How to Hike to Petites Cayes from Anse Marcel

If you’re looking to get out and stretch your legs during your stay in St Martin/St Maarten, then consider a hike to Petite Cayes.

As an easily accessible hike from Secrets St. Martin in Anse Marcel or by car, the Petite Cayes hike will reward you with stunning views and a private beach unlike anywhere else on the island.

Located within St Martin’s nature reserve, this unspoilt part of St Martin truly makes you feel like you’ve stepped foot into an uninhabited island. Picturesque panoramic landscapes and solitude are worth the effort after hiking through forest and over mountains. 

We made the decision a few trips ago to take a hike (or two!) whenever we visit the Caribbean, after summiting Curacao’s Mount Christoffel and hiking up Hooiberg Mountain in Aruba for sunrise.

The views offered on Caribbean islands are unparalleled. Sweeping vistas, 360 degree views, and amazing sunrises all make it worthwhile.

petites cayes

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Petites Cayes hike from Anse Marcel

I found out about the hike to Petites Cayes in St Martin when I was on Google Maps looking at Secrets St Martin. We booked this trip as a very last minute and I was familiarising myself with the location when I came across a little marking on Google for Baies de Petites Cayes.

After finding out that people hike here, I thought, I need to do this hike!

While there are two ways to access Petites Cayes, I will talk about the one in Anse Marcel because it’s the one easiest for those to take from Secrets St. Martin. 

Petites Cayes St Martin
The view you’re rewarded with!

Accessing the hiking trail

From Secrets St Martin, exit through the lobby and head right. Continue to follow the road. It will get steep (probably the steepest climb of this whole hike!), until you get to a road that turns left.

This is the parking lot for the trailhead (and also an access road for those working on the water treatment plant). 

Petites Cayes hike Anse Marcel
Path entrance, with parking lot

You’ll climb over the chain (bypassing the restricted sign!) and follow along a gravel/paved roadway for a good 10-15 minutes as it skirts around the marina and around Secrets St Martin.

Petites Cayes hike
Path leading to trail entrance

The views are beautiful from here!

You’ll walk by a hut and continue along the roadway until you reach the water treatment plant. From here, you will really only have one choice, and that’s a path that veers off diagonally into the bush.

Secrets St Martin
View of Secrets St Martin

It may seem like it’s the wrong way since the opening is overgrown, but trust me, that’s the right way to go!

The other option you may think you have is blocked off, so you have no choice but to go into the bush, over a little wooden walkway, and onto the trail.

Petites Cayes trail
Trail entrance

The trail you’ll follow is rocky, so be sure to wear sturdy shoes and watch your step. None of this trail was particularly steep or difficult, except for the part on the beach side where you have to navigate boulders heading down to the beach.

A word of caution: As someone who likes to grab onto things for balance, you will really have to watch where you’re holding on to since there are cactus dotted along the trail. You don’t want to accidentally grab a handful of needles!

My mom in front of tall cactcus!

The trail meanders up and down, over two hills – you can’t see them, but you can feel them! – and around the bay. You’ll hear crashing waves (but won’t be able to see them, either) as you make your way around the edge of the island.

What I thought was random were the vegetation signs scattered along the trail, and they are quite interesting! We found Tamarind trees, wild pineapple plants, wild mimosa trees, and so much more along the way.

wild pineapple st martin
Wild pineapple spotted along the trail

The wild pineapple plants were the most interesting, because they seem to grow anywhere they find themselves attached to trees, regardless if it’s a branch high up!

The sign said they were gifted to Christopher Columbus in 1493 because of its delicate perfume scent.

While we didn’t see any wildlife, it is reported that goats and monkeys can be seen in this area of the island. We did see a bunch of large hermit crabs (watch your step!) that we think birds picked up from the beach and dropped up here. It seems like a bizarre place so far away from the water for these crabs.

