Call two weeks in advance to book a tasting at Chocolaterie Frères Lauzéa, the classiest spot you’re likely to ever find in a strip mall. At this confectionery, two local brothers use French and Belgian techniques to turn Martinican ingredients like cocoa, passion fruit, and red chile into world-class chocolates, which you can taste paired with local rum (from $25). If you’re in a rush or didn’t make a reservation, you can still stop into the roadside workshop and take home a box of five custom-picked sweets (from $8).
Avoid the cruise-ship crowds along the waterfront in Fort-de-France and detour a few blocks away to the island’s largest covered market, the unimaginatively named Le Grand Marché Couvert (daily, 6:00 a.m.ľ3:00 p.m.). Dating back to 1901, the market is filled with vendors at card tables selling local spices (curry and cinnamon from $1.50), jarred vanilla (from $7), and extraordinarily potent bottles of homemade rum punch ($16). At the rear of the market, stop for lunch at Chez Carole, an excellent Creole café with an open kitchen.
Rent a car from Avis (from $95 per day) and drive twenty miles from the capital to Les Trois-Îlets, a Caribbean coastal village and the birthplace of Josephine de Beauharnais, the first wife of Napoleon I. Her family’s sugar plantation is now the Musée de la Pagerie (tours from $7), an open-air museum that explores her rise to power and uneasy local legacy, a result of Napoleon’s prolonging slavery on the island. The multilingual guides are frank about the mix of feelings their local-girl-made-good stirs in Martinicans, and exhibits affably highlight some of Josephine’s idiosyncrasies, like how she doctored her own marriage certificate to hide the fact that she was six years older than her beloved.