Maho Bay: St. Maarten’s Airplane Spotting Beach

- "Maho Bay: Plane Spotting in St. Maarten" - Two Traveling Texans
by Anisa // 41 Comments

I don’t think you can say you have been to St. Maarten (St. Martin) unless you have been to the beach at Maho Bay. Maho Beach came in at #3 in the world on Tripadvisor’s 10 unique beaches you need to see to believe.

While Maho Beach may not be the most scenic beach on the island, it is the most famous because planes fly low right over it to land at Princess Juliana International Airport.  When planes take off, it’s another story, you can watch fellow beach goers battle the jet blast.  

Let me tell you what you can expect when you visit Maho Beach (also known as St. Maarten’s airplane beach) along with some helpful tips.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, please see disclosure for more information.

Get up close and personal with airplanes! - "Maho Bay: Plane Spotting in St. Maarten" - Two Traveling Texans
Get up close and personal with airplanes!

About Maho Beach St. Maarten

As you can imagine, this is not your typical beach.  Maho Beach is located right by the main runway for the SXM airport, making it one of the best places in the world to watch planes land and take off. KLM used to fly a Boeing 747 into Princess Juliana Airport, but since October 2016 they started using a smaller plane (A330).  

The airplanes attract lots of tourists, so the beach can get very crowded especially on days when there is a cruise ship in port. If you are looking for a less crowded beach, consider taking a day trip from St. Martin to an island more off the beaten path. 

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Anisa enjoying a tropical drink at Guy's Driftwood Boat Bar. - "Maho Bay: Plane Spotting in St. Maarten" - Two Traveling Texans
Anisa enjoying a tropical drink at Guy’s Driftwood Boat Bar.

Maho Beach Bars

 I don’t recommend setting up camp on the sand.  It has a steep slope and if you sit above the slope you will be pounded with sand when jets take off.  Luckily, there are two tropical beach bars on either end where you can hang out when you are not in the water.  The Sunset Bar and Grill, located on the south end is larger and more popular.

At the other end of Maho Bay, you will find Guy’s Driftwood Boat Bar.  Both have plenty of drink options and food.  

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Watching Planes at Maho Beach

The Sunset Bar has a chalkboard with the Maho Beach flight schedule for the day.  Since most of the planes take off and land in the early afternoon, you don’t need to spend the whole day at Maho Beach.  You must make sure you see at least one plane land and one take off though.  

You should also go for a dip since the water is nice and calm, especially if it’s a warm day.  You can watch the planes while you float in the ocean, but please make sure someone from your party stays watching your stuff at all times or bring along a beach safe.  (Click here to see the beach safes available on Amazon.)

**If you are planning a beach vacation, be sure to grab our free printable beach packing list.**

Planes Landing in St. Martin

For arriving flights, it is fun to watch the planes landing in St. Maarten fly right over you.  You will be amazed by how close they come to the beach.  

If you want to get Maho Beach photos or video, I would recommend taking them from the side (one of the bars).  If you are directly below the plane, you won’t be able to capture the perspective.  Once you have your photo, go in the water and watch the planes land from there.

Planes Taking Off from St. Martin

Departing flights are a different story.  The planes usually take off going away from Maho beach so they don’t fly over you.  But that does not mean there isn’t anything to see.  

When a flight departs the plane waits by the fence right across the road from the beach and then revs up its engines.  The engines generate a very powerful wind (jet blast) that pushes anything in its path towards the water.

The warning sign that so many beach goers disregard! - "Maho Bay: Plane Spotting in St. Maarten" - Two Traveling Texans
The warning sign that so many beach goers disregard!

Safety Warning!

In spite of the warning signs, people line the fence behind the planes that are taking off and try to hold on once the plane starts its engine.  This does not go well! Pretty much everyone is pushed backward and falls onto the sand.  

I don’t recommend that you try this.  The warning signs are there for a reason and I don’t want you getting hurt during your vacation.  Better safe than sorry.  It is just not worth it.

I hate to admit it though, I do enjoy watching the people hold on to the fence when the planes are ready to take off.  It is always good for a few laughs.  For the best view, I would recommend watching from one of the bars. Even standing a bit back from the fence, you will have sand blown on you.  Please be careful and mind your belongings, hats and other loose items can easily blow away.

Check out this video to get an idea of what to expect when plane spotting at Maho Beach.

After all the planes have come and gone or if you just need to go to a place less crowded, head to Mullet Bay only a short drive away.  There is plenty of parking and the beach is prettier and calmer.  Mullet Bay is also a pretty long beach, perfect for an afternoon walk.  Rocks line both sides of Mullet Bay and the water is clear, so you can try to do some snorkeling.  If you are hungry, they have a few snack bars. 

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How to Get to Maho Bay

Maho Beach is located in St. Maarten (the Dutch side of the island), literally at the end of the runway.  Only a narrow road and those fences separate the beach from the airport.   

The beach can be easily reached by car if you just circle around the airport, but there is limited parking.  Guy’s Driftwood Boat Bar has a small area where cars can park, but it’s not a formal parking lot.  Someone parked behind us and we had to ask them to move so we could get out.  There is also a  parking lot a short walk from the south end of the beach.  

Maho Bay is a great option for cruise passengers too.  Just take a taxi from the cruise port to Maho Beach.  It takes about 20 minutes and costs $9 per person.  Please make sure you allow plenty of time to return to your ship.

You will see plane after plane and it doesn't get old. - "Maho Bay: Plane Spotting in St. Maarten" - Two Traveling Texans
You will see plane after plane and it doesn’t get old.

Where to Stay in Maho Bay

Maho Bay could be a convenient base for your stay in St. Martin, especially if you aren’t planning to rent a car.  It is only a five-minute taxi ride from the airport, plus there are other restaurants, casinos, and bars that you can walk to.

Sonesta Maho Beach Resort and Casino is a popular hotel option that is walking distance from Maho beach.   It is an all-inclusive resort with a swim-up bar, two pools, five restaurants and five bars, spa, fitness center, tennis courts, and casino.  You would never know it suffered significant damage during the hurricanes in 2017.  Check availability and current rates here.

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Is Maho Beach Worth Visiting?

Yes.  It’s such a unique experience to see the planes so close.  You won’t soon forget it! Plus, the beach is nice and the bars are fun.  The only downside is that it can be crowded.

Have you been to Maho Bay or another place with great plane spotting? If you have, I would love to hear about your Maho beach experience in the comments.


Update: Sadly I have learned that this week a beach goer was severely injured by a jet engine blast and later died of her injuries. My condolences go out to her loved ones.  Please take the safety warnings seriously.

Pin for Later

photos of planes landing over Maho Beach in St. Martin with text overlay

Expert Tips for Plane Spotting in St. Maarten

  • Time your visit to Maho Beach for when planes will be taking off and landing – usually early afternoon.  If you can avoid, going to Maho Beach on days when cruise ships are in port.
  • Don’t try to hold on to the fence or stand behind the planes when they are ready to take off.
  • To get to Maho Beach from the cruise port, it’s best to take a taxi.
  • Use a Maho beach bar as your home base.  If the Sunset Bar is crowded try Guy’s Driftwood Boat Bar.
  • You can check the Maho Beach plane schedule on the chalkboard at the Sunset Bar.
  • Grab our printable beach packing list to make sure you have everything you need for your trip.

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Last Updated on July 28, 2021

About the Author

Anisa is an experienced international traveler with extra pages in her passport and stamps from 41 different countries across 5 continents (and counting). She was born and raised in Texas. After a 13 year stint in NYC, she moved to England to live with her husband.