One of the most popular things to do on Saint Martin/Sint Maarten is something that terrifies even the bravest of travelers: Watching the planes come in and leave at Airplane Beach! Maho Beach (AKA Airplane Beach) is adjacent to Saint Martin/Sint Maarten’s international airport (SXM), giving beach-goers the kind of aviation views you can’t get anywhere else. Here are some tips so you can enjoy this unique experience for yourself!
Park for FREE
It’s one of the reasons I dislike driving–you always have to hunt for a place to park! But much to my delight, we found that there was a parking lot right next to Maho Beach and the Sunset Cafe that offers parking for just $5 USD. And if you eat at the Sunset Cafe, they will validate the parking pass for you, so it’s FREE! Woohoo!
Keep reading: What to Know Before You Visit the Caribbean
Know the Flight Times
The first flight of the day is scheduled to land at 7:55am, and the last is scheduled to land at 8:15pm. Times are subject to change, however, and keep in mind that flights could be early or late. For the most updated schedule, check out the SXM Airport website here.
Many of the flights that land here are from nearby islands, so they’re smaller, but still awesome to watch come in! To see the bigger planes, however, you’ll have to make sure you come in the afternoon. Jumbo jets come in starting around 12:45pm, and more periodically come in until about 6:30pm. It’s definitely a unique way to spend an afternoon!
Respect the Boundaries
While watching jumbo jets fly in right above your head is a fun, unique, interesting thing to see and experience, it can also be dangerous. When the flights land, you’ll never believe how close they are to your head, and it’ll be hard to fight the urge to duck!
However, when the largest planes take off, the blast from the engines will blast you with sand and push you back with its force. In 2017, a tourist died (https://www.foxnews.com/travel/tourist-in-saint-martin-killed-by-forceful-blast-from-nearby-jet) from being thrown during the blast, despite holding onto the chainlink fence that separates the runway from the road.
In 2012, a woman was thrown head-first into a concrete divider and survived, but with regrets. Tourists were always warned about injury and death, but now it is illegal to stand on that side of the road. Keep to the beach, and if you’d rather observe the blast from elsewhere, you certainly will get the effect.
Hold on to Your Hat!
You will definitely still feel the blast from planes taking off, even just standing on the beach. You will be pelted with sand (and some gravel—beware!), and you will certainly feel the wind. That’s why you’ll want to hold onto your hat, sunglasses, beach bags, towel, shoes, and anything you brought to the beach that’s not attached to you!
It’s hard to get bad photos here! Most people focus on getting shots of the plane right overhead, and those are very cool shots! However, it’s easier to tell just how close the planes are when you take a shot off to the side. That way, you can see the airplane in relation to the people in the flight path!
Also, everyone wants to get epic shots of the biggest aircraft, but you might want to practice on the smaller planes flying in throughout the day from neighboring islands. You can get some epic shots of those, too, plus you’ll get really good at finding and taking the shots you want before the big planes come in for a landing.
Stay for Lunch or Supper
The Sunset Bar and Grill has a great view of the beach and its world-famous flight path! They even have airline-inspired pizzas for your dining pleasure. They post the flight times each day so you know what’s coming next and when. Best of all, hanging out here means you won’t get sand-blasted when the biggest planes take off!
What to Bring
So, you know I like to be prepared, but I also like to pack light! There are a few things you should bring with you to Maho Beach. P.S. All these things below are also essential to pack for any island destination in general! Here are the must-haves!
Read next: What to Pack for a Week on St. Martin
Want more? Get everything you need to plan your trip on my dedicated Caribbean Islands Page!
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