Plane Spotting at Maho Beach (How to Get There, When to Go and How to Stay Safe)

If you look up Maho Beach online and see the results you’d understand the hype, but Maho Beach is more than just a hotspot that happens to be adjacent to an airport’s runway threshold. This interesting stretch of fine white sand, right at the edges of the Princess Juliana International Airport, and Simpson Bay has become a hallmark of the Sint Maarten experience.
Plane Spotting at Maho Beach
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Creating buzz worldwide, and a local thrill Maho Beach has a charm and quirk that is unique to Sint Maarten. From Boeings, airbuses, windsurfing, beach bars, and top-rated restaurants, this fabled beach, has a lot to offer to those seeking a tourist rite of passage in Sint Maarten.

In Which Country Is Maho Beach?

Maho Beach is one of the most celebrated and iconic spots in Sint Maarten, a Dutch constituent country in the Caribbean. The beach has become one of the island’s must-visit places, and a landmark that is so interestingly quirky, that it has become a tourist rite of passage, whenever you’re on the Dutch side of Saint Martin Island.

Maho Beach sits right between the runway of the Princess Juliana International Aiport and the waters of the Simpson Bay, giving a quirky charm to this long white sand stretch. The beach is popular for planespotting, water activities, beach lounging, or just having a good time drinking at the nearby local bar.

Is Maho Beach on the French or Dutch Side?

The iconic Maho Beach is located on the Dutch side of Sint Maarten, on the island of Saint Martin. The Dutch side is popular for its more cosmopolitan flavor along with its stunning beaches that go with tons of activities that you can do, one of them is plane spotting where the beach is extremely famous for.

Where Is Maho Beach Located

The famed beach is nestled between the stunning blue waters of Maho Bay and the threshold of the runways of Princess Juliana International Airport. Maho Beach is located on the Dutch side of Sint Maarten, west of tourist-heavy Simpson Bay, which faces the Caribbean, at the southern end of the island.

When in Maho Beach, you will find that it is close to several key places on the island, other than the airport. Thanks to the beach’s location, it is home to many tours and adventure companies right around Simpson Bay that can take you to a slew of special spots across the island. You can also head to the neighboring and quiet Mullet Beach if you’re the type to lounge on the beach with true tranquility.

Is Maho Beach Safe or Dangerous?

When it comes to swimming, there is nothing to worry about except the rocks that may prick your bare feet when you get far enough from the shore, so it’s best to have aquatic shoes. The beach is an ideal spot for windsurfing due to the high winds that tend to blow through the bay, however, the real danger that comes is with how people challenge the plane that takes off right across the beach.

The beach is popular for spotting planes that land at the adjacent airport. The area of the beach is small with only a handful of establishments along the oceanfront such as restaurants, bars, and a few hotels. The crowds staying near the runway can be oblivious to the dangers of the planes.

Winds from the jets and airplanes tend to reach more than 100 mph, and that strength can cause serious injury or even death is possible. But despite the possible hazard, a lot of tourists still flock to the danger zones of the beach. The sheer strength of a 747 about to take off can propel people or even throw them violently out into the ocean. Despite the numerous signs warning people to stay away, hundreds still flock to the area for the sake of the thrill and experience, or worse, social media clout.

Has Anyone Died on Maho Beach?

There have been quite a few reports of injury on the beach but not due to swimming in its waters, but because of the wind blasts of departing planes from the adjacent Princess Juliana International Airport. In July of 2017, one tourist died.

A 57-year-old woman died due to the injuries she sustained after being thrown to a concrete barrier by the blast from a departing plane. She died in the Sint Maarten Medical Center shortly after the incident. Tourists tend to flock to the location, for watching low-flying planes as they land and take off from the airport, despite the many warnings about the potential dangers both from officials and the ones displayed on the fences.

What Happened at Maho Beach?

Three hallmark events happened in Maho Beach that gave the beach a rather colored reputation among the locals and tourists. First, the beach was destroyed by Hurricane Omar back ‘08, where it destroyed the Sunset Bar and Grill, Bamboo Bernies, and Bliss, and almost took a year for these establishments to reopen. Due to Hurricane Omar’s devastating effects, the beach was reduced to boulders.

The same thing happened again in 2017, due to the ravages of Hurricane Irma which has severely crippled the island’s economy which took them 2 years to fully recover. Maho Beach was again destroyed, and the beach’s sands were blown out, or completely thinned out, revealing only boulders and rocks.

In the same year, a woman also died because of the blast from a departing plane. Due to the beach’s proximity to the runway of Princess Juliana International Airport, tourists tend to watch planes land as they pass overhead, or challenge a departing plane’s blast right off the airport’s fences while holding on to them.

