You don’t need to go all the way to France to practice your French. For something a little closer to home, visit one of the French speaking countries in the Caribbean. Your French practice can come with a relaxing side of sand and sea.
What pairs better with a tropical beach getaway than a laissez-faire attitude, fresh croissants, and a chance to practice your foreign language skills?
Whether you studied the language in school or want to encourage your kids who are doing so now, a family trip is a great time to practice your French.
While practicing your language skills may not seem like an activity the whole family can do together on a tropical beach vacation, it can add tremendous enjoyment to your trip.
I remember dusting off my French to order a croissant in French Saint Martin. I felt proud; my daughter was intrigued and inspired to pick up a few phrases herself. It prompted us to talk about the history of the island and its relationship to France.
Plus, the younger your kids are when they start to pick up a language, the higher the chance of fluency. It’ll work wonders for their confidence, too, to practice engaging on the road in the local language. You’ll all get the beach vacation you need, but walk away feeling connected to the culture and ethos of your destination.
So let’s start planning!
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Caribbean Family Travel Resources
Before we dive in, let’s be sure you have our best travel resources at your fingertips.
Did you know we have a whole collection of recommended family hotels in the Caribbean – including the French Caribbean? I’ll let you in on a secret, it’s sort of our pride and joy.
Wishing someone else would just handle the logistics for a change? We also offer bespoke Caribbean family travel planning services. Our specialty? Helping parents identify the best Caribbean island and hotel for a top-notch family trip. Let us take the legwork off your plate.
Now, pour yourself a glass of white wine and start planning your French beach vacation…
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Is French spoken in the Caribbean?
Yes! French is one of the six official (and countless unofficial) languages spoken in the Caribbean. It’s the official language spoken on six Caribbean islands.
How many French speaking countries are there in the Caribbean?
Let’s start with the basics: Which Caribbean islands speak French?
There are five islands in the Caribbean region where French is the official language: Saint Martin, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, Guadeloupe, and Haiti. French is also the official language of French Guiana on the northern coast in South America, which, while not technically in the Caribbean, is a unique tropical destination worth putting on your radar. So we’ve included it on our list.
Four islands are technically part of Overseas France—St. Martin, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Saint Barths. So is French Guiana. Haiti is the only completely independent Caribbean country with French as its official language. (A former French colony like the others, Haiti won its independence in 1804.)
Unlike Spanish speaking countries in the Caribbean where the language differs somewhat from what you’ll have been taught in school, the French spoken in these islands will sound familiar. There are some regional differences reflected by the different dialects, just like when traveling around mainland France (or the US, for that matter). The main difference is that the consonants tend to be more rounded in Caribbean French.
Just be aware that locals may default to Creole when chatting with each other—in French speaking islands as well as English speaking Caribbean destinations.
Patois Creole (also known as Antillean Creole) is a regional, French-based Creole that differs across the French speaking Caribbean islands. This evolved from French but, honestly, don’t expect to be able to follow it!
Now let’s figure out which of these French speaking Caribbean countries is right for your family trip!
5 French speaking countries in the Caribbean to visit with kids
1. St. Martin
The island of Saint Martin / Sint Maarten hosts two overseas European territories. French is the official language in French St. Martin, the northern half of the island, while Dutch is spoken in Sint Maarten, the southern half.
You’ll fly into Dutch Sint Maarten but, in less than 15 minutes, can drive freely across to the French side. There’s no border crossing so you can rent a car and explore the historic sights on both sides. On the French side, you’ll notice immediately that restaurant menus, road signs, and storefronts are often printed in French, giving you instant exposure to the language.
If you don’t speak French, don’t worry of course. Many islanders speak English to cater to tourism from the US and Europe. Creole is also widely spoken.
Known for its gorgeous beaches and laid-back vibe, French Saint Martin is one of the best Caribbean islands with kids.
When you’re not fine-tuning your French in restaurants, you can soak up the rays at the glorious beaches on both sides of the island. There are 37 beaches on the island to explore but, especially when traveling with kids, there are a few kid-friendly beaches in Saint Martin you won’t want to miss.
There are also plenty of activities in Saint Martin for a beach break.
