Ports of Call: St. Maarten
Last year, Justin took me on an 8 day Caribbean cruise for my birthday (swoon!).To date, the whole trip has probably been our trip-of-a-lifetime so far, although we'll certainly keep trying to top it! One of the ports of call was Philipsburg, St. Maarten. For any of you who watch Travel Channel or Caribbean Life on HGTV, you probably already know that the thing to do is to go to Maho Beach, at the end of the questionably short runway of Princess Juliana International Airport. Initially, we were surprised when there were no excursions listed going there. I wanted to do this so badly that I was willing to risk a taxi ride in a foreign country – we don’t even take taxis in the U.S.! Much to Justin's relief, an excursion sheet showed up in our cabin the night before with the sole purpose of taking us there. And so we went...
From the cruise port to the airport is a decent drive, so we had a chance to catch a glimpse of a lot of the Dutch side of St. Maarten and of course, the ocean. The island is much more modern (read: developed) than some that we've been to. It is the perfect mix of amenities, civilization, surf, and sun and definitely one we would go back to for an extended stay. The water here was absolutely gorgeous - deep blue to bright green and exactly like you see in the pictures, completely unenhanced - splashing up, sometimes quite forcefully on clean, tan sand.
Speaking of sand, though, it could use more of it. I'm sure the tide played a large part, along with constant sand blasting from the jets leaving, but Maho Beach was relatively skinny and on a rather steep hill. I could see why the cruise wanted to book people on as many other excursions first. I want to say we had even heard the beach is eroding away and my research since indicated a hurricane is responsible for some of its present sparseness. But for this day, there was enough room even amongst the crowds for us to find a spot to stretch out and wait for some planes! We didn't even have to wait very long before the first one came in:
Like I mentioned, the runway looks fairly short. And it starts one roads-width and a chain-linked fence away from the beach. I'm not kidding when I say the planes - small planes, big jets, all of them - come in right over your head and go out blasting hot air and sand into any crevasse you don't have covered. In true Caribbean fashion, where none of the normal rules always apply, people actually disobey the signs and police and hold onto the chain link fence to not get blown away. Did I mention there's a road there, too? Forget driving through it if a plane's coming in. People stand on it! Much braver (or another word) than we were. I tried to stand on the curb, but got blown back a little bit. Justin felt he got a good enough experience without as much pain or whiplash farther back. Sound like we’re exaggerating? Take a look for yourself:
We had only done minimal research for this day, so we had no idea how long we would have to wait for planes. I’ve since found a few websites that suggest a certain time of day and, like all airports, you can check their arrivals, but we went in the morning for only a few hours and saw quite a few, with plenty of time in between to just relax and enjoy that beautiful Caribbean water. If we get to go back, I’ll be checking flight times for an Air France 747!
Cross off one bucket list item…done!
What do you think of our adventure? Have your own story to tell of your time at Maho Beach? Anyone have a story (and pictures!) of the opposing perspective (ie, landing in the plane)? Tell us in the comments!
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Our Favorite Photos From The Trip:
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