Pinel Island, St. Martin

Photo: Le Karibuni
Photo: Le Karibuni

You love visiting Caribbean islands. Every winter, you pick a new resort on a different island where you soak up the sun, float in an infinity pool, and take naps in shaded hammocks. But every year, without fail, one of your favorite days of the entire trip ends up being the day you leave not only your luxurious resort, but the entire island. You board a boat, ride across the bright blue water, and anchor at a smaller island. Scilly Cay in Anguilla. Klein Bonaire off Bonaire. Water Island in St. Thomas’ harbor. Now Pinel Island.

Pinel Island lies off the northeast coast of St. Martin, the French side of the main island. The tiny island was once home to islanders with mental illnesses. Today, it’s part of the St. Martin National Nature Reserve and uninhabited, except for a handful of goats. But just because no one lives there, it doesn’t mean the island is empty. Three open-air restaurants and a little gift shop sit on the white sand facing a calm bay near the wooden dock. While hiking trails lead through the seagrapes to wilder beaches and hidden snorkeling spots.

Like the previous small islands you’ve visited, a ferry shuttles day trippers to Pinel Island. The five-minute boat ride departs from Cul de Sac. But, since it’s such a short trip, the ferry isn’t your only option. You can also rent a tandem kayak or a stand-up paddleboard to paddle out to the island. When you reach the island, pass the sun loungers and the umbrellas set up on the sand—don’t worry, you’ll be back—to hike to the north side of the island before the midday heat arrives. You find a windswept beach, a perfect view of nearby Caye Verte and farther away St. Barts, and lobsters hiding between rocks under the clear water.

After exploring the island, return to the busier west side and those beach bars. Le Karibuni has a roofed deck and dark-wood picnic tables. Order a lobster to be grilled and a fruity cocktail. Your drink will be delivered to you in the water, and they’ll let you know when your seafood feast is ready. Go snorkeling among large conch shells and colorful fish after lunch. Sip another frozen drink on a sun lounger at Yellow Beach. Then wade out to the Ice Cream Boat—you can’t miss it—when it approaches the shore later in the afternoon. You have a new favorite reason to visit St. Martin.

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