Full disclosure, I’m not a fan of the beach. This should be clear with the lack of beach related posts on this blog. Also, you won’t find any speedo shots in my Instagram feed. The most I get out of visiting the beach is an uneven tan and sand in my shorts. Visiting Maho Beach, well that’s different. Here’s why:
This may be my first post dedicated to a sandy shore, but it certainly isn’t the first on airplanes. From doing loops and spins in a 1940’s biplane over New Zealand, to visiting Red Bull’s collection of vintage aircraft in Salzburg, I have gushed about it. So when I found out my Norwegian Cruise included a stop in St. Maarten, I was giddy. Not because I could get a proper croissant and bitterballen in the same day. No, because the French/Dutch island of St.Martin/St. Maarten is home to Maho Beach, the most thrilling beach in the world.
Where sand meets strip
Located in the western part of the Dutch side of the island near the French border is the Princess Juliana International Airport. Located mere feet from its runway is Maho Beach, the best place in the world to watch a plane land. The small yet pristine stretch of white sand attracts visitors from around the world for its unique vantage point. Where else can you watch jumbo jets land like this?
Never before have I been so sad to leave a beach. I could’ve stayed for days enjoying the show – both the aircraft and people.
You see Maho Beach isn’t just for watching these metal birds skim the beach. With the airport’s short runway and tall mountains that loom at the end of it, aircraft need to punch it to take off. The result on Maho Beach is comical. What is even more comical is the confused look on the faces of the tourists on the ground afterwards. There is literally a guy with the megaphone warning people before the jets take off and there are signs everywhere stating the danger. What did you think was going to happen?
Tips for Visiting Maho beach
Getting to Maho Beach
If you book an excursion from your cruise ship or through a company like Viator, transport to/from the Philipsburg port to Maho Beach can cost ~$50 return per person. Pretty steep but I would have paid anything. Again, huge airplane nerd here.
Our intention was to get a taxi for ~$30 each way but everything around the port is inflated and it was a long walk to get away from it all. Tour it is. Included in this excursion is commentary from a local guide and a waiver for you to sign. Remember, visiting Maho Beach can be dangerous.
If I had more time I would have opted to rent a car. This allows you to stick around for sunset or explore one of the other great beaches on the island.
Enjoying Maho beach
For $10 dollars you can get a lounge chair and service on Maho Beach. Be sure to get one high on the beach as waves can reach chairs and your belongings. Our shoes floated away more than once.
Also, be sure to take in the views from Sunset Bar and enjoy a float in the water, all while planes drift overhead! Turns out I love the beach after all.
When to visit Maho Beach
Thursdays and Saturdays. That is when the islands largest aircraft lands and takes off – a KLM 747. Unfortunately, my Norwegian Cruise visit didn’t line up with this. Still,Princess Juliana International Airport is one of the busiest in the Caribbean so there was no shortage of flights on my visit.
KLM’s 747 bumps up to 3 times a week in the peak season:
Direct flights from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport Amsterdam (Netherlands).
High season (November to March) : 3 weekly flights on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Low season (April to October) : 2 weekly flights on Thursday and Saturday.
Note: located just off the patio of the Sunset Bar is a timetable on a surfboard. Here you will find a posting of the major flights coming and going each day…or have a look at their online schedule. Typically early afternoon is the busiest.
Barring that, sunset is a great time to visit Maho Beach. It faces west after all. $15 for 6 beer at sunset is also a great incentive.
No Blast Zone
You can’t visit Maho Beach without feeling the power of a plane taking off – just don’t do it from directly behind the aircraft. Instead, stand to the side slightly and watch as the other guests and their belongings get blown into the sea.
What say you?
Thoughts on visiting Maho Beach in St. Maarten?
Let’s hear it!
For more reviews from the Caribbean and beyond see HERE.
Although I was provided a discounted trip with Norwegian Cruise Lines,
the experience, opinions, and tips for visiting Maho Beach are my own.