A Grand Day on Pinel
Imagine a secluded tropical island where bathers swim in a smooth, gin-clear lagoon fringed by palm trees and a curtain of jade mountains. Gentle surf laps a beach dotted with palapas and parasols. The scent of barbecued meat and coconut oil commingle with the salt air. Welcome to Ilet Pinel, a tiny islet a short boat ride from Orient Beach. A day trip to this uninhabited island is highly recommended. You'll find two delightful beach bistros, each with its own section of beach chairs and umbrellas (20€ for the day). Among them, Karibuni (tel. 690/39-67-00) is the country's longest-running beach bar. Small ferryboats ($6 per passenger) run from the French Cul-de-Sac on St. Martin's northeast coast to Pinel daily on the hour from 9am to 4pm (to 5pm on Sun). Watch for the last return trip at 4:30pm. For more information, go to www.visitpinel.com. Or hop aboard a Wind Adventures catamaran from Orient Beach for a "One Day in Pinel" snorkeling safari (tel. 590/29-41-57; www.wind-adventures.com; from 50€ per person for the day for 1-3 people).
A Trip to Tintamarre
Pinel is just one of several Robinson Crusoe cays off the island's east coast. You can go even further afield to wild, 10-sq.-km (4-sq.-mile) Tintamarre, patois for "noisy sea" after the nesting birds (and bleating goats). The island features pristine snow-white beaches (including the aptly named Baie Blanche), striking ocher cliffs, and wrecks such as an upright tugboat encrusted in coral reef. You can clamber through the scrub and woodlands, discovering the ruins of a 19th-century stone farmhouse and an airport for regional carriers abandoned half a century ago. But nothing matches slathering yourself with mineral-rich mud from the flats, adding sea water, and baking avocado-colored in the sun: nature's exfoliant. Wind Adventures (tel. 590/29-41-57; www.wind-adventures.com) has several different trips to Tintamarre from Orient Bay, including a 2-hour private snorkeling and eco-tour for one to three people (60€ per person).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.