Looking for a tropical escape? There are many islands in the Caribbean to choose from! In fact, this region is a top travel destination, especially for US visitors. But, not all islands are the same.
The island of St. Martin/St. Maarten is beautiful, high-class, and boasts many brag-worthy things. Not only does it have both a French side and a Dutch side, but you can enjoy your time here watching beautiful sunsets while surrounded by the mega-yachts of the rich and famous. This is one of the most beautiful and exhilarating Caribbean islands we have visited.
A trip to the island is not complete without spending a day at Maho Beach where your time can range from relaxing while you soak up the sun to screaming as jumbo jets land at dangerously low altitudes above you. I don’t know of any other place where plane spotting is this exciting or dangerous!
Thrilling Waters for Airplane Spotters
Maho beach is located at the end of one of the runways of Princess Julianna International Airport. Because this particular stretch of runway is very short and accommodates large planes, it has been dubbed one of the most dangerous airports in the world. Seriously! Regardless of their size, planes must descend quickly in order to make their landing. The plane spotting spectacle and accelerated thrill at Maho Beach are literally enough to lift you off your feet!
Although your day might start with some smaller planes coming and going, this just allows you to practice your camera skills and prepare for the arrival of the big planes!
Sunset Beach Bar
It is so much fun to sit on the beautiful beach and wait for large planes with heightened anticipation. While small commuter planes come in constantly, the arrival of the big jets creates quite the commotion. The Sunset Beach Bar has a sign indicating what flights are arriving when so you can plan for the big ones. Or, you can just patiently wait as you soak up the sun. Either way, you will not be disappointed by your time spent on this beautiful stretch of beach. As the jumbo jets approach for landing, you will start to feel excitement, fear, uncertainty, and awe wash over you and it feels like you could reach up and touch one of them as the blast over the top of you. This beach is famous for these extreme close-call landings!
Equally thrilling, but far more dangerous, is when one of the massive jets takes off from that runway, which is just across the narrow street separating the beach from the airport grounds. Against the orders of local law enforcement, hoards of people will claim their spot on the retaining wall as they wait for the jets to hit the end of the runway. Once those planes kick it into high gear and start to take off people literally go flying as the result of the jet stream blast. From the Sunset Beach Bar, we watched people get thrown into the water while others tried to take cover from the severe sandblasting they were receiving. This place is serious business!
Our plan was to hit the retaining wall before we left – just to say we did it – but unfortunately the beach was hit by a torrential downpour before we had the opportunity. Dang it!! The next time we return to St. Maarten, we will make sure to try our luck with riding the jet stream.
In September 2017, Maho Beach and the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten was 95% destroyed by Hurricane Irma. Our thoughts are with the people throughout the Caribbean as they work to rebuild their lives.