The Beach at Petite Clef in St Martin

The Best St Martin and St Maarten Snorkeling Sites 

Last updated Aug 9, 2022 | Outdoor, St. Martin

Alright, we can all admit it. Saint Martin is an incredible island for many reasons. However, the St Martin/ St Maarten snorkeling sites are not all that great when you compare them to other amazing snorkeling destinations in the Caribbean like St. John USVI or Bonaire. If you are like us though and still like to jump in the water for a few hours, keep reading to find out what 3 sites might be worth checking out. 

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St Martin/ St Maarten Snorkeling Rating System

If you read any of my snorkeling guides, you will find I rate all the sites we check out using my snorkel rating key. Hopefully, these ratings are helpful when you are trying to figure out what sites to prioritize especially if you have limited time. Please see the rating key below. 

Snorkel rating key

Snorkel rating key

Map of St Martin/ St Maarten Snorkeling Sites

We snorkeled 3 different sites while visiting Saint Martin (Pinel Island, Petite Clef, Divi Little Bay). There were a few others (Baie Rouge, Creole Rock, Dawn Beach) that were also recommended. We are hoping to explore those on our return trip later this year. I will update the map with our rating once we do. 

A map of where to snorkel in St Martin

Map of St Martin/ St Maarten Snorkeling Sites

01- Pinel Island Snorkeling 

SNORKEL RATING

3 out of 5 snorkel icons

HOW TO GET THERE

    You are going to need a ferry, boat, or kayak to access the snorkeling area on Pinel Island. Pinel Island is located off the eastern shore of the French side of Saint Martin. 

    The fastest way to get there is by a 10-minute ferry ride, which runs daily starting at 9:30 am. No reservations are needed. You might even be greeted by the resident donkeys. 

    Donkeys hanging out by the ferry to Pinel Island in St Martin

    Donkeys hanging out by the ferry to Pinel Island in St Martin

    The second option is by boat. We stayed at probably one of the most amazing properties in Saint Martin, the Karibuni Boutique Hotel. One perk of staying at this hotel is they offer a FREE private boat transfer to Pinel Island. You can get there BEFORE all the other people from the ferry arrive.  

    Private Boat Transfer to Pinel Island in St Martin

    Private Boat Transfer to Pinel Island in St Martin

    The third option is by kayak. You can rent kayaks from Caribbean Paddling. It will take you about 20 minutes to paddle over to Pinel Island.

    Kayaking near Pinel Island in St Martin

    Kayaking near Pinel Island in St Martin

    WHERE TO SNORKEL 

    If you are looking at a map of Pinel Island, we found the best snorkeling was on the northeastern beach. It requires a short hike. If you are facing the Karibuni Restaurant from the water, walk to the left and up the small hill PAST the outdoor bathroom. 

    Hike along the wall-marked trodden paths on the right towards the beach. See the map below. 

    A map of where to snorkel on Pinel Island in St Martin

    A map of where to snorkel on Pinel Island in St Martin

    ENTRY

    Do not snorkel if the water is too choppy. We entered the water at a sandy point, so entry was easy. There was a little wave action, but it was not hard to navigate. Use common sense. 

    MARINE LIFE WE SAW

    My husband has an incredible eye for picking out marine life. One of the large rocks had all these crevices. He pointed out several lobsters hiding in these holes. The giveaway was their antennae poking out alerting us of their presence.  

    Snorkeling with Lobster on Pinel Island

    Snorkeling with lobsters on Pinel Island

    Other crustaceans we saw were shrimp. I have eaten plenty of shrimp but have never seen them while snorkeling. That sighting was pretty cool. You really have to look closely in the rock crevices to spot them. 

    Close up of shrimp while snorkeling at Pinel Island

    Close up of shrimp while snorkeling at Pinel Island

    I have seen more blue tang than I can count over the course of our snorkeling adventures. Regardless, they are always beautiful to see especially when they congregate in large schools. 

    Snorkeling with a school of blue tang at Pinel Island in St Martin

    Snorkeling with a school of blue tang at Pinel Island in St Martin

    Lastly, I saw a massive pufferfish. I love their oversized heads and little puppy dog eyes. They are quite shy. 

    Puffer fish at Pinel Island St Martin

    Pufferfish at Pinel Island St Martin

    DURATION OF OUR SNORKELING

    1 hour

    02- Petite Clef Snorkeling

    SNORKEL RATING

    2 out of 5 snorkel icons

    HOW TO GET THERE

    You can get here by kayak or paddleboard. Petite Clef is the island located right before Pinel Island. Our accommodation, Karibuni Boutique Hotel, provided us with FREE kayaks to use for our stay. 

    In less than 10 minutes, we reached the soft sandy beach. We dragged our kayaks to shore, secured our belongings, and then hopped in the water with our snorkeling gear.  

    Kayaking to Petite Clef in St Martin

    Kayaking to Petite Clef in St Martin

    WHERE TO SNORKEL 

    We snorkeled clockwise around the island. 

    Where to Snorkel at Petite Clef in St Martin

    Where to Snorkel at Petite Clef in St Martin

    ENTRY

    Entry is super easy. No rocks or sea urchins. The sandy bottom makes entering and exiting a breeze. 

