Exploring the Alluring Tropical Waterfalls of Martinique

A beautiful look at Cascade du Saut du Gendarme.
A beautiful look at Cascade du Saut du Gendarme. Christian-Louis Bellerose
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A volcanic island with a stunning mountainous terrain, Martinique features a multitude of majestic waterfalls surrounded by panoramic views that overlook the sapphire ocean, lush valleys, and rugged landscapes. Situated throughout the forests, atop cliffs, and often hidden from the main roads, some of these glistening cascades require visitors to embark on a challenging hike—while others are easier to reach. Every waterfall offers its own character and scenery and they are often considered a vacation highlight for travelers to the area, especially for those who enjoy wandering off the beaten path.

Although there are many waterfalls to explore throughout Martinique, these are several of the most popular "best kept secrets" of the island.

The Gorges de la Falaise in L’Ajoupa-Bouillon

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Roughly a ten minute drive from Mount Pelée on the northern part of the island, this waterfall is considered a must-see among nature enthusiasts. This hike is more of an odyssey, requiring a trek down a valley, across a ravine to reach the falls, then returning by climbing back up to the starting point. This hike is strenuous at times and involves traversing through water. Participants should have a solid fitness level (and bring a waterproof camera). From the starting point, hikers descend a steep slope for about a quarter of a mile before reaching the entrance to the gorges. Once there, a guide assists visitors across the Falaise River, which runs through an ancient lava flow. This hike includes climbing ladders, ropes, and splashing through rock pools—often in waist-deep (or higher) water that requires a bit of swimming. The waterfalls themselves are breathtaking and visitors love soaking in the pools, swimming under the cascading water, or just admiring the view.

Tip: There is a parking area for this guided hike. The entire visit takes approximately one hour and thirty minutes. The entrance fee is 7 euros (and 2 euros extra to rent water shoes). No flip flops allowed.

Bassins et Cascades de Fonds Nicolas

For a more secluded experience, the Bassins et Cascades de Fonds Nicolas are waterfalls that cascade down to steep rocks into three pools surrounded by trees and tropical foliage. Offering a dose of tranquility on the southeastern side of the island, this notoriously quiet destination is not a major tourist attraction. In fact, some visitors find themselves enjoying complete solitude when visiting. These gorgeous waterfalls only require a short walk and attract travelers who wish to enjoy an afternoon swimming and soaking in the three pools beneath them. Recent visitors claim there are no signs directing visitors to this spot and GPS does not point to this exact location, so it’s best to use an "old school" map and ask the locals to guide you in the right direction.

Tip: These falls are definitely out of the way. Driving from the town of Le Francois, look for neighborhood called Chopotte and a sign that reads, "Le Foyer Rural de Fonds Nicolas". Make a left, then drive about 1.2 kilometers and look for a path with a chain stretching in front of it. After walking about five minutes, this easy trail will lead directly to the waterfalls and pools. Note there are no facilities here.

La Fontaine de Didier

About a ten-minute drive from Fort-de-France bay, these picturesque falls are the namesake of the island’s bottled water and are considered one of Martinique’s highest cascades. Situated in a rainforest with panoramic views, La Fontaine de Didier attracts locals as well as tourists who wish to experience the island’s dense jungle flora and fauna. This two-hour trek through winding mountain pathways is known for its intense level of difficulty—and you will get wet. Most of the hike involves stepping through water and atop slippery rocks while using roots to grab onto for stability along the way. Upon reaching the falls, hikers can swim and relax in the glistening pools, float under the cascading water, or even climb up and jump off the top!

Tip: This popular destination is well-marked and easy to find from the main roads. To arrive here, hikers must first walk through a long tunnel, so it’s essential to bring a flashlight or headlamp for this part of the adventure. Waterproof gear is also needed for this hike.

Cascade du Saut du Gendarme

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These idyllic falls are located in Fond-Saint Denis in Martinique’s northern mountain range and may be slightly hidden from the main road, yet they provide a serene retreat and the opportunity to enjoy nature in a tropical rainforest. Known as the island’s tallest waterfall (about 10 meters / 32 feet high), these magnificent falls attract tourists of all ages for a relatively leisurely walk to reach the falls. Visitors must walk down a flight of steep steps, then cross a bridge over the river before seeing the waterfalls. Although it’s acceptable to dip your feet in the stream, no swimming is allowed in the pool here.

Tip: Parking and facilities are available nearby, including food vendors and picnic tables. Some hikers recommend seeing these falls in the evening to experience the glowing mist in the moonlight. Visitors should check the weather conditions as heavy rains can cause flooding in the area.

Cascade Absalon

This waterfall, also known as the Cascade of the Ravine Baron, is located off the Trace Road less than 10 minutes from Fort-de-France. Besides the natural beauty of the falls (and accompanying swimming hole), this fast moving flow is unique because it is located below a man-made, high-arched bridge—which makes it popular on the weekends. A well-used staircase cuts down through the forest from the bridge where the cascade has carved a deep slot in the hard rock. The soothing rush of water creates a fine pool for soaking your weary bones, all surrounded by the lush flora and earthy scents that circulate in the warm air. This is one of the least difficult waterfalls to access in Martinique and is well worth a visit.

Cascade Couleuvre in Grand-Rivière

This magical waterfall can be found in the northern territory in Grand-Rivière, where it is accessed via a well-marked trail starting from l'anse Couleuvre. It’s roughly 4.3 miles (6.9 km) round-trip, though the path is easy to hike—most visits take a little over two hours in total. Cascade Couleuvre is especially photogenic as the upper portion of the 120-meter flow carves a graceful line through the flora-rich face of a steep-but-not-sheer cliff in the heart of the rainforest—thus its colorful name, which translates into English as "grass snake." The lower portion goes into freefall where it splashes down into a pool rimmed by vibrant green vegetation offset by dark stone walls. The natural greenery and wildlife that inhabit the corridors to Cascade Couleuvre are a wonderful addition to the grandeur of the falls.

Originally written by RootsRated for Atout France.

Originally written for Atout France.

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