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  • Judson Blane

A Pedacito Of Pinel Island, St. Martin

Updated: Jun 19, 2022

“I hate to say I told you so, but there’s the house I wanted to rent,” I said as we sped by it. We had been waiting for about an hour for the water taxi/ Ferry and paid 12 dollars each, so I couldn’t help myself. The house had offered free Kayaks to get to the very island we were headed to.

Most Islands in the Caribbean have dizzying histories that are hard to keep track of, and St. Martin is no exception. It’s one Island containing two principalities. The southern half of the Island is part of the Dutch Antilles, one of a few Islands having a loose affiliation with the Netherlands. The Northern section is simply France. If you are born here, you have a French passport and vote in French elections.

While planning our trip, this became an issue among my friends. I had read that culturally speaking. The French side was the place to be. The other faction was pulling for the Dutch side, mostly so we wouldn’t have to use converters to charge our phones and a worry that we’d have to convert our money to Euros.

I had found what seemed like an amazing house to rent on the French side; It was on a bay, had a pool, and best of all, came with kayaks we could use to get to a “ nature preserve Island.” This sounded like heaven to me. Nevertheless, I lost the battle, so we came to a compromise; we would get a house right at the border, on the Dutch side. In fairness, the house was amazing. I still have dreams about the view.

After a few days on St. Martin, we kept hearing that we needed to visit Pinel Island. No one could really explain why, just that we needed to go. We drove down to the harbor and got ourselves a water taxi, and were on our way.

Our water taxi to Pinel Island
Our water taxi to Pinel Island

The Island lies just on the edge of Orient Bay on the French side. Around halfway into our boat journey, I spotted the very house I had wanted to stay in. There it was, I pointed it out, and everyone seemed to begrudgingly agree. It looked awesome.

As we docked the tiny harbor of Pinel Island, looking around, it was a place I couldn’t have imagined. On the side of the Island facing the bay were three cafes, each one pretty unique unto itself, with seating coming all the way up to the water. There was also a public beach with beach chair rentals. It was a tiny little paradise.

On the other side of the Island and taking up the vast majority, was a huge nature preserve. There were hills and cliffs and a beautiful view into the Caribbean Sea, where you could faintly spot nearby Islands.

We grabbed lunch at one of the cafes. They seated us at a table on a small pier, and we were actually eating above the water. I had conch fritters, my go-to favorite comfort food in the Caribbean.

After lunch, we lay out on the beach for a while, letting our food digest and taking in some sun. Once I felt settled, I went for a swim; the water was really nice and shallow for a really long distance.

As this beach faces the bay, the water is totally calm; not great for surfing or riding waves, but great for snorkeling. A few boats were anchored just off the beach. It was a really pleasant experience.

A boat anchored just off of Pinel Island
A boat anchored just off of Pinel Island

I dried off and decided to take a hike into the nature preserve. The opposite side of the tiny island faces the open sea, and the difference was night and day. The water was rough and choppy.

Hiking up to the top of the biggest hill, you can get an even better idea of the layout and a stellar view of the main Island. I even caught a glimpse of one of the famed Iguanas that roam the Island.

The Beach on this side is a totally different experience, with no chairs, no food, and much rougher conditions for a swim, definitely more my speed.

After watching a few sailboats pass by, I headed back to rendezvous with my friends. We all got a cocktail and watched the beginning of the sunset.

Everyone agreed this was the best outing so far and that we should come back. I still plan to one day. There was something wonderful and indescribable about that little Island.


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1 Comment

Michael Acevedo
Michael Acevedo
Jul 08, 2021

I've been to St Martin a couple of times. It's great to read your experience there!

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