Pinel Island in St. Martin: Complete Guide for a Full Day Trip
Kayak, hike, snorkel, swim, eat lobster, and sip on cocktails. Umm, who would not love this glorious combo of ultimate fun? Pinel Island is a foodie & outdoor lover’s dream! Located just off the French side of the Caribbean Island of St. Martin, this little island is easy to access. Find out how to get there and all the top things to do on this little sliver of paradise.
In This Guide
How to Get to Pinel Island
The fastest and easiest way to get to Pinel Island is by ferry. It runs daily every half hour starting at 9:30 am until 5 pm during high season (Dec 1- April 31) and 4 pm during low season (May 1- Nov 30). No reservations are needed. First come, first served. $12 USD per person round trip. Pay at the dock. The boat ride is about 10 minutes.
Parking is plentiful. You may even be greeted by a welcoming party.
Ferry to Pinel Island in St. Martin
KAYAK OR PADDLEBOARD
It will take around 20 minutes by kayak and 30 minutes by paddleboard to get to Pinel Island.
Kayaking near Pinel Island in St. Martin
This is the option we chose because of a little insider secret. If you stay at the Karibuni Boutique Hotel (which is one of our all-time favorite boutique hotels we have stayed at!), they include a private boat transfer to Pinel Island for free!
Because Karibuni also owns one of the 2 restaurants on the island, they also include beach chairs and an umbrella … for free!
So if you want to feel like a VIP and have the most amazing incredible service, book a room at the Karibuni Boutique Hotel.
Private boat transfer to Pinel Island in St. Martin
Map of Pinel Island
Map of Pinel Island in St. Martin
Top Things to Do on Pinel Island
Pinel Island offers some fantastic walking trails around the island. You will not get lost. If you are facing the Karibuni Restaurant, walk to the left past the Karibuni Restaurant and up the hill past the outdoor bathroom. The well-marked trodden paths will be on the right.
We walked around and explored some of the remote beaches on the northern and northeastern end of the island. You get some fantastic views the higher you go.
Following the walking trails
We actually made two days out of exploring Pinel Island. One day we took the private boat. The second day we took a kayak out to Petite Clef, which is the island right in front of Pinel Island.
You could also continue past Petite Clef and kayak straight to Pinel Island.
The Karibuni Boutique Hotel provided these kayaks free of charge. They provide solo and tandem kayaks. Go early if you want a tandem kayak. When we went to retrieve a kayak around 11 am, all the tandems ones were already in use.
Karibuni kayaks in St. Martin
My husband and I enjoy kayaking and canoeing, but we always rent a 2-seater. That means he does most of the rowing, and I tend to splash around thinking I am helping. The Karibuni staff reassured me it was easy to kayak the waters solo. I trusted them, and they were right! My husband and I dragged the solo kayaks out into the water, and I rowed out with ease.
Kayaking to Petite Clef in St. Martin
Before you get to Petite Clef, you will encounter a large sandbar after about 10 minutes of paddling. The water is super shallow, and you can actually stand out in the middle of the water!
See the map I included earlier in the blog post for orientation.
Then we continued on and kayaked to Petite Clef, which has its own nice little sliver of powdery soft sand. From there we could have kayaked to Pinel Island, but we saved that for another day.
Beach at Petite Clef in St. Martin
St. Martin is not known for amazing snorkeling, but if you know where to look you will find a few good sites. One is around Pinel Island, and the other is around Petite Clef.
If you have read any of my blog posts, you know my husband and I love to snorkel! Here were the two sites we found:
Northeastern Beach of Pinel Island
You could snorkel right in front of Karibuni Restaurant. However, there is a ton of boat traffic and people. Not ideal, so we looked for an alternative site.
After hiking around the walking trails, we found a great spot on the northeastern end of the island right off the beach.
Northeastern beach on Pinel Island in St. Martin
After hiking around the walking trails, we found a great spot on the northeastern end of the island right off the beach. It was a little choppy but not too bad. We saw several lobsters, a few shrimp, a large pufferfish, and a school of blue tang.
Snorkeling with a school of blue tang at Pinel Island in St. Martin
Pufferfish at Pinel Island St. Martin
Close up of shrimp while snorkeling
Snorkeling with lobster
You can only access the little island in front of Pinel Island by kayak or paddle board. We made the short kayak ride from shore, pulled the kayak up on the beach, and snorkeled clockwise around the island.
Kayaking to Petite Clef to snorkel
The soft and hard coral on the backside of the island was in pretty good shape. We saw quite a few sea fans. Although there was not a lot of fish, it was still a fun snorkel.
Blue tang at Petite Clef in St. Martin
Coral at Petite Clef in St. Martin
Alright, so here is the MAIN reason everyone wants to come to Pinel Island … the gorgeous pristine beach with super calm turquoise waters. It is stunning and lives up to its reputation! Everyone wants to be here, so it gets busy quickly.
Beach at Pinel Island in St. Martin
If you want a primo spot on the beach, GO EARLY! I can’t emphasize this enough. Because we had access to Karibuni’s private boat, we arrived around 9:15 am BEFORE the first ferry of people arrived.
This means we could choose the first row of chairs directly facing the beach closest to the restaurant. We set our stuff down and went for a quick hike and snorkel. By the time we came back at around 11 am, the beach was PACKED.
Pinel Island beach in St. Martin around 11 am during the Christmas holiday.
We went during Christmas, so that might be the reason for the higher crowds. Not sure what Pinel Island looks like in the low-season.
Pinel Island really is beautiful and totally worth the crowds.
FOOD & DRINK
You have two options for dining: Karibuni and Yellow Beach Restaurant. Of course, we stayed on the Karibuni side since we were staying with them.
However, even if we had not stayed at the Karibuni Boutique Hotel, I would still have picked to set up shop on the Karibuni side based on their food and drink menu alone. They had a fantastic selection.
The staff was kind enough to set up a lunch reservation for us (which is hard to come by during the Christmas holiday!). However, we skipped lunch because we were still so full from our amazing breakfast at the hotel. We also had a dinner reservation later that night at La Villa Hibiscus, so we didn’t want to be over-stuffed.
Instead, we had a liquid lunch of Champagne and Ti’ punches.
Drinking Champagne at Karibuni Restaurant on Pinel Island St. Martin
Drinking Ti’ Punches at Karibuni Restaurant on Pinel Island St. Martin
The Karibuni Restaurant is known for their delicious fresh lobster. While we were lounging on our beach chairs, we watched as the boats came in with the lobster traps. Talk about fresh!
Karibuni Restaurant catching lobster for lunch in St. Martin
If you are coming to St. Martin, scheduling a day at Pinel Island is a must-do! It’s definitely worth the effort. Do it right though. Come early. Reserve lunch ahead of time. And if you really want to feel like a VIP all day, book a room at the Karibuni Boutique Hotel and the staff will take great care of you.
Questions about our Pinel Island experience?
Let me know in the comments below!