Maho Beach in St. Maarten is an idyllic spot for beach lovers and a hotspot for casino gamers. A trip to this picturesque bay is the ultimate holiday destination for the avid gambler since the Casino Royale is just steps away in the famed Sonesta Maho Beach Resort. The narrow beach has a sandy bottom that extends about 20 yards. The shallow shoreline is a snorkeling paradise, ideal for families with kids. Extravagant resorts surround the island, offering luxury lodging and lots of entertainment for all ages.
Arriving at St. Maarten is quite an adventure. For more than 350 years the island has been divided between the Dutch and the French (St. Martin), a fascinating historical discovery for tourists. The Maho Beach Bay is one of the sandy white beaches in the Dutch St. Maarten, which now has become an independent country.
Maho Beach is famous for another surprising reason. It’s situated right beside the Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) airport and sees dozens of planes fly directly over the beach every day. The planes fly so low that you almost feel like you could touch them. For an aviation lover, the thrill of the experience is unmatched. Want an even bigger adrenaline rush? You can feel the jet blasts at the edge of the beach closest to the airport during takeoff. You may need to clasp your hands over your ears to muffle the engine sounds as sand is whisked up and swirls around you. Kids love watching these aircraft exhibitions, but even adults find themselves caught up in the excitement of it all.
Wake Up To The Calm Of The Early Morning
If you are not an early riser, keep that alarm clock handy. With so much to do, you will be thankful you did. Open the curtains and let in the glow of first light as you are greeted with the view of soothing waves and pristine turquoise waters.
Go for a run or stroll along the water and have the long stretch of coast all to yourself. The bay gets very touristy towards noon, so take advantage of this time to marvel at the raw natural beauty of the bay.
A Boat Trip And Some Deep Diving
The bay is one of numerous official dive sites on the island. With calm waters and excellent visibility, it offers plenty of snorkeling and deep diving opportunities. There is a water sports shack right on the beach where you can get all the equipment and information you need. A diving guide is available on request.
Snorkelers will discover shallow water about 3 to 10 inches deep along the vibrant coral reefs of the Caribbean Sea. Swim with tropical fish over colorful coral gardens with a variety of sponges, anemones and gorgonians. In the mix, you’ll find hard corals like elkhorn, mustard coral and brain corals.
Take a speed boat or jet ski trip further out and visit the sunken-ship dive spots near The Maze and Simpson Bay. Around the walls of the wreckages are hundreds of species of fish and beautiful sea turtles. Barracuda and frogfish dash back and forth around the reef they call home. Nurse sharks are sighted every so often in these waters. However, slow-moving sharks do not pose any threat. Watch out for lobsters, lionfish and stingrays. As with all forms of sea life, it’s best to look and not touch.
The Perfect Beach Afternoon
Upon returning to shore, it’s time to bask in the gleaming rays of the sun and practice your tanning skills. Beautiful white sand and towering coconut trees that provide cool shade characterize Maho Beach. The beach is public, so lay your beach towel anywhere you like. You could opt for a more stylish time in the sun by hiring umbrellas and sun chairs from the bars around. Visitors on day trips usually arrive just before noon and return to their cruise in the late afternoon, so peak hours are from noon to 3 p.m.
Capture In-Flight Planes Overhead – It Looks Almost Photoshopped
Get your camera ready and your fingers too. Take pictures of majestic planes as they take off from the Princess Juliana International Airport. The photos look almost unreal, so you’ll have to convince your acquaintances back home of their authenticity. To capture all elements of the experience – motion and sounds included – switch your camera to video mode for some extreme plane watching.
Sunset Bar offers an ideal vantage for snagging the perfect shot. The bar has a surfboard just outside the entrance that holds information on the daily flight schedule. For the most dramatic stills, opt for airlines with the largest jets like KLM and Air France. While you await the spectacle, you may want to grab a bite or two.
Around Maho Beach Bay
A full day around the bay offers enough diversity to leave you buzzing with excitement. However, the beaches are just one part of the tourist attraction in the area. Take off from the bustling beach site and go for a hike in Guana Bay’s rugged hills for a different flavor of the island.
If you are in the mood for something less wild, the capital, Phillipsburg, offers fascinating history, visible from every corner. We recommend a bicycle tour of the 17th century Fort Amsterdam to take it all in. The local tour guides are more than happy to offer more in-depth history lessons for you. Traditional homes that have been passed down through generations line the back streets of Phillipsburg and starkly contrast the bubbling front streets with modern bars, restaurants and shops on every corner.
Once you’ve had your fill of the capital, cross the border to the French side of the island. There is no border control, but flags and a signpost indicate the boundary. While the Dutch side of the island is heavily influenced by the Americas, the architecture around the French Sint Maarten echoes its European history. The beaches here are just as beautiful and have fewer crowds. Don’t forget to taste the world-class French pastries. Ferries offer day trips to the neighboring Saba island, where you can explore more of the Caribbean beauty.
Dinner, A Drink And Reminisce
With millions of tourists pouring in yearly, the food at restaurants and bars has an international flair. Of course, various local dishes like codfish fritters and callaloo reflect the culture of the people who reside on the island.
Head over to Sunset Bar one more time and try one of the recommended freshly prepared seafood dishes. They get an extra star for abundant servings. It is the lounge of choice for visitors to Maho Bay, so often it’s packed full. It also offers a spectacular view for sunset gazing. Get a drink or two, stare out over the water to the horizon and soak in the moment.
The Driftwood Boat Bar, run by Guy Ritchie, is a great place for some laid back beachside dining. Don’t expect only seafood. You’re going to love the fantastic chicken shawarma and the delicious Maho salad specialty. There is a large selection of booze and overall reasonably priced dining. The bar is another great location to see the flight show from the west side of the bay.
Just steps away from the Sonesta is the Casino Royale, which crowns the Maho Bay experience for gaming enthusiasts. The casino is one of the many amenities offered by the resort to tourists looking for fun and entertainment once the sun goes down. It’s situated on the Maho Beach, about half a mile from SXM, and is the number one casino on both sides of the island with 21,000 square feet of gaming.
It offers 400 slot machines and 22 gaming tables with roulette, blackjack, baccarat, poker, and craps. Poker tables include Three Card Poker, Let It Ride and Texas Hold’em. VIP packages and the private high roller area allow the highest table and slot limits. In addition, sports lovers will find self-service kiosks for a range of bets at the Sportsbook.
Getting To Maho
The popular choice is to arrive at St. Maarten via cruise ship. From the cruise terminal in Phillipsburg, shuttles heading directly to the Maho Bay are regularly available. If you prefer private transportation, there are taxi stands around the port for your convenience.
Getting there on land is not that hard to do either. There are shuttles at different stations around the town, as well. Check with your hotel for the nearest stop; they will be glad to let you know the timetables.
When the time of the year arrives for you to take a break from your busy lifestyle, Maho Beach Bay is the place to be. It is culturally-driven, yet urban, and offers ample opportunity for wholesome casino gaming.