The final stop on our recent Royal Caribbean cruise was to Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, where we took a boat ride out to the popular Maho Beach to snorkel and watch the planes fly in to the Princess Juliana International Airport. Find out more about this fun planespotting and snorkeling Maho Beach excursion!
St. Maarten vs. St. Martin
If you’re cruising the Caribbean, you’ll need to know the difference between St. Maarten and St. Martin.
Saint Martin is an island in the Caribbean divided in two parts — the French St. Martin and the Dutch St. Maarten.
This cruise took us to the Dutch side of the island where the main airport for the island, the Princess Juliana International Airport, is located.
Maho Beach is a popular tourist destination on St. Maarten because the beach is located just before the Princess Juliana International Airport runway, giving the beach the unique position of being below low-flying airplanes as they land. And these aren’t just small prop planes, either. This international airport brings in huge jets from all over the world.
The jetblast from airplanes taking off from this runway makes visiting this beach very dangerous, though that doesn’t stop many tourists. People will hold on to the fence at the end of the runway to experience the jetblast without being blown away. But the force of the jetblast recently knocked a tourist over, and she ended up dying after hitting her head on the concrete.
When a plane takes off, you can watch all the tourists scrambling into the ocean to keep from being blown away.
Airport Adventure and Snorkel Cruise
We booked the Airport Adventure & Snorkel Cruise excursion through Royal Caribbean. On this tour, we took a boat from the port out to Maho Beach where we watched the planes land from a safer position out in the water.
When we boarded the boat, our guides handed out complimentary drinks. As we sailed out to Maho Beach, we got a great view of the island. Our tour guide told us about points of interest as we passed by, and we even saw a tour group of horse-back riders galloping along the coastal cliffs.
All the yachts we passed were a major point of interest. The Sailing Yacht A, the world’s largest sailing yacht, and the Eclipse were of particular interest to Kevin who took a billion photos of them on my phone.
By the time we made it to Maho Beach, I was feeling very seasick. I definitely recommend packing some Dramamine for this excursion since you can really feel the choppy waters in a smaller boat.
Planespotting at Maho Beach
Our little party boat dropped anchor at a safe distance off the coast. As the crew lowered the floating dock from the side of the boat to give us access to the water, they blasted the music and opened up the bar and kitchen for people to eat, drink, and be merry. Even though I was in no way in the mood for food or alcohol, they definitely seemed to serve quality food and drinks.
Our tour guide would interrupt the music to let us know of incoming planes and where they were arriving from. We saw little planes coming from Puerto Rico and large planes coming from places like Atlanta and Philadelphia.
On-board, you could lay out and sunbathe, which I did a lot of because laying down helped with the seasickness. You could also watch the planes, you could eat and drink, and you could dance and party to the music.
Snorkeling at Maho Beach
In the water, after you carefully made your way onto the floating dock, you could hop onto this floating mat they had to play on or jump in and snorkel with the National Geographic Snorkeler gear they provided. Don’t forget to pack your waterproof digital camera!
We brought our own inner tube because I’ve discovered I’m not a strong enough swimmer for snorkeling without a flotation device, but we ended up not needing it because the tour provided pool noodles for you to hold on to.
I’m not sure if the waters are always murky or if it was just because of the choppy waves we had that day, but we couldn’t see past our feet snorkeling. So we soon gave up on snorkeling and just watched the planes and fought the waves.
They also have a platform on the boat that you can jump off of into the water. It’s only one deck up, but man does it look high when you’re standing up there! It may also have been because the waves would push the boat up right when you’re about to jump, making your jump much further up. But I managed to push down my fear of heights and jump, clinging to the safety of my pool noodle the whole tim,e of course.
We spent about 2 hours watching the planes come in, and then we set off back across the island for the ship.
This was probably my favorite excursion of the whole trip, even despite all the seasickness. It allowed us to have a lot of experiences balled up into one excursion — planespotting at Maho Beach, snorkeling, frolicking in the water, and relaxing in the sun. I highly recommend this excursion!
More Destinations From This Cruise
Check out more of our Caribbean cruise adventures at the ports below:
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- Pack for your vacation: Make sure you’ve packed everything you need by checking out my packing list resources.
Have you been planespotting or snorkeling at Maho Beach? Let me know in the comments!