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Making a Weekend on St. Maarten Happen: How to Get There

February 25, 2013 at 11:38 AM | by | ()

Wondering when is the right time to jet down for a long weekend on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten? Right now, that's when. We did it and you can too, easily. All this week we'll be sharing the details on making the dream of sunning, sipping cocktails and spotting St. Maarten's notoriously low-flying planes a reality.

First off, you gotta get to St. Maarten. It's an island, by the way, so access options are limited to air and sea. Believe it or not, a nonstop flight from the US east coast to St. Maarten takes just over four hours; that's less than flying coast-to-coast and just a little less than going to Ireland. We know where we'd rather be.

For your reference, here's the Four Ways to Reach St. Maarten:

1. By big airplane

No doubt you've seen the iconic images of massive jets zooming above sunbathers by a matter of a couple hundred feet, the sun momentarily blocked out by the eclