Date of visit : November 2019

Ship : Seabourn Odyssey

We’ve just had a great day exploring St Maarten, and ended the tour with a visit to the famous Maho ‘Runway’ beach!

View to Marigot on the French side

After disembarking our ship, we thought we would nip into town and enjoy the main beach there, but after negotiating with the minivan driver we decided to do an island tour instead. Our price for the tour $30usd per person. Having been to St Maarten on numerous occasions in the past, and never having seen the island properly, we felt this was a great time to explore further. 

Border between French & Dutch sides

Our first stop was at the border between the Dutch side and the French side of the island. St Maarten is jointly owned by the two countries, although the French have the larger share of land, and the Dutch have the larger population. Traffic and people can move freely between the two sides, and the infrastructure is good across the island. There was not much evidence of the devastation wreaked by the hurricane that hit the island in 2017, they have done a fantastic job of putting everything back together, a huge task for the poor islanders. In fact, it took them literally a few months to get the island ready again for cruise ship arrivals after the storm, a herculean effort by everyone concerned.

Our driver continued on, and took us to a fantastic beach on the French side called ‘Bikini Beach’. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t too kind to us this time so we didn’t stop for a swim, but pressed on with our tour instead. Next up was a beautiful viewing point, overlooking Marigot the Capital of the French side, here you could see down to the bay with the small yachts bobbing in the harbour. It was here that we were introduced to some local inhabitants…iguanas! They were everywhere, in the trees, on the ground, and different colours too. We managed to get this great shot of a bright orange one showing off to a female!!

Iguana in the tree!

After ambling back through Marigot, and along the coast road, we arrived at ‘Maho Beach’ made famous as the only beach situated at the end of a major runway! To be honest we had heard a lot about it, but had never ventured there as it sounded like a crazy idea, but as it was part of the tour we just had to get involved! After setting ourselves up on sunbeds, and then dipping in the blue warm Caribbean, we waited… It wasn’t long before the first jet roared overhead and it was exhilarating! To be that close to a huge airliner as it soars over you is quite an experience. The best was yet to come though. We stood on the sands at the end of the runway as a huge Jetblue aircraft taxied into position, to be honest we didn’t expect to notice anything on take-off, apart from the noise, but then the engines started up and a huge jet blast pummelled us back down the beach and towards the sea! It was a bit frightening at the time as it was so unexpected, but hilarious once we looked around at everyone windswept, sand pummelled, and in hysterics. Not sure we would do it again, but glad to have experienced what all the hype was about!

Take off and the jet blast!
Danger sign!
Planes landing Maho Beach

We had a fantastic day in St Maarten, and the minivan was very reasonably priced. Taxis are readily available on the port side, or there is a water taxi over to the beautiful main beach if you just want to lay out and soak up the sunshine. The port area is duty free and the prices are amazing, for example Christina’s brother smokes and 200 Dunhill International cost $35usd, so a bargain compared to the UK. If you want to buy duty free then this is the place!