Like Club Med, Martinique is working hard to lure back U.S. travelers. In 2001, when American Airlines stopped direct service from San Juan, the island fell off the Caribbean map. It deserves another chance; it’s a charming destination, not as crowded as St. Bart’s or Anguilla. Last fall, American Eagle introduced four flights a week from San Juan. A Marriott may open in Fort-de-France soon; there’s already a Relais & Châteaux affiliate, Hôtel Cap Est Lagoon, in Le François.
But Buccaneer’s Creek got there first (in 1969), and its Marin Bay setting includes one of the island’s best beaches. Charter yachts fill the protected harbor; women fry codfish and shrimp accras on the street corners of Sainte-Anne; fishermen still set out in wooden day boats. As a beau geste to its regional hosts, Club Med buys produce from island farmers, gives English lessons to town merchants, and now hires three-quarters of its staff locally. "The first version of Club Med took nothing from our culture," notes Muriel Wiltord-Latamie of the Martinique Promotion Bureau. "That has definitely changed."
At a fruit stand near Sainte-Anne’s church, I snatch up pure cacao, vanilla beans, and nutmeg grown in the rain forest. From the viewing platform atop Morne de Gommier, across the bay from Buccaneer’s Creek, I see other tempting beaches and peaks worth exploring. As my taxi departs for the airport, I offer four little words of wisdom to a resort that is embracing its core joie-de-vivre principles again: Bring back the beads.
Shane Mitchell is a T+L contributing editor.