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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Escape the Crowds in French St. Martin


3. What to Do

Kite-surfers at Orient Beach.  

Rent a kayak ($16 for a half-day; $22 for a full day) from Caribbean Paddling at the pier at Cul-de-Sac and paddle twenty minutes out to tiny Pinel Island. With its impeccable beaches, crystal-clear water, and lack of crowds, this is escapism at its best. Rent snorkeling gear ($13 per person) from Isabelle, a diving guide and marine biologist, at Eco-Snorkeling (you’ll see her small stand on the island). Book ahead and take a 45-minute guided tour with her ($40 per person, including equipment) of the island’s colorful underwater snorkeling trail, part of St. Martin’s National Marine Reserve.

Zip-line ($46 for intermediate level) through the tropical forest in a 135-acre nature reserve at the bottom of Pic Paradis, the highest peak on St. Martin. They offer three levels of zip-lining, mixed in with moderately challenging tree-top obstacle courses—the Extreme Course ($72) is only available three times a day at specific times, so plan ahead.

Spend the afternoon kite-surfing ($188 for a 90-minute private lesson), a thrilling combination of wakeboarding, windsurfing, surfing, and paragliding, at Orient Beach. Though it’s one of the most beautiful and action-packed beaches on the island, it remains blissfully unpacked during the low season.

Hike the 2.8-mile Froussards Path (part of the National Nature Reserve) on the north end of the island, along the coast and through the maritime forest to the stunning—and totally deserted—Petites Cayes beach. The hike is rigorous, but you’ll have the beach completely to yourself, as it’s only accessible by hiking. The round trip is 5.6 miles, so budget about three hours and make sure to bring all the food, water, and sunscreen you’ll need since you won’t find any shops here.

Published on May 31, 2013 as a web exclusive.

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