St Martin’s Beach Bar Island


Above: Pinel Island (All photos by CJ)

By Alexander Britell

PINEL ISLAND — It isn’t an easy choice.

Not here, not in the late morning sun with St Martin’s hills towering across the bay.

Here on Pinel Island, there is little — no roads, no cars, no hotels; just an idyllic stretch of sand and a snorkeling trail and, most importantly, two classic beach bars: Yellow Beach and Karibuni.



Above: Yellow Beach

Sure, they both have their merits: Yellow Beach, with the yellow umbrellas and the Mediterranean cuisine and the in-water tables; Karibuni, the outpost of a boutique hotel on the mainland, with the tapas and the barbecue.


It’s the kind of choice one finds oneself faced with frequently on the French side of St Martin: which delicious meal to try, which beach to spend the day on.


Above: Karibuni

I try Yellow Beach, persuaded simply by the proximity, with a meal of accras de morue (of course) and a filet of grouper (accompanied by Damoiseau).


Above: a patron of Yellow Beach’s in-water tables

But it’s hard to sit here. The shade is cool but the waves are irresistible.


That’s why many spending the day here are already in the water, taking their drinks to the tables that sprout right out of the sea.


Because, here on Pinel Island, a place with more beach bars per capita than anywhere else, it’s hard to stay out of the water.

But it’s easy to get here.


Above: the dock at Cul-de-Sac

Just pay about $12 to a local fisherman at the dock near Cul-de-Sac, and you’re carried away across the bay to this pristine preserve.


Above: one of the more remote stretches of Pinel Island

After just a few minutes, you arrive at the dock and see the two beach bars, immediately torn about how to spend your day, which chair, which table, which ti’ punch.


The thing about Pinel is, it’s easy to get to, but it’s hard to leave.

And as the sun gets stronger over Yellow Beach and the rum sets in, something becomes clear: it’s time to try the other one.