The blast caused a woman to be thrown against a concrete barrier resulted in injuries that eventually caused her death while being treated in Sint Maarten Medical Center. The blast of departing planes tends to be so strong it is likened to sustained winds of category 5 hurricanes.

Has Maho Beach Been Rebuilt?

Maho Beach’s sand was virtually lost due to Hurricane Irma’s devastation back in 2017, what used to be a world-famous beach for many planespotters, and playful, curious tourists were reduced to boulders, and rocks, and crashing waves. The surrounding resorts and facilities were also ravaged, most of what was washed out to sea.

However, the beach was rebuilt, as well as the nearby Sunset Bar and Grill, another island icon. Bigger players like resorts such as the Royal Islands Club La Plage were also rebuilt, and went back to business in full swing in 2019, two years after the severe damage of the hurricane, that most probably one of the island’s most historical events.

Do Planes Still Fly Over Maho Beach?

From large Boeings, and airbuses, airplanes, and jets still fly over Maho Beach, both arriving and departing. This quirky phenomenon causes a big fiasco among many tourists that flock by the hundreds over the fences of the airport’s runway, right at Maho Beach.

Whether you’re standing right at the fence just to be blown away by a departing plane, or watching one fly overhead as it lands, you can watch planes from KLM, AirFrance, and a slew of other air carriers/

This event may be quintessential Sint Maarten and has put Maho Beach on the list of the world’s most famous and must-visit beaches, but it does pose a risk to many curious and overenthusiastic tourists. Reports of injuries and even death were involved because of this phenomenon, but people still risk their lives for it, despite the officials’ warnings and efforts.

How Often Do Planes Fly Over Maho Beach?

Whether their big passenger planes, jets, or small charters, you can spot or watch a plane fly by overhead every 15 minutes. However, that depends on the season. Planes tend to fly over or take off, on Sint Maarten’s busiest seasons more frequently allowing more chances for more people to watch what the fuss is all about in Maho Beach.

The Best Time to See Planes at Maho Beach

If you’re at an airport, taking a plane to somewhere beautiful and almost unreal, like Sint Maarten for example, you’ll probably notice that it’s always busy. That’s because there are always flights every 15 to 30 minutes, so there really isn’t the best time to see planes at Maho Beach, because that is probably any time.

But, thanks to enthusiasts of the beach, and dedicated aviation geeks out there, there is a chalkboard at the Sunset Bar that shows everyone the daily arrivals schedule for reference. The deal is if you have internet, you can easily access the airport website, and check their flight information.

How Much Does It Cost to Go to Maho Beach?

Maho Beach is public access and doesn’t charge fees whatsoever, however, the parking lot next to the beach sometimes do, for maintenance. So, if you plan to visit, and have a rental car expect to pay some fees but nothing too dramatic.

The real cost you might have to spend there are the amenities you may use, and the food and drinks you may want to treat yourself to. You can bring around 25 to 50 USD, as an initial budget just in case, unless you’re the type with a wider budget and splurging plan, you can always up the ante.

Is Maho Beach Nice?

Maho Beach, other than its fun and quirky plane-flying-overhead feature, is also a nice beach to visit too. It is a considerably long beach that stretches around the center of the crescent-shaped Maho Bay, right next to Simpson Bay and Burgeaux Bay.

The thing with the entire island of Saint Martin, no matter which side, will always have nice beaches, given its beautiful turquoise blue waters, with schools of tropical fish you can check out by snorkeling. The catch is that it is never a quiet beach, other than the airport next door, the beach also has bars and restaurants that attract vibrant and dynamic energy to the area.

The Best Restaurant Maho Beach

The restaurant Moulin Fou, and Tortuga Maho are some of the top-rated restaurants near Maho Beach, offering hungry, or gastronomically adventurous visitors that come to the coveted Maho Beach, and Simpson Bay.

Moulin Fou is a French restaurant renowned for serving prime French cuisine with an interesting address – located right between the Princess Juliana International Airport, and Mullet Bay gold Club, just next door to Maho Bay.

The famous OTrtuga Maho is one of the most well-known restaurants in the area with their servings of salad, pasta, and desserts, you can be sure to have whatever your palate is looking for satisfied by Tortuga Maho, roughly translated as Maho Turtle. But the restaurant’s biggest draw is its ocean view, where you can dine with an amazing view of the Caribbean and the rest of the bay.

How Do I Get to Maho Beach?

You can get to Maho Beach by two common options, by public transport or taxi, or by rental cars. You can get to the beach via bus, or taxi quite easily if you’re staying around Simpson Bay or Philipsburg. If you’re coming from the cruise terminal, it’s around a 17-minute ride to Maho Beach.

If you’re staying on the island for longer days and opted for a rental car, you can park it right next to the beach, but just bring enough cash with you as the parking lot may charge you a small fee.

