Thrill of planes overhead in Sint Maarten

By Miyako Storch
This item appears on page 27 of the July 2020 issue.
Planes are so close, you can almost get a free flight just by grabbing the tail — Sint Maarten.  Photos by Miyako Storch

My husband, Bernie, and I had been on St. Martin in March 2019, but we went back for a stay in Sint Maarten, the Dutch side of the island, Jan. 5-9, 2020, for a specific reason: to go to the spot near Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) where you can watch planes landing right above your head.

The place at the end of the airport runway is Maho Beach, on Simpson Bay, and only a 2-lane road separates the runway from the beach. It is a public road and a public beach, so no permission is needed to go there. Some people go there to picnic while watching the big birds pass overhead, everything from private Cessna 172s and 182s to big jumbo jets. It almost felt like they were giving us a haircut!

Incoming planes touched the ground just after passing over the beach, where all the spectators were, and the road. It was most fun when a big plane took off. After first taxiing to this end of the runway and then turning to face away from us, the pilot stepped on the pedal, full throttle, and the jet blast was so powerful, some people who did not pay attention were blown into the water!

The Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa - St Maarten, on Simpson Bay.

The terminal is at the other end of the runway. When Bernie and I arrived at the airport, we took a taxi to our hotel ($25 one way), the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa - St Maarten (1 Rhine Road, Maho Village Maho Beach, Sint Maarten; phone, in the US, 800/766-3782 or 721/545-2115, From our bay-view room, we could hear and see the planes coming and going, but we wanted to see landings happening right above our heads.

We walked from our hotel to that particular spot, about a 5-minute walk. Both sides of the bay had outside snack bars selling light snacks and cold drinks, both alcoholic and soft drinks.

For four nights at the resort, we paid $2,470 for two, all inclusive of meals and all drinks with meals, with a choice of several restaurants. Even the Casino Royale’s show was included. 

On top of the hotel, there was a Sunset Lounge with views of the ocean, the town across Simpson Bay and the planes taking off and landing. With a cocktail in hand, it was a really relaxing place.

If we have a chance to be in the Caribbean, we will choose Sint Maarten anytime. We felt safe, and there was nothing to complain about. 

Santa Barbara, CA

Beachgoer in Sint Maarten watching planes land.
An airliner landing in Sint Maarten.