Much of the history of Martinique is tied to the production of sugar. The “white gold” was once so valuable that France was willing to cede its claims to Canada in order to regain Martinique and nearby Guadeloupe. Fields of sugar cane are still an inescapable part of the landscape, but the number of sugar mills has declined from its peak, when more than 400 were located throughout the island.
Martinique’s fascinating history meets the latest eco-tourism trends at a sugar mill in the north of the island. Habitation Céron, a 17th-century plantation, has been reborn as a museum, a cacao plantation, and a fine organic restaurant. Owner Laurence Marraud-Desgrottes has lovingly restored many of the buildings and created walking trails through the forested grounds. The various plant species are labeled with botanical information though one specimen requires no introduction. The majestic 300-year-old zamana tree is a local celebrity and has won the People’s Choice Award in France’s 2016 Arbre de l’année (Tree of the Year) competition. Marraud-Desgrottes has also turned her hand to cultivating premium cacao, and after seeing the shrubs with their yellow and orange pods, you can purchase a taste of Martinique to bring home in the form of pure, raw cacao.