Note from the Editor: The following post is from Guest Contributor Laura Albritton of IslandRunaways.com. We have been following and interacting with Laura for the past several months and you can’t imagine our delight when she agreed to do a guest post for us on a sweet spot she and her family uncovered in Martinique. Read on to find out more.
Choosing a home base for your exploration of the French island of Martinique can be very difficult — not because this extraordinary Caribbean island offers so few possibilities, but due to the fact that around every corner seems to lie yet another beautiful destination. Finally, after mulling over the options, I settled on Le Diamant, a small town on Martinique’s southern coast, whose name translates to “the Diamond.” This seaside village turned out to be an excellent base for our family vacation.
The first thing that strikes you about both the “bourg” (town) and the greater “commune” (county) of Le Diamant is the stunning scenery. The town literally opens onto the beach, all of which is public, and runs for 3 kilometers or about 1.8 miles. Locals and tourists alike walk and jog along the sand as they absorb the incredible views, both morning and late afternoon. In the distance, Diamond Rock rises from the sea like a splendid, stone tower. Since the sea here usually kicks up decent-sized surf, it’s not ideal for a gentle soak, although you’ll find it terrific for body boarding. The only problem with staying close to such a vista? You may find it hard to tear yourself away to discover the rest of Martinique.
Le Diamant makes sense for practical reasons, too: it’s an easy drive from the Lamentin airport. And using the town as your headquarters, it’s not far to the lovely fishing villages of Les Anses d’Arlet and historic Trois Ilets to the west, or St. Anne and its famous Salines beach to the east. French travelers often stay in “gites,” private residences that can range from simple one-room studios to magnificent villas. I found a two-bedroom rental house just across the road from Le Diamant beach, on www.homelidays.com . Not only did we enjoy the pretty terrace with a view of the hills, we loved having two bedrooms and two baths for our family of three, not to mention the convenient kitchen.
You can also find small hotel properties if that’s more your style. Hotel Diamant Les Bains faces directly onto the beach and has a pool, while at the Diamant Beach Club your balcony overlooks Le Rocher du Diamant, making this an ideal spot at sunset. What you won’t find in Le Diamant are sprawling resorts with every conceivable activity and amenity. The vibe here is definitely quiet and low-key.
Although Le Diamant feels small, nevertheless you’ll find a smattering of souvenir shops and plenty of restaurants. Planete Diamant, Pasta d’Alba, La Plage Rouge Caraibes, and New Cap, to name just four, serve tasty meals that range from pasta to grilled lobster and accras (fish fritters). When you’re looking for authentic croissants for breakfasts or baguettes for a beach picnic, drop by les Gourmandises du Diamant in the town center or La Patisserie du Rocher towards the Dizac neighborhood. The market or marché on most Caribbean islands remains a good place to connect with local culture and people and buy locally grown produce. (There’s nothing like a real, honest-to-goodness fresh off the tree banana or mango.)
Strolling through the town will take you past the Creole homes, small businesses, and the picturesque church, St. Thomas the Apostle, which dates from 1829. Despite the fact that Diamant has been described as a tourist hub, it’s very much a working West Indian town, with schoolchildren going to school and people standing in line at the small post office. One delight of staying here is that you quickly learn your way around, and by the week’s end the cashier at the bakery will recognize you (and know your favorite pastries).
In terms of sight-seeing, be sure to stop by the Anse Cafard slave memorial, on the western edge of Le Diamant. This monument was created to memorialize enslaved Africans who died just off the coast when the slave ship carrying them went down in 1830. These massive figures, bent in mourning, remind the viewer of the brutal slave trade and how prominently it figures in the island’s history. You’ll notice that the triangular arrangement of the sculptures echoes the triangle of the slave trade itself. We took some time to walk around the site and found the experience very moving.
On the eastern side of the town in a roundabout (or traffic circle) stands the striking statue Neg’ Marron. This sculpture commemorates the maroons, those who escape the bonds of slavery to hide out in the hills and mountains and create free African communities. Created by Hector Charpentier, the statue greets all who enter the town as reminder of the triumph of the human spirit.
Despite the fascinating sights you’ll see around the island, from the historic rum factory at Habitation Clément to the ruins of St. Pierre, we always experienced a sense of returning home when we came back to Le Diamant in the evening. There is nothing like wandering down to the shore and watching the sun play against the facets of Diamond Rock as the sky turns shades of orange and pink. The scenery and the laid-back atmosphere of Le Diamant will embrace you and envelop you with its serene beauty, so that like us, you may find yourself never wanting to leave.
Guidebook author Laura Albritton runs the travel blog Island Runaways (www.IslandRunaways.com) with her husband Zickie. You can also find her on Twitter: @IslandRunaways and on Instagram: @Island_Runaways.