On the Dutch side of St Maarten (St Martin), there is a beach. On the beach, there is a runway. On the runway, there are planes landing that just flew over the heads of swimmers and sunbathers – people who were either taking photos and feeling the adrenaline rush of having a plane pass by a few yards above you… or who were fighting the urge to run for their lives.
The Princess Juliana International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the Caribbean, probably because it’s both a hub for the surrounding islands and because St Maarten is a beautiful destination itself.
So if you’re headed this way, an afternoon at Maho Beach just might be one of the most memorable of them all. Try and get there around 1pm – the 747s land around 2pm and take off around 4pm. Also, keep your stuff close by, since the sand gets blown around like a mini-sandstorm. There’s even a sign by the airport’s fence that warns people about getting too close to the jet blast (complete with sign of a beach-goer getting blown backwards by a departing plane).
The Sunset Beach Bar is a good location to watch the show from if you’re a bit nervous about being in the waves or sand. It was hit by a hurricane in ’08 but has since reopened (however, can be a bit of a party place – think bikini contests).
Princess Juliana Int’l is served by plenty of major airlines, including United, Delta, Air Canada, Air France, American Airlines, US Airways, JetBlue, KLM and Spirit. It has a permanent home on Top-Ten lists like “Best scenic landings” and “Most beautiful runways” and the like.
There’s an airport on France’s side of the island, too, but it’s not nearly as cool.