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 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!
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!
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.
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.
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!