When you ask someone about the best beaches in Martinique, there is some debate on the subject. Everyone has their favorites. Tartane, near Trinité, is a favorite with the Martinican youth but, to Sylvie, Tartane is too loud, with people blaring music on their stereos. But most Martinicans agree that les salines is at the very least one of the best beaches in Martinique. With its pristine turquoise waters and white sandy beaches lined by palm trees, les salines is pretty much the picture of what people conjure when they think of Caribbean beaches.
It’s crowded on Sundays, the guidebooks warned me, and it’s best to go on weekdays. Still, as I ventured down to les salines today, I didn’t find it too crowded. Of course, my experience of beaches in the past has solely consisted of Bethany Beach and Rehoboth, which you would think are the only two beaches on the East Coast of the United States based on the way crowds flock to them during summer vacations. There was plenty of space for everyone and whether this is due to the fact that it is no longer tourist season or to the fact that I have a different sense of the word crowded, I do not know. Of course, there were many tourists, even if it wasn’t tourist season. That is the price you pay when you go to a beach that is beautiful and big enough to be considered worthy of mentioning in any guidebook on Martinique. It is also close to the Club-Med in Martinique, which means that the beach always has a steady stream of tourist traffic. This does not keep the locals away though: they come in large groups, playing creole music and cooking the Martinican version of barbecue: poulet boucané.
If you’re in Martinique, les Salines is an obligatory stop—for tourists and for locals. Rest under the shade of the palm trees or dive right into the salty refreshing water, tan under the Caribbean sun or play soccer on the sand. Then, when you’re hungry, go to one of the restaurants and eat some of the local seafood. If you’re adventurous, try the “Lambi grillé”—conch. It’s been beaten into an unidentifiable shape and is tough and chewy. After it’s been grilled, it’s served with vegetables. Try a side of patate douce (sweet potato, but not in any way like the sweet potato an American knows) and plantain. Pair it with une bière Caraibe (Caribbean beer) or with some of Martinique’s famous rum. (If you’re under 18 or not a fan of alcohol, they also have delicious local fruit juices, like passion fruit or guava.) Regardless of your preferred beach experience, les Salines has something for you. Unless you don’t like beaches, which probably means you shouldn’t have come to Martinique in the first place.