Review: Aircraft spotting at Maho Beach, Sint Maarten - plane geek paradise

For as long as I can remember I've been a plane geek. I used to spend hours watching Fokker Friendships take off from Napier Airport as a child.

It was probably a good 20 years ago when I first saw a video on the internet of this beach that was located at the end of a runway.  

It showed people on the beach appearing to almost touch aircraft as they came in to land.

I didn't know where this place was or what it was called, but it felt like it was my Disneyland: that place you dream of visiting, but know you'll probably never be able to actually make it happen.

As time went on, more and more videos and photos of this beach were circulated online. They always showed people reaching to touch the planes, or being blown over by the force of the engines when the planes were taking off.

Review: Aircraft spotting at Maho Beach, Sint Maarten - plane geek paradise
Photo credit: Dan Lake/Newshub

So I started researching the beach.  

It's called Maho, in a place called Sint Maarten, a small territory and part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It shares Saint Martin Island with a French territory of the same name, located in the Caribbean.

Fast-forward to 2019 and imagine my excitement when I get a phone call inviting me on a cruise of the Caribbean. On the other end of the phone is someone reading out the different activities and destinations that were to be part of the trip.

Then they said the words "you'll get a day at Sint Maarten".

My energy levels went immediately from standard Monday morning to what the equivalent of three coffees - I was beyond excited!

Review: Aircraft spotting at Maho Beach, Sint Maarten - plane geek paradise
Photo credit: Dan Lake/Newshub

Just a few weeks later I was sailing the Caribbean onboard the Regal Princess out of Fort Lauderdale, on my way to Dan's Disneyland.

Arriving at Sint Maarten my travel group was treated to an amazing America's Cup race out on the water, but as soon as that was over, it was off to plane geek paradise.

We caught what we thought was a taxi, but with the island being so small, it was actually the local bus service. We had wondered why we were stopping to pick people up.

Then finally we were there. Maho Beach, Sint Maarten in the Caribbean.

It didn't take long for the planes to start rolling in.

The planes got bigger and bigger, the screams of excitement from those on the beach louder and louder.

Review: Aircraft spotting at Maho Beach, Sint Maarten - plane geek paradise
Photo credit: Dan Lake/Newshub

At first we saw a handful of small Twin Otter aircraft as well as a couple of ATR 42's.  Then the jets began to arrive. 

We were almost within touching distance of Boeing 737's, 757's and 767's and then the big one. A Joon Airlines A330 arriving from France.

It really did feel like a party, and there was no better place to be having one.

At one end of the beach was a bar packed with tourists downing cocktails. Outside there was a surfboard with flight arrival times listed from top to bottom.

And, in case the sight of dozens of people getting their phones out and looking toward the horizon wasn't warning enough, a loud horn blew as the next aircraft approached the runway.

When the time came for an aircraft to take off, however, things were a bit different.

Review: Aircraft spotting at Maho Beach, Sint Maarten - plane geek paradise
Photo credit: Dan Lake/Newshub

The strength of the air thrusting out of the plane's engines as it begins to roar down the runway is so strong, it can send people, picnics, hats or whatever else isn't tied down flying into the ocean.

On a serious note, this part can actually be quite dangerous. People who have gotten too close or haven't been holding onto anything have actually been killed by the jet blast, so it's important to make sure you're standing in a place you can safely fall over, or where you won't get blasted directly.

We could only squeeze in around 45 minutes on the beach to ensure we weren't left behind when the cruise ship departed.

As we got into our oversized SUV taxi back to the cruise terminal, I was happy that I'd ticked this destination off my bucket list.

The only problem is, now I need to visit it again.

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