Martinique’s Creole Garden Path


The roots of a rich food culture run deep on this lush Caribbean island.

“You’d think the air would smell like salt, but it smells deep and green and fresh,” says photographer Melissa Alcena, who grew up in the Bahamas. “I’ve never seen so much greenery. Everything, even the dark sand, has a vibrant hue. It soothes your senses and replenishes you. You’re glistening the moment you step outside.”

Alcena’s journey to explore this French volcanic island took her through small mountainside farms using centuries–old techniques, traditional fishing villages and rum distilleries. All to see how Martinique is aiming to reduce its reliance on food imports and increase sustainability while celebrating its deep cultural roots.

“You know you’re in a place with an immense and complicated history. On the beach, in the trees, you feel it in your feet: Martinique has seen so much and is thriving. People are holding onto their culture.”

November 8, 2023
Jonathan Leury Agarat playing with dogs in his greenhouse at Grenn Peyi in Martinique

At Grenn Peyi, agronomist Jonathan Leury Agarat is revalorizing ancestral African seeds like basil from Malawi and okra from Mali, brought over by enslaved people. “It’s off the beaten path, but it’s so tranquil and cared for. He talked about finding a seed that elders and experts didn’t recognize, and tracing it back to Benin. It made me think that people would even braid seeds into their hair to hold onto what they could.”

The red and white exterior of Distillerie Neisson in Martinique
Stacked barrels at Distillerie Neisson in Martinique
Claudine Neisson Vernant in an orange shirt at the Distillerie Neisson in Martinique

A family–run operation since 1931, Distillerie Neisson produces AOC rhum agricole. “From the outside, the colonial building looks unassuming, then you get into the courtyard and wow! The sugar cane comes from their own fields. They’ll take you to tour the fermentation tanks and aging barrels, and serve you a ti–punch at the bar. While there, I happened to meet the founder’s daughter, Claudine Neisson Vernant.”

A majestic Zamana tree in Martinique

“No lens in the world can capture how magnificent this zamana tree is. I felt like I was in the tree of souls in Avatar, you look up and it’s just endless. You touch this tree and, if you love nature, you realize it’s an organism — it has seen things you will never be able to know.”

A woman from Habitation Céron holding a cacao pod broken in half in Martinique
Outdoor dining at the Habitation Céron in Martinique

Habitation Céron blew my mind. The grounds are beautiful, with an area to chill out, open–concept dining and pathways to discover on your own. I was constantly saying ‘wow’ and I think I swallowed a few bugs in the process! Julie Marraud des Grottes, who grows cacao there, offered me a taste of pulp from a pod. Amazing! Like if lychee and banana had a baby, not anything resembling chocolate.”

Fisherman Joel Ceylan standing under a tree at Plage de l’Anse Collat in Martinique
Fisherman Joel Ceylan
Seine fishing with a group of men at Plage de l’Anse Collat in Martinique
Plage de l’Anse Collat

Seine fishing (kout senne) is a traditional technique using a large circular net still practised in Martinique. It requires a team. “When I got to Lido Beach at 6 a.m., they were already dragging the nets back onto the land. They’re full of small fish, attracting the pelicans on the beach. It was a group effort and everyone knew what to do even if it seemed chaotic. Fisherman Joel Ceylan took a minute for a portrait.”

La Savane des Esclaves sits amongst lush greenery in Martinique
Gilbert Larose from La Savane des Esclaves leaning against a wooden post covered in leaves in Martinique
A handful of plantain chips from La Savane des Esclaves in Martinique

La Savane des Esclaves is an outdoor museum exploring the living conditions of the island’s Indigenous groups, enslaved people and early settlers. “Gilbert Larose uses knowledge passed down to him from family, like staking yams, a method used by African and Caribbean people for a more sustainable harvest. He supplies the on–site restaurant and creates various flours, along with powders like turmeric and mango.”

When you go


Tanning chairs on the shore of Bao Beach in Martinique
Bao Beach
A chef at Le Petibonum using a large wooden muddler in Martinique
Le Petibonum


  • Bao Beach

     — At Bao Beach, a restaurant and bar on the southern end of the island, order tartare made with local fish, lean back and lounge, then wander along the sandy shore.

  • Le Petibonum

     — Join locals for a relaxing soiree under the vaulted thatched roof at Le Petibonum, where gregarious chef Guy Ferdinand serves up accras de morue and rum drinks.


  • Hôtel Pélican

     — Hôtel Pélican, in Schoelcher, offers full–on ocean views and glimpses of fishers out at work, with patios and suites with kitchens for DIY meals.

  • Hôtel Bambou

     — Set among tropical gardens and colourful buildings, Hôtel Bambou has cheery rooms and concierge service within walking distance of Les Trois–Îlets amenities.

Book economy class seats to Martinique from 25,000 Aeroplan points. Redeem Aeroplan points for any Air Canada flight and the Air Canada Carbon Offset program will compensate for the flight’s emissions. Learn more about Air Canada’s Carbon Offset program at ⁠