Le François

With some 16,000 inhabitants, this is the main city on the Atlantic coast. Many of the old wooden buildings remain and are juxtaposed with concrete structures. The classic West Indian cemetery, with its black-and-white tiles, is still here, and a marina is at the end of town. Two of Martinique's best hotels are in this area (Cap Est and Hotel Plein Soleil), as well as some of the island’s most upscale residences and most visited distillery/museum, Habitation Clément. Le François is also noted for its snorkeling. Offshore are the privately owned Ilets de l'Impératrice. The islands received that name because, according to legend, this is where Empress Joséphine came to bathe in the shallow basins known as les fonds blanc because of their white-sand bottoms. Group boat tours leave from the harbor and include lunch and drinks and one can even buy a package that includes an overnight stay on the remote and romantic, Isle de Oscar. Prices vary. You can also haggle with a fisherman to take you out for a while on his boat. There's a fine bay 6 miles (10 km) farther along the coast where you can swim and go kayaking. The town itself is rather lackluster but authentic, and you'll find a number of different shops and supermarkets, owned by truly lovely, helpful residents.


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