maho beach plane spotting

Maho Beach, St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles

For those out there, like me, who love beaches and airplanes, this beach offers the best of both worlds! Maho Beach (map) is a beautiful white sandy beach, with turquoise blue water lapping at its sands on the Dutch side of the Caribbean island of St. Maarten. What makes this beach unique is its location: at the foot of the runway of Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM). Maho Beach is arguably one of the most spectacular places in the world for plane-spotting!

maho beach sint maarten
The planes literally swoop down right over the beach (image courtesy of R.Kagey/Unsplash).

Plane-spotting and a cocktail

The planes literally swoop down less than fifty meters over your head for the landing. Many people visit this specific Caribbean beach just to watch the planes and whirl in the sandstorm when a plane takes off – a plane-spotter’s ideal holiday spot and a unique opportunity for thrill-seekers! If you don’t have your own transport, you can book a Maho Beach tour from Philipsburg to witness this spectacle. Maho Beach is about a 30-minute drive from Philipsburg.

plane spotting beach sint maarten
Maho Beach (image by E. Lim)

There’s a fun beach club at a corner of the beach with benches and tables facing the planes’ approach path while loudspeakers broadcast the interaction between the airport tower and the pilot of the approaching plane. The airport’s arrivals and departures are listed on a blackboard; the highlights being the arrival and take-off of widebody aircraft from Europe. Order a rum cocktail, sit back and watch the planes! Maho Beach is also known locally as Sunset Beach, so stick around and enjoy the sunset!

maho beach bar
Sit back with a cocktail and enjoy the view! Image by E. Lim.

Best times for plane-spotting at Maho Beach

The best time for plane-spotting is in the afternoon between noon and 6pm. Flights from the USA, Amsterdam and Paris, the latter two feature Airbus widebodies, normally arrive and depart during this time period. Check the airport schedule for actual times.


Plane-spotting at Maho Beach in the past

Gone are the days when KLM and Air France flew their 4-engine widebodies (respectively the Boeing 747 and Airbus 340) to St. Maarten. These days, the biggest widebodies to land at SXM are the twin-engine Airbus 330. Other aircraft types that land at SXM include the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320 series. Though very large lanes no longer fly to St. Maarten, Maho Beach remains one of the most unique plane-spotting spots in the world.

Check out the awesome scenes of different types of aircraft landing and taking off in the videos below.

Be aware of the jet blast

There are signs warning the public of a plane’s jet blast upon take-off; the blast from a twin-engined Boeing 757 is sufficient to push the waves back from the beach! Cars have to stop at the side of the runway when a plane is about to take-off.

jet blast warning
Maho Beach jet blast warning

The bigger planes roll down the runway a bit before going into full throttle. It’s an awesome experience to lie on the beach and see a massive plane swoop in with a thunderous roar just 20-odd meters above you! The thrill-seekers head out to the beach when a bigger plane takes off to brave the sandstorm as the pilot revs up the engines. Check out a video of the Boeing 747 jet blast below:

Maho Beach is a must-do in St. Maarten especially if you’re a thrill-seeker or an aviation enthusiast. Please stay at a safe distance from the fence and do not underestimate the power of the jet blasts!

Read other Velvet Escape posts on the Eastern Caribbean:


14 Responses

  • I was in St Martin and I saw a person almost fly when a plane take off! impressive

  • ooh it reminds of my experience in Merimbula (AUS)….walking at night, all of a sudden a roaring giant aircraft appeared over my head while it was landing… scary and fun …LOL 🙂

  • These people are c-r-a-z-y!! I can only imagine what the hit in the body would be like. But my poor aching ears, just thinking about it. 🙂

  • I have heard about this beach – those pictures are just crazy! I can’t imagine the feeling in my stomach of a plane flying right over me!!

  • Hi Nico,
    Wow, thanks for your beautiful comment. I can definitely relate to your story. My Dad used to take me and my brother to every plane event imaginable, from air shows to model plane exhibitions! When we went to the airport, my parents had to drag me away from the observation deck. Haha!


  • This is so cool! I’m a bit of an airplane fanatic too, even more so than when I was a kid. Back then I’d beg my parents to take my brother and I down to the airport just to watch the planes land. But that was boring old Bradley Field in Connecticut. This would be a perfect place to get my plane watching fill. And then some!

    To this day when I see airplanes, especially the big birds taking off or landing, I’m amazed that they do it flawlessly, EVERY TIME. If I fly in a 747 my heart skips a beat when the thing lifts off the ground.

  • Hahahaha, thanks Gaby! That’s exactly what I did. Scream Woohoooooo each time a plane flew over! Awesome! 🙂


  • wow, I can imagine how the plane sounds really close with you.
    there are 1 spot in Bali to get angle like this but I think not too close 🙂

    great spot Keith!

  • You know what Keith, this is exactly what my bf & I always look forward in a certain hour & minute in Bali waiting for a plane landing to Ngurah Rai Airport, Denpasar, Bali as it approached the runway over the mangrove on By Pass Street. The distance between us and that crazy plane’s jet blast and definitely not fifty meters away over your head! but still it’s a thrill, specially when you are riding a motorbike. What I do when the plane was right over my head : SCREAM from the top of my lung WOOOHOOOOO……!!! Crazy Gaby…
    Great great blog post, Keith! XO

  • For a frequent flyer, I’m surprisingly afraid of planes…and this looks absolutely TERRIFYING to me!!!!

    Those are brave beach goers who sit right underneath the landing plane!

    Kathryn @Travelfusion

  • Thanks Juno! It’s a FUN Beach! Absolutely perfect for me – beach and planes! Haha!


  • Oh my!!!!! It is so awesome and scary at the same time! Wow but I bet i would love this. Be careful with the ears though… Easily breakable! : ) nice Keith!

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