Where to stay in French Saint Martin with Kids
Read our full profile to learn why Hotel L’Esplanade is our favorite Saint Martin Hotel. Located in Grand Case – one of the best towns for delicious French restaurants – this boutique hotel only has 24 suites, but they all have space for families. The hotel works with a trusted babysitter so you can enjoy an evening out in town.
For a more traditional beach resort, Grand Case Beach Club is also great for families, with multi-bedroom suites, a private beach, two pools, and a great location for dining out.
Getting around St. Martin with Kids
You should absolutely rent car in French Saint Martin. The island is relatively flat, with one main road encircling the French side. And, unlike in many English speaking Islands that were former British colonies, you drive on the right! With lots of towns and little beaches, you’ll want the freedom to explore!
You can compare rates for rental cars on Discover Cars to make sure you’re getting the best price. We often go with Sixt when we’re in the Caribbean, which tends to have lower prices, and with whom we’ve had good experiences in the islands.
Check Saint Martin rental car prices on discover cars now:
Part of the Lesser Antilles, Martinique is another of the French speaking islands in the Caribbean that’s officially an overseas department of France. French is the official tongue while Martinican Creole is spoken by locals.
English is less commonly spoken in Martinique as compared to St. Martin, with the island seeing more French tourists, and fewer Americans. Any attempts to chat in French will be warmly appreciated.
In its capital, Fort-de-France, Martinique fuses elements of French and Caribbean culture and architecture. The island’s northern half is its ecotourism center, with dense rainforest, mountains, and beautifully landscaped gardens. The semi-dormant volcanic Mount Pelee rises over the northern end of the island.
The south side of the island, by contrast, is more of a traditional tropical destination, home to calm beaches, a range of restaurants, and most of Martinique’s hotels.
The beaches and snorkeling are exemplary, with soft white sand in the south, and wild black sand beaches in the north. You can find plenty of are hiking trails in Martinique’s interior, but we’d recommend these to older kids and young teens rather than toddlers.
With younger kids, check out the views of the peak from the black sand beaches on the island’s northern coast. Kids of all ages can enjoy exploring Martinique’s fishing villages.
Where to stay in Martinique with kids
You won’t find many mega resorts in Martinique – there are only a couple of large hotels, with most being smaller guesthouses and boutique hotels with under 100 rooms. But don’t let the lack of water parks deter you from considering this peaceful island for a family vacation—especially if you speak French.
Our full profiles of Martinique’s best family friendly hotels are coming soon!
In the meantime, many families choose to stay at Club Med Buccaneer’s Creek, the most traditional family-oriented resort, located in the south near Saint-Anne and the popular Plage des Salines.
For a more unique, hilltop boutique stay, La Suite Villa near Les Trois-Ilets offers villas with multiple bedrooms and sweeping views.
3. St. Barts (St Barths)
St. Barts (officially Saint Barthelemy) is a small volcanic island known for its luxury hotels, glitzy party scene, and pristine beaches. Frequented by the likes of the Kardashians and Dua Lipa, you never know who you might see aboard a superyacht off its shores. But St. Barths has a calm, family-friendly side too, and is actually a great Caribbean destination for families! So don’t let the superstars scare you off.
Given its popularity as a tourist destination, most people in St. Barts are fluent in English. Of course, any effort made to chat in French will be fully appreciated. As with the other French speaking countries in the Caribbean, you’ll likely hear Creole from time to time.
Gustavia, the main town on St. Barts, features a yacht-filled harbor flanked by upscale restaurants where you can perfect your Je voudrais. It’s also a great spot to tackle any shopping you might need to do, with an emphasis on French designers. But of course, there are plenty of great beaches for kids and parents to enjoy together, such as Plage de Lorient (calm waters, great snorkeling) and Plage de Saline (top notch boogie boarding potential).
Where to stay in St. Barts with kids
Finding a hotel in St. Barts that’s family-friendly can be a bit challenging. Here’s where we suggest you start your search:
For a luxury stay, Cheval Blanc treats kids and parents alike like A-listers, with extensive kids programming and baby gear at the ready.
Hotel Christopher—where you’ll get stunning sunsets but also will need to drive to the beach—has suites that accommodate families at a slightly lower price point.
Finally, for a budget pick, consider Hotel Le Village St. Barths, up a hill above St. Jean Bay, a great beach for kids.
Of all the French speaking Caribbean countries, Guadeloupe is the one where you’ll get to flex your language skills the most!
Patisseries abut rum shacks in towns where French and Creole can be heard on the streets. Add to that the beaches, tropical jungles, rum distilleries and renowned scuba diving, and this island truly may offer it all.
Most of the population speaks French, with English taught less in schools than on some of the other islands on our list. Hotel staff and those working in tourism-facing roles do tend to speak good English, but you’ll find plenty of opportunities to speak French in Guadeloupe.
Guadeloupe is an archipelago of around 12 islands and islets. The two main islands, Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre, form a butterfly shape bisected by the Salée River.
These two islands are strikingly different.
Most families will make Grand-Terre their home base. The beachside towns of Saint-Anne and Saint-Francois on Guadeloupe’s south coast offer a range of hotels and villas—from small boutiques to more traditional resorts —with easy access to restaurants, shopping, and the airport.
Basse-Terre, on the other hand, is a paradise for hiking and adventure, rich with rainforest, waterfalls, and volcanic peaks, including La Soufrière. Much of the hiking and wildlife on the island’s wilder side may be better explored with older kids. But if a natural escape is what you’re looking for, children of all ages will appreciate the Guadeloupe Zoo and roaming the Jardin Botanique de Deshaies.
Beyond these two main islands, you can also take daytrips to Marie-Galante, Les Saintes, and La Desirade.
Where to stay in Guadeloupe with kids
Our full slate of Guadeloupe hotel recommendations is coming soon. But, as with Martinique, don’t expect a wide selection of brand-name beach resorts in Guadeloupe. If that’s your vibe, your best bet is Club Med La Caravelle or the locally owned Creole Beach Hotel and Spa, both on Grand-Terre.
We’re more excited by the dozens of small properties that offer splendid unique experiences, like Jardin Malanga, which offers two-bedroom cottages in the mountains of Basse-Terre or Domaine Saint Francois, a collection of bungalows and apartments near the fishing village with a big swimming pool and BBQ area.
If you have the time, we suggest moving around!
5. French Guiana
Located on the coast of northwest South America, some sources consider French Guiana part of the southern Caribbean (as we do with Cartegena, Colombia. Unlike Colombia, though, French Guiana is not actually bordered by the Caribbean Sea, and is a little far south to be considered part of the region.
That said, the French department of Guiana has a lot of cultural links to our other destinations on this list, and is certainly worth considering for a tropical French destination!
A true off-the-beaten-path destination, the untamed Caribbean beaches of French Guiana are wild, often backed by thick patches of jungle. South of Cayenne, the capital, Remire-Montjoly offers the chance to spot nesting turtles.
French Guiana also has its own portion of the Amazon rainforest – technically the largest park in the European Union! Accessible by wooden canoes, adventurous tours of the Guiana Amazonian Park would be an amazing travel experience with older kids and teens.
Useful French phrases for Caribbean travel
Before checking out hotels in these French speaking countries in the Caribbean, how about a language refresher? Here are a handful of useful phrases to practice with your kids!
Oui — Yes
Non — No
Merci — Thank you
S’il vous plaît — Please
Bonjour — Hello (add monsieur or madame to be polite)
Salut — Hi/hey
Au revoir — Goodbye
Parlez-vous anglais? — Do you speak English?
Je m’appelle… — My name is…
Où est la plage? — Where is the beach?
Je cherche les toilettes — I am looking for the restroom
Je ne comprends pas — I don’t understand
Nous parlons un peu français — We speak a little French
Pouvez-vous répéter? — Could you repeat that?
Pouvez-vous m’appeler un taxi? — Can you call me a taxi?
Je voudrais le menu — I would like the menu
Now, raise your rum cocktail and make a toast to a happy vacation: à vôtre santé!
Travel Insurance for your family trip to the French Caribbean
When you book travel with your kids – to the Caribbean or elsewhere – you should always make sure you have trip insurance in case things go wrong. You want to be sure you’re covered for trip delays or cancellation, medical costs, and lost luggage.
We suggest getting a quote from IMG global. The Travel SE plan will offer sufficient coverage for most family trips. And we like it for the Caribbean in particular because, on top of having comprehensive medical, cancellation, and luggage protection, the hurricane protection is better than most. If NOAA issues a hurricane warning or watch for your destination 24-72 hours before departure, trip cancellation benefits kick-in (read the fine print for all plan details, of course).
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