In 2017 the Caribbean Islands including St. Maarten were hit by one of the most devastating hurricane’s to date, Hurricane Irma. Irma, a class 5 hurricane, battered the islands with 180mph winds causing mass destruction, and bringing the tourism industry to a halt, but after months of reconstruction and hard-work many of the resorts have begun to reopen their doors, and I had the amazing opportunity to visit the island just as the reopening was taking place.
A haven of sandy beaches, gleaming sun, turquoise sea’s and friendly locals. The island is is a popular tourist attraction with cruise liner’s pulling in daily, and the infamous ‘Airport Beach’ can be found a short distance from Philipsburg, at Maho Bay, and in the distance the outline of Saba; the iconic Skull Island from the original 1933 King Kong Movie.
Airport Beach is one of Google’s Top Ten searched beaches, famous for it’s close proximity to the Princess Juliana International Airport, separated only by a narrow road and security fencing. The reason this beach is so popular and the origin of it’s name is that all flights into the airport must fly in over the beach; and with the runway not being massively long, jets are only a few inches above the security fencing before they touch down. Most jets take off in this very same direction, back of the plane towards the beach and front of the plane towards the mountains, so when the engine’s kick in everyone directly behind the plane gets to experience the infamous ‘jetblast’.
The larger the plane the stronger the ‘jetblast’ with the KLM flight landing/take off filling the beach with onlookers hoping to experience the full force of the aircraft, just remember to hold on to your belongings or they may end up being swept into the sea.
Either side of Airport beach are two bars; Sunset Beach Bar on the right as you look towards the runway with the beach behind you and Driftwood which is nearer the main road into Maho Bay. Sunset Beach Bar is the place to go at the end end of a long day to grab a drink, bite to eat and watch the sun slowly drift from sight over the horizon; later into the night they hold live entertainment with bands and events. Driftwood has a much more relaxed vibe, and if you like your cocktails I definitely recommend their frozen Strawberry Daiquiri which tastes just like strawberry yoghurt, or any of their frozen cocktail range.
Just a short 5-10 minute walk from Airport Beach is Mullet Bay, a much quieter beach, still popular but at least you don’t need to worry about planes taking off/landing. Another great spot to sit and watch the sunset which is something I would highly recommend as it’s such a beautiful moment to experience. The water is much less choppier here too, making it a perfect place to enjoy an evening swim.
Maho Bay is home to one of the biggest resorts on St. Maarten. Sonesta is made up of 2x Hotels, 1x Casino, numerous restaurants, bars and village shops. Back in January, Sonesta had it’s grand opening of Ocean Point; its 5* Adult Only Hotel complete with outside stage, pool, beach, live entertainment and more. Ocean Point also boasts it’s very own private Sunset Lounge with the comfiest seats, drinks bar, freshly served canape’s and live entertainment from local bands to the lovely singing voice of in house singer, Lauren. Included (at time of writing) is a day on a relaxing Catamaran boat trip around St. Maarten’s coast; snacks, drinks and lunch provided. This trip is Adult’s Only and has a lovely relaxed vibe, stopping in a handful of bays around the island, and an opportunity to go snorkelling a short distance from the shore, here you can see a submerged helicopter and more surrounded by schools of fish.
February saw the grand opening of Sonesta Maho Bay, the 4* Family Hotel with pool, games, entertainment and more! (Catamaran Boat Trip NOT included)
Sonesta is also home to the largest Casino on the island, Casino Royale, soon to have it’s own Poker Room, Live Entertainment in the Theatre and multiple gambling tables. Located opposite the entrance to the two hotels, the Casino is lit up with video screen’s and top of the range lights. Friday evening’s the Casino become’s the hub of entertainment with a Carnival performance happening on the step’s; the Local Marching Band kicking things off through the streets, followed by an energetic performance by the show team ahead of their night-time show.
Billy Bone’s Boat Charters
Billy Bone’s Boat Charters make a GREAT day out! Half and full day tours on a powerboat with snacks, drinks and lunch included. If you’re visiting St. Maarten on a cruise and want to make the most of your day, Billy bone’s offers a tours around the Island. If you’re staying on the island and looking to explore a little bit further, they offer tours to Anguilla, a smaller island a short distance from St. Maarten, definitely recommended! The tour stops at multiple beaches, one of the most unique being ‘Sandy Beach’ which is a sand bar not far off the coast with an actual drinks bar, steel drum musicians and more clear seas, this one really took my breath away. Another unforgettable moment was one of the mid-last stops where we got to snorkel in a private bay, we were told this was a great spot for sea turtles and we were not disappointed! Top Tip: look for sea weed!