Petites Cayes hike

Reaching Petites Cayes

Eventually, you will reach a clearing out of the trees and hear the beach once more; that is Petites Cayes you’re hearing! The trail will go around a bench and you will have your first glimpse of this private and unspoiled area. It’s like you’ve stumbled across your own hidden oasis. 

Whether you decide to go down the rocky trail to the beach is up to you, or if you’d prefer to snap some shots from above and enjoy the breeze and views.

Petites Cayes views
Our first views of Petites Cayes

If you do decide to descend down to the beach, it’s the perfect spot for a little picnic and a rest. Some people have gone there for a half a day, but there are no amenities, so plan accordingly. There are plenty of shaded areas and scenic viewpoints to choose from. 

We did see a handful of people on the main road walking up the trail, and only one person on the trail (I think we scared him!), so it is a well-frequented area.

Petites Cayes trail
Rocky trail

If you hike to Petites Cayes, it is an out-and-back trail. OR you can continue around to Grand Cayes and extend your hike, but you will have to turn around at some point to make your way back.

Plan to go early in the day before the heat becomes too much. We left at 7:30 am and returned by 9:30 am. I couldn’t imagine starting out at that time of day, as the heat was already becoming unbearable. There is a nice breeze though, outside of the treed-in areas!

Is the Petites Cayes hike difficult?

I wouldn’t say the hike to Petites Cayes is difficult, but it does require navigating up and down mountains. I don’t recall any part of it being overly steep, except for the first part going up the road from the resort.

But, it is a hike, and there are boulders and tree roots to navigate, so you will have to exert yourself a bit. But you can take your time! I have done hikes way more challenging than this. 

Petites Cayes

The rugged terrain adds an element of challenge to the hike, requiring you to navigate rocky paths and uneven terrain. However, the effort is well-rewarded as the trail opens up to reveal breathtaking views of the turquoise waters below.

How long does it take to hike to Petites Cayes from Anse Marcel?

I initially heard the Petite Cayes hike would take 1.5 hours one way to get to the beach. I also heard 45 minutes. It took us roughly 50 minutes one way from the time we left Secrets St Martin to get to Petites Cayes.

This included stops for photos. While we didn’t go all the way down to the beach, the hike still took us almost 2 hours door to door to complete, again, including lots of time for photos and taking in the views!

Petites Cayes view
One of many view points

If we went down to the beach it probably would’ve added another 20 minutes of hiking time, plus whatever time we spent at the beach.

Can children hike to Petites Cayes St Martin?

This hike is easy enough for children to do, so long as they are used to walking for long periods of time. It is certainly safe enough for older kids to do (just watch out for cactus!).

Can you swim at Petites Cayes?

While I have seen people attempting to swim at Petites Cayes, it is not recommended to swim, especially for those who aren’t strong swimmers.

The surf can be really strong (as you’ll see) which makes it dangerous. There are also a lot of rocks near the shore which can add to the difficulty of getting in and out of the water safely.

Petites Cayes
Amazing views!

Petites Cayes hike from Grand Cayes

If you have a car, you can take this hike from Grand Cayes Nature Reserve, but may add time as it skirts around the edge of the island and past a dump.

It may get tricky at times due to tilting shale rock and having to scramble rocks, and no marked trail. It will also be windy since you aren’t protected by trees.

What to bring on a hike to Petites Cayes

You will definitely want to bring a cold bottle of water (or two!) with you, a hat, sunglasses, and a small crossbody daypack (or backpack) to carry your items, including a beach towel and food (if you plan to stay for a rest at the beach).

Be sure to apply ample sunscreen to protect yourself from the harsh sun rays.

Anse Marcel
Anse Marcel bay

Hiking to Petites Cayes from Anse Marcel

Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or simply a connection with nature, the hike from Anse Marcel to Petites Cayes promises an unforgettable experience that showcases the natural beauty of St. Martin’s coastline.

I found the peace I was looking for at Petites Cayes.

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