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Maho Beach St. Martin – One of the World’s Most Dangerous Airports

Maho Beach St. Martin – One of the World’s Most Dangerous Airports

AIRLINES, CARIBBEAN, LUXURY TRAVEL

No vacation to St. Martin is complete without a trip to the famous Maho Beach!  Thrill seekers and aviation enthusiasts flock to the beach to sunbathe in the shadow of a jumbo jet. The beach is fairly small, surrounded by coral, and located on the Dutch side of the Caribbean island, but is known for an unexpected attraction caused by all the low-flying airliners that zoom in so closely above the beach. People can actually be blown into the water by the strength of the jet blast.  If you’re interested in an adrenaline rush, you can join the dozens of others who cling to the fence and ride this gush of air for thrills…if not, this is a great opportunity to work on your photography. The myriad of jets and small planes will dazzle you.

Maho Beach Plane Landing in St. Martin

Maho Beach is located at the Western end of Runway 10 of Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM),  on the Dutch side of this Dutch-French island. When planes make their final approach, they do so right on top of sunbathers and snorkelers, thus providing you with a very special experience!  For those who love the thrill, or just like airplanes, watch and see incoming jets gliding in and landing just a few yards above your head!

Maho Beach Plane Landing in St. Martin

Maho Beach Helicopter Landing at the airport in St. Martin

Signs warning people to keep their distance are posted along the gate separating the thin, two-lane highway which divides the beach from the runway.  The massive jet engines can easily produce winds of more than 100 mph, blowing sand and people alike into the water. The jet blasts from the wake of the planes are so powerful that they can cause severe injury and possible death for those who do not exercise caution. That doesn’t stop everyone!

Maho Beach Warning Signs outside of Princess Juliana airport St. Martin

Maho Beach Warning Signs and Helicopter Landing outside of Princess Juliana airport St. Martin

Warning Signs at Maho Beach outside of Princess Juliana airport St. Martin

Not only is Princess Juliana International Airport in close proximity to the beach, but it also has an unusually short runway of only 7,150 feet (2180 meters). In order to complete a smooth landing, the aircraft gets as close to the beginning of the Runway 10 as possible – and ends up flying right over the heads of eager tourists, directing their cameras towards the impressive sight.

Maho Beach plane landing at Princess Juliana airport St. Martin

Plane spotting has become so popular that near the end of the runway, local residents and tourists contentedly plant themselves on bar stools at the Sunset Bar and Grill to sip cocktails and watch at a close-but-safe distance.  Each morning, they write the flight schedule on a surf board.

Flight Schedule at Sunset Bar and Grill in St. Martin

The best time of the day to see the planes is between 1:30pm – 5:00pm. The bigger planes 747’s and Airbus 340 usually glide in around 2:00 and leave around 4:00pm.

Only at Maho Beach can you experience the blast of a Boeing 747 passing close above your head. Don’t forget to bring your camera!

 

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About the author

Carmen Edelson is the Founder and Senior Editor of Carmen's Luxury Travel. Carmen has been traveling the world for over a decade. Our travels allows her the opportunity to pursuit her itch to travel to the best luxury destinations, and experience those first class tastes from around the world.

20 Comments

  1. Jackie
    September 1, 2016 at 7:12 am
    Reply

    I feel like this is one of the things you should do just to say you did it! Great photo by the way! What camera do you use?

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 1, 2016 at 11:51 am

      St. Martin was one of my stops on a cruise ship and I had heard about this beach from others. It’s crazy seeing the planes landing practically on your head. The picture was taken from a Nikon, but it wasn’t mine.

  2. Jenn Coleman
    September 3, 2016 at 3:06 am
    Reply

    Really love your cover shot! It is quite amazing that the planes are so close! Was there ever a moment where you felt nervous or scared with them flying over so closely?
    Jenn Coleman recently posted…Jumping In With Both FeetMy Profile

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 3, 2016 at 7:32 pm

      I was a nervous wreak once I saw the plane getting closer to us. You could even feel the heat from the engines.

  3. Anne Slater-Brooks
    September 3, 2016 at 8:06 am
    Reply

    OMG this sounds crazy. I sure hope one of those planes doesn’t mis-time their landing!
    Anne Slater-Brooks recently posted…The Best Way To Save Money On Your Currency ExchangeMy Profile

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 3, 2016 at 7:33 pm

      I hope it never happens either. They land right over the beach, and the take off is just as crazy. They have to pull up immediately to avoid the mountains.

  4. Kerri
    September 4, 2016 at 4:13 am
    Reply

    Love this airport. As a major aviation fan, I have known about, but not been to this airport ! I would love to sit here all day watching the planes fly overhead. Of course, the whole beautiful beach scene wouldn’t be too hard to take either. Love your photos here of you taking in the experience.
    Kerri recently posted…Aires de Service – cheap campervan stopovers in FranceMy Profile

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 4, 2016 at 10:10 am

      We spend a few hours at the beach and enjoyed watching the big planes land later in the day.

  5. Christina
    September 4, 2016 at 5:56 am
    Reply

    Whoa! Do those places really fly that low? What a great spot to check out aircraft. You’d be able to entertain your friends with tales of jet places flying overhead!
    Christina recently posted…InterContinental Sanctuary Cove ReviewMy Profile

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 4, 2016 at 10:14 am

      The runway is very short and begins at the very end of the beach. It’s quite entertaining watching the planes land all day.

  6. Bernard Tan
    September 4, 2016 at 9:41 am
    Reply

    OMG! That is such an awesome experience, to be able to get so up and close with the planes.

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 4, 2016 at 10:22 am

      It’s crazy scary how close they get to the people below, but they have no choice since the runway is short.

  7. melody pittman
    September 4, 2016 at 9:43 pm
    Reply

    You know I have been to St. Martin probably 10 times and have never gone to Maho Beach. I’ve seen it on tv plenty of times but never witnessed it for myself. Thanks for all the info.
    melody pittman recently posted…Liberty Tree Tavern at Disney’s Magic KingdomMy Profile

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 5, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      Next time you go to St. Martin, you need to make a point of going. It’s much better to see in person.

  8. Lois Alter Mark
    September 4, 2016 at 10:01 pm
    Reply

    Wow, that’s amazing – and I love your photos! That Danger sign is kind of terrifying!

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 5, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      Even though they have signs posted, you still see people risking their lives and standing where they shouldn’t.

  9. Mar Pages
    September 5, 2016 at 12:57 am
    Reply

    Wow, talk about taking risks for a photo! The pilots must feel so worried about hitting the tourists sometimes.

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 5, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      It was a little scary seeing how close the planes wheels were getting to the crowds below.

  10. Mags
    September 6, 2016 at 3:13 pm
    Reply

    I’ve been to St. Martin twice now, but I’ve never made it to Maho Beach! This looks so fun (though I don’t think I would be brave enough to cling to the fence).

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 6, 2016 at 7:09 pm

      The best beach for swimming is Mullet Bay which is a short drive from Maho Beach. Maho has a small beach area, but perfect for plane sightings.

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