Where to Park at Maho Beach

There’s a parking lot next to the Sunset Bar and Grill, just spare cash for the parking fee. The rates may change from time to time, but the parking lot usually charges people.

However, due to the reputation of the beach, many people might be flocking, and parking may be full, but according to previous visitors, its capacity may be tricky, as there is a casino nearby, and some guests tend to use the parking lot as well.

How Far Is Maho Beach From the Cruise Terminal?

Maho Beach is approximately 13.9 km or 8.6 miles from the cruise terminal via the airport road and can take around 17 minutes to drive, via car or taxi. Getting to Maho Beach, plane-watching, and enjoy every pleasure the beach has to offer is one of the best, and possibly simples shore excursions you can do while on a cruise, especially if you have a full day of disembarking.

You can also enjoy even more delights from the restaurants along the beach, explore Simpson Bay, and meet other Sint Maarten-loving tourists, and locals, while you’re at it. The thing with coming from the Cruise Terminal is that you get to see a fraction of Philipsburg, and can give you an overview or an idea or two, on how to conquer the Dutch capital.

How to Get to Maho Beach From Cruise Terminal

if you’re coming from the cruise ships to Sint Maarten, Maho Beach is probably one of the hottest entries in your shore excursion list, but do not fret, as you have four options to get to the coveted beach from the cruise terminal.

You can go by taxi, a group can that takes passengers from the cruise port right to the beach, a rental car, or catching public transport like a bus or a van from the city of Philipsburg to Maho Beach.

Your first two options are the easiest, and most probably the fastest, however, they’re also the most expensive. Fare prices can range from 20 to 30 USD, and a group van charges per head.

If you prefer to rent a car to go through the island at your own route and pace, there are plenty of rental companies that dot the city, however, it may not be necessary if you’re only going to Maho Beach.

Or, if you want to take it slower, yet cheaper, you can always get on buses and other public transport options to get to the beach which typically costs around 5 USD.

How Much Is a Taxi From Cruise Port to Maho Beach?

Taxis are probably one of the most expensive transportation options for getting around Philipsburg, or to Maho Beach. Most taxis would cost around 20 to 30 USD, and would usually take around 20 minutes.

How Far Is Maho Beach From Philipsburg?

Maho Beach is approximately 11 km or 6.8 miles from the center of Philipsburg via the airport road and can take around 15 to 18 minutes to drive, via car or taxi. However, that can change depending on certain factors along the way, like traffic, if you’re visiting during the peak season.

How to Get From Philipsburg to Maho Beach

You can get to Maho Beach from Philipsburg by three common options, by taxi, by public transport such as bus or a van, or by rental car. Taxis, however, are known to be one of the most expensive if not the most expensive option. Fare prices tend to reach 20+ USD, but they’re the fastest way that can get you there.

Public transport such as buses and vans are the most economical, they’re good and all if you don’t mind how long the ride can get compared with a taxi. Buses typically cost 5 USD, one way. A rental car is also economical, but not the cheapest, but it would lose its value if you just use it to get to Maho Beach. Rental cars are ideal for people staying longer in Sint Maarten, as opposed to a one-day excursion.

How Far Is Mullet Bay From Maho Beach?

Mullet Bay is only around a kilometer away from Maho Beach. Going to Mullet Bay is usually an idea accompanied when people think of Maho Beach, especially if people want to get away from the noise of both the people and the planes. You can get to the bay by just walking that can take around less than ten minutes, four if you decide to drive.

Can You Walk From Maho Beach to Mullet Bay?

Walking is ideal as the distance isn’t too great that one would need a set of wheels to get to. The distance is only around a kilometer, and walking to Mullet Bay would only take less than 10 minutes.

How Far Is Maho Beach From Simpson Bay?

Maho Beach is only approximately 700 meters away from Simpson Bay, which is ideal as you can just walk in-between them. This short distance covers a lot of ground, and allows tourists to do so many things, and explore more places in less than a day.

What Else to Do in Maho Beach

Apart from the famous plane spotting must-do, or chill and drink at the iconic Sunset Bar & Grill, there are plenty of other interesting things to do in Maho Beach just as much as any crowded yet fun beach in the world.

You can splurge your spare cash in the nearby Sonesta Resort and Casino, complete with games of your liking. One of Sint Maarten’s best draws is the number of casinos it has on its side, and with that casinos and other gaming, facilities are made fun, the Sint Maarten way.

One best thing to do in Maho Beach, when you’re in the area is to leave it. If you’ve had enough of noise plane watchers, crowded bars, and engine noises of airplanes flying by, you can go to the neighboring Mullet Beach, and lounge and chill. It’s just within walking distance and takes little time.

You can also check out the famous restaurants that line the beach for that well-deserved treat, like the Tortuga Maho, and the many restaurants of the resort nearby as well.