    MARINE LIFE WE SAW

    Don’t get too excited. There is not a lot of marine life to see. We saw a few blue tang here and there. 

    Blue tang at Petite Clef in St Martin

    Blue tang at Petite Clef in St Martin

    What amazed me though was the quality of the soft and hard coral on the backside of the island. We saw some beautiful sea fans waving around in the sea current. 

    Coral at Petite Clef in St Martin

    Coral and sea fans at Petite Clef in St Martin

    DURATION OF OUR SNORKELING

    40 minutes

    03- Divi Little Bay Snorkeling

    SNORKEL RATING

    3 out of 5 snorkel icons

    HOW TO GET THERE 

    Put in “Divi Little Bay Beach Resort” in GoogleMaps and follow the driving directions. This snorkeling location is located on the Dutch side. There is a huge parking lot in front of the resort. Park and walk outdoors through the resort until you reach the beach. 

    As you are facing the water, walk all the way to the left on the beach towards the rock wall. This is the spot where you enter. 

    WHERE TO SNORKEL 

    There are two areas worth checking out. As you face the water, you will be snorkeling on the left hugging the rock wall. Take your time and look in the crevices. We found an eel slithering along and ducking into one of the holes in the rocks on the sea bottom. 

    The second area of interest is near a large floating wooden platform known as the Tiki Hut. If you keep snorkeling to the left, you cannot miss it. 

    After you snorkel, you can climb aboard and have a refreshing rum punch and a snack at the bar or relax in a lounge chair. They were closed when we went, and I’m not sure if/when they will open back up again. I would love to know your experience if you’ve tried it! 

    What makes the area around the Tiki Hut unique for snorkeling is the sunken airplane, helicopter, submarine, and canons.  There are buoys around the area designating where to snorkel. 

    The Tiki Hut also runs tours where you walk around a track on the bottom of the seafloor wearing a helmet that provides air. You can then observe the sunken vessels up close. 

    Map of where to snorkel at the Divi Little Bay in St Martin

    Map of where to snorkel at the Divi Little Bay in St Martin

    ENTRY

    Entry is directly from the beach and is super easy. 

    MARINE LIFE WE SAW 

    We saw a few schools of sergeant majors, one eel, one turtle, and a sunken submarine, helicopter, and airplane. 

    Snorkeling with sergeant majors at Divi Little Bay in St Martin

    Snorkeling with sergeant majors at Divi Little Bay

    An eel at Divi Little Bay in St Martin

    Eel at Divi Little Bay

    Turtle at Divi Little Bay in St Martin

    Turtle at Divi Little Bay 

    Sunken helicopter at Divi Little Bay in St Martin

    Sunken helicopter at Divi Little Bay

    I am not going to lie. Snorkeling around the sunken vessels was fun but a little creepy. 

    Sunken airplane at Divi Little Bay in St Martin

    Sunken airplane at Divi Little Bay

    Sunken submarine at Divi Little Bay in St Martin

    Sunken submarine at Divi Little Bay

    DURATION OF OUR SNORKELING

    1 hour

    04- Other Snorkeling Sites

    BAIE ROUGE

    Baie Rouge is a gorgeous beach on the French side. There is plenty of parking. We parked and attempted to snorkel here, but the current was too rough. Visibility was poor due to the kicked-up sand.

    Entrance to Baie Rouge Beach in St Martin

    Entrance to Baie Rouge Beach in St Martin

    Supposedly, there is great snorkeling if you enter the water on the far right side of the beach and snorkel around the rocky point and towards the arch and small secluded beach. We’re going to try to snorkel again here on our next trip. Crossing our fingers for better sea conditions!

    Map of where to snorkel at Baie Rouge in St Martin

    A map of where to snorkel at Baie Rouge in St Martin

    CREOLE ROCK 

    Creole Rock is best accessed by an organized boat tour from Grand Case. I have read the reef has supposedly seen better days, but the marine life is still beautiful. 

    DAWN BEACH 

    Dawn Beach is also supposed to have great snorkeling when the current is calm. 

    Snorkeling Gear

    Bring your own gear! If you love snorkeling, having properly fitted gear is so important. It’s the difference between a subpar experience and a spectacular one. 

    LEARN MORE: Check out my top 10 travel snorkeling gear I always bring on our “snorkeling” vacations. 

    Snorkeling Gear Isaacs Bay St. Croix

    My snorkeling gear. Photo taken at Isaac Bay in St Croix USVI 

     Final Thoughts on St Martin/ St Maarten Snorkeling Sites

    You do not come to St. Martin for the snorkeling. However, there are still a few little gems that are worth checking out if you love to get in the water. Pinel Island was our favorite site of the ones we snorkeled. We are looking forward to checking out a few more later this year and will update you soon. 

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    Have you visited any of the St Martin or St Maarten snorkeling sites? What were your favorites?

    Let me know in the comments below!

    2 Comments

    1. Brenda

      Wow! This is a lot of great information! Can’t imagine all the time and effort. Your work is so professional yet humble and sincere. Well done!

      Reply
      • Nichole

        Thanks for the kind comment!

        Reply

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