I love St. Martin have been going back for years. The food is great. The people are friendly. The vibe is very laid back “on the French Side” as opposed to the “Dutch Side”. The “go to” beach on the French side is Orient Beach. This is a long crescent shaped beach. Very popular with tourists and locals. There are any number of restaurants on the beach along with stores selling you all the usual tourist items you would find on a beach. Loungers and umbrellas are there for rent. The price is pretty good. The restaurants will sometimes have specials, buy a drink or eat there and get a rebate on your umbrella rental. Or if you are staying at one of the many resorts in the Orient Beach area, you may be lucky enough to get your umbrella and 2 loungers FREE as part of your package. I stay at La Plantation and this is the case there. And it’s only a few mins drive or 5 min walk from there to the beach. LOVE IT.
But sometimes you want to get away and see something different. I have just the place for you if you go to St. Martin. Pinel Island. It’s not hard to find. At one of the roundabouts between the Orient Beach Area and Marigot which is the main city on the French side, you will see a sign saying Pinel Island with an arrow. Nothing fancy. Nothing on this island is fancy (one of the reasons I love it there). Take the turn and look for other signs leading you to the ferry dock for Pinel Island.
When you get to the end of the very bumpy road, hold on tight, you will see the ferry dock. You have two choices on how to get out to Pinel Island. Take the ferry which isn’t much more than a boat that holds about 20 or so people. And only cost a few Euros. It’s open air, and if it rains, like it did the day we went, you get wet. But fear not about the rain. On St Martin, like on most Caribbean Islands, it rains for a few minutes then the sun comes out and you’re ready to enjoy your beach day again. Your second choice, which is right next door, is to rent a kayak to paddle your way out to the island.
It’s really not that far, on the ferry it’s less than 5 minutes to get there. You can see it from shore. Geographically it’s kind of off shore from Orient Beach, so it’s the same general area. But the similarity ends there. We took the boat. Maybe next time I will paddle out.
You get to the island and the boat brings you to a long dock that goes quite a way out into the water. There is a good reason for this. At Pinel Island, the water is VERY shallow. I could not believe how far out you can walk when you are in the water. The depth does not change much as you continue out. Kind of spooky how far out you can go and the water is still only up to your chest. Also, maybe because of the depth of the water, but the surf is very calm. The calmest I have seen on St Martin. Orient Beach on the other hand, the waves will take you out if you aren’t looking, but that’s half the fun and another story for another article.
As on many beaches, you can rent an umbrella and lounge chairs. But you don’t have to if you are a real sun lover. The beach is divided up between an area around the “restaurant” which has a lot of palm trees around it, and another area where there are no palms, just beach. Most of the island is a nature preserve, which if you want, you can hike through. It’s not a big island so don’t be afraid to go for a walk. There are paths to follow and spectacular views to see. And if you came out to the island in one of the kayaks, you can paddle around the island.
The restaurant there is amazing. The “specialty of the House is of all things LOBSTER. And when I say lobster, I mean fresh lobster. You order it, then the waiter goes out to the long dock. Reaches down, pulls up on a rope. At the end of the rope is a lobster trap. How many would you like? They will bring it in to the kitchen fresh from the ocean and cook it for you. I saw many folks eating lobster and drinking champagne. How decadent. You can eat and drink at your lounge chair, or go out into the water where they have provided tables to stand at to eat and drink to your heart’s content, never leaving the water. So part of the island is for play, part is for relaxation, part is for the love of nature and beautiful scenery.
After a few hours, or half or three quarters of a day, it’s time to go back on the boat to the mainland. They go back and forth all day bringing people to the island and back to the mainland. So if you miss one, wait a few minutes and there will be another along shortly.
I hope you enjoy your stay at Pinel Island, it’s not to be missed on your next or first trip to the beautiful Island of St Martin.