Diving In

Martinique, the Paris of the Caribbean, attracts divers with new packagesBy Mark RogersThe island of Martinique has always offered unique French influenced Caribbean vacations big on Gallic style, Creole cuisine and premium, island distilled rums. The Martinique Promotion Bureau CMT

By: By Mark Rogers

The island of Martinique has always offered unique French-influenced Caribbean vacations big on Gallic style, Creole cuisine and premium, island-distilled rums. The Martinique Promotion Bureau/CMT USA (MBT/CTM USA) is now broadening the island’s market appeal by concentrating on its appeal as a dive destination. MBT/CTM USA has partnered with PADI-certified dive operators and hotels to create new value-priced dive packages. The new five-night packages include hotel accommodations, daily breakfast, a rental car and six dives starting at $495 per-person, and are valid for travel through Dec. 14.

Visitors will have three hotel options to choose from. The 300-room, three-star Karibea Amandiers Resort, the 201-room, three-star Blue Season Hotel Carayou, and the nine-room Villa Saint Pierre. The Villa Saint Pierre opened in 2008 and is considered one of the island’s most intimate properties. There are nine dive operators participating in the promotion. Since they’re spread throughout the island, visitors will find it easy to experience the full breadth of Martinique’s dive product.

Diving on Martinique is distinguished by expansive caves, dramatic offshore rocks and fringing coral reefs. A highlight is Diamond Rock, an offshore island with a deep undersea cavern. The island also has one of the Caribbean’s largest collection of wrecks. Some 12 wreck sites, a few accessible with just snorkel gear, are found just off shore. Most of the wrecks were caused by the historic 1902 eruption of Mount Pelee.

In between dives, visitors will want to explore some of the island’s land-based charms. Martinique’s 365 restaurants (and counting) serve French and Creole cooking and are celebrated for using quality ingredients.

The Rum Capital of the World, Martinique is home to 15 brands, each produced utilizing a unique rhum agricole method yielding blends comparable to fine cognacs. Free tasting is available at all of the island’s distilleries. Martinique has 25 museums and numerous historical attractions, including the childhood home of Napoleon’s bride, Empress Josephine.

Getting to Martinique takes a bit of effort, especially if you’re flying in from the West Coast. American Airlines/American Eagle connects via San Juan four times a week. Air France operates regular service from Miami. If you’re combining Martinique from other Caribbean islands, Air Caraibes flies between Martinique and Antigua, Barbados, Dominica Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, St. Martin, St Vincent and Trinidad.