Nirvana for Plane Spotters
From humble beginnings as a small military airstrip, Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten is today one of the busiest in the Caribbean. It is also the most popular for plane spotting.
Aviation Fans Front Row Thrills & Chills
Plane spotting in St. Maarten, simply the best
Coveted by aviation enthusiasts, big jets and small planes fly 40 – 80 feet above Maho Beach; one of 37 sandy swaths that ring the 37 square mile island.
May-Ling Chun, Director of Tourism, St. Maarten Tourism Bureau
“Plane spotting is one of the most popular activities on the island,” said May-Ling Chun. Our airport is unique in the world with runways so close to the beach that plane spotters can watch the big jets soar overhead from safe viewing points on Maho Beach and the adjacent Sonesta Resorts Sint Maarten.”
Diehard jet junkies & Extreme plane spotters
For extreme spotters worth their sea salt, Sunset Bar and Grill at the end of the beach is where flight schedules are posted and the aptly named Runway Rum Punch is potent with spiced rum.
Peak viewing times for plane spotting
Peak viewing times are between 1 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. when jets make a graceful grand entrance over the beach.
Vanessa Kortkamp, visitor
“It’s been on my bucket list for years to be under those planes,“ said Vanessa Kortkamp. She visited the island for the first time this past spring and has already booked a return trip.
“For our next visit, we booked a stay at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort both for the location near the SXM airport and the all-inclusive option.“
Double your pleasure
The largest on the island, Sonesta Maho Beach Resort is family-friendly with 420 rooms while the adults-only Sonesta Ocean Point Resort invites with swanky 130 suites.
Sonesta Resorts Sint Maarten
Jen Paszkowski, Aviation Photographer & AVgeek
An avid plane spotter, Jen Paszkowski is also an aviation photographer and self-described aviation geek:
“Staying at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort was an obvious choice for our holidays because the location is perfect for taking photographs without having to get up from your sunbed.”
Get the party started
Canadian tourists Les Lem and sons
Canadian tourists Les Lem and sons 7-year old Brandon and 6-year old Ethan are big fans of the resort where plane spotting is a family affair:
“Both my boys have flight simulators on their tablets and are in awe every time a plane flies overhead.”
Things to do outside the resorts
Just outside the resorts, Maho Village is lively with bars, restaurants, shopping and the Casino Royale with a lounge for high rollers 400 slots and 22 gaming tables. In the Casino Royale Theater, shows include the mojo-fueled Latin Fire, Vegas-style musicals and Cirque-inspired acrobatic shows.
On Friday nights Maho Village Carnival features the Generation New Status Marching Band, stilt walkers, puppets and parades. Back at the resorts, groovy bands bust a move, singers serenade cocktail sippers and DJ’s keep the party going.
No price tag
An all-inclusive stay goes way beyond the buffet and the beach. For those preferring to pack a few souvenirs after a sunny vacation rather than packing on a few extra pounds, the new ‘SunFit Body and Lifestyle Sessions’ go the distance with aerobics in the pool, kickboxing and Pilates to mediation, yoga and morning runs to see the sunrise flights come in for a landing at the Princess Juliana International Airport.
Haven of rejuvenation
With a brand new design, the name says it all at the Serenity Spa. At a spacious 2,500 square-feet, the spa invites with 6 treatment rooms and a myriad of tropical wraps and rubs. For privacy-seekers, Serenity Point is an outdoor gazebo overlooking the calm water of Maho Bay. For plane spotters, book an appointment in the late afternoon for fabulous views of the big jets soaring over Maho beach.
Unlimited sipping and snacking
At Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, there’s plenty of choice in 5 restaurants, 5 bars, Maho Café and Napoli Pizzeria where 200 pies are devoured each day. Ocean Terrace is for sumptuous buffets, Palms Grill for dinner cooked on a hot volcanic stone plate and The Point for Italian signatures.
British grub is authentic at the Ascot Pub and for those with a yen for Asian fare; Jing’s Kitchen is the real deal. For heady cocktails, Point Bar is where you’ll find Sheryl Attidore shaking and stirring for nearly 20 years and those flirting with Lady Luck, it’s a win-win at Latitude Bar outfitted with slot machines.
For those at Sonesta Ocean Point, breakfast is delightful at Azul perched at the edge of a cliff. Sitting pretty on top of Azul, Casa Blue Tapas is elegant with 360-degree views, lemony martinis, and shareable plates.
Shep Shepherd, Director of Entertainment, Sonesta Resorts Sint Maarten
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About the Author
Melanie Reffes is an island girl at heart. Born in Manhattan, she now lives on the sunny island of Montreal and covers the Caribbean for a variety of publications including Montreal’s The Suburban; largest English-language weekly in Quebec, USA TODAY TRAVEL, USA TODAY 10BEST, Captain Jetson Aviation & Travel, CaribbeanTravel.com and MarryCaribbean.com. A journalist with a boatload of writer awards under her belt, Melanie’s affection for the Caribbean started young when her family vacationed in Puerto Rico. Melanie holds a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Toronto. You can find her via Twitter @Reffes1, Instagram melanietravel2019, Facebook melanie.reffes and LinkedIn melaniereffes.
Featured Image: Plane spotters gather on the beach every day for thrills and chills. Credit: SXMAirport.com.