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Where to Go in the French Islands

The French side of St. Martin grabs the lion’s share of attractions. For a day at the beach, Orient Bay has everything covered, with excellent French beachfront dining, watersports and even a clothing-optional section. Inland, Loterie Farm occupies a rainforest valley and offers an oasis of tropical cool, leading through hikes to the island’s highest point, Pic Paradis, and coming down by the treetop zipline tour. In Guadeloupe, the rainforest reserve covering the mountainous half of the island is a wonderful place to lose yourself, metaphorically speaking. Either hike the trails to the waterfalls such as Cascade aux Ecrivisses or Chutes du Carbet for an enchanting dip in a thermal pool, or take a day to hike to the top of La Soufriere, the sulphur-spewing volcano that constitutes the island’s highest point. Grande Terre, by contrast, is largely flat and agricultural. For some of the best views, especially if the need arises to shoot a zouk video, the Pointe des Chateaux promontory affords sensational views down the coast. Fort de France, the elegant capital of Martinique, is fantastic for boutique shopping and fine dining, but make a trip too to St. Pierre, the former capital destroyed by the cataclysmic volcanic eruption. Other highlights include the Botanical Gardens and the Caravelle Peninsula for some windswept isolation.

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