Martinique, The Flower of the Caribbean

The Caribbean has thousands of palm-shaded, white-sand islands. But only one has picture-perfect vistas, plus decades of romance, cosmopolitan pleasures, best Rum on earth, the perfect port of call for cruise ships, and a tropical je ne sais quoi: Martinique, the Caribbean island with French flair set in the Lesser Antilles. Your passport and a taste for la belle vie are all you need here.

This three-hectare park holds 3,000 types of indigenous flora and fauna—including some 300 species of palm trees—just outside of Martinique’s capital. For nearly 30 years, horticultural enthusiasts have followed the multilingual markers through the Jean-Philippe Thoze–designed gardens, traversing rolling green fields and sultry ponds dappled with water lilies and lotus flowers. More adventurous botanists can experience a thrilling canopy ride, which sit approximately two stories above ground level and provides an aerial view of the landscape.
What’s old is new again in Saint-Pierre, a city built under majestic Mount Pelée on Martinique’s Caribbean coast. In 1902, Mount Pelée volcano erupted, leveling the city and killing all 30,000 inhabitants– save one lucky prison inmate, whose thick cell walls protected him from the blast. Today, the rebuilt Saint-Pierre honors its fiery past at the Musée Volcanologique, a mini-Pompeii filled with carefully preserved relics. History meets modernity at the southern entrance where seven inspired, contemporary Caribbean artists have created 32 colorful totem sculptures welcoming guests. There are also popular dive sites nearby, where scuba divers can swim alongside century-old wrecks of ships that sunk in the explosion.
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