely heavily on tourist money like other islands, so the tourist industry is small. Not having mobs of tourists, cruise ships, and Hilton/Marriott types of places on every corner was very nice..
We are heading there (and Guadeloupe) at the end of March for these very reasons, so it was great to read your report
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Old Feb 5, 20, 9:29 am
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Originally Posted by Scubatooth View Post
Poisson
Very nice good trip report especially on the rum. Martinique is one of the rum islands (Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica etc) on my list of places to visit in the not so distant future. Do you prefer the agricoles over the other styles of of rum?

Did you visit Depaz distillery? (Who also makes Dillion)
My favorite style is Jamaican, but I do like Agricole. A 'ti punch is fantastic, as is sipping aged agricole. I especially like "le planteur" which is a mix of fruit juices and white agricole rum.

I did go to Depaz but got there right before closing so I didn't have a chance to explore much. I took one photo there.



Originally Posted by rankourabu View Post
We are heading there (and Guadeloupe) at the end of March for these very reasons, so it was great to read your report
Glad you enjoyed the post. Guadeloupe is my next adventure, I think. I've heard it's quite different from Martinique. It's more mountainous whereas Martinique is more green and lush.
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Old Feb 8, 20, 12:56 am
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Great report on a place I know almost nothing about. Thanks for sharing
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Old Feb 8, 20, 2:17 pm
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Excellent TR
Better to stay away from rum before driving some of these roads.
Videos are impressive too.

Have you tasted some of these homemade cocktails? (Apparently the Punch Bois Bandé one improves sexual performance )
Originally Posted by poisson View Post
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Old Feb 10, 20, 4:52 pm
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I lived on both islands during part of my residency. They are really different as you mentioned.
La Martinique is mostly welcoming to tourists, including Frenchmen.
La Guadeloupe on the other hand has a very ambivalent relationship with the Métropole (= the French State) and consequently with French tourists (The Independance movement is more developed there) ; hostility is more prevalent and can be off-putting. You clearly have to walk on egg shells when interacting with some people and they won't be shy expressing their displeasure at seeing 'foreigners' on their territory.
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Old Feb 11, 20, 5:23 am
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Cool TR! I I love distillery tours -- just experienced the awesome Bushmills tour and tasting room in December -- I fully second your decision to visit off-season! Love not seeing the crowds!

Your pix from La Caravelle and Les Anses d'Arlet were enough to inspire me to put the island on my 2021 destination list.

Thanks!

Last edited by noneemac; Feb 11, 20 at 5:23 am Reason: fix typo
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Old Feb 12, 20, 5:24 pm
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Great TR.

Must be tough to be driving with all those tastings around!

The roads don't look too bad to me - seems there are guard rails everywhere dangerous.

Last edited by cockpitvisit; Feb 12, 20 at 5:45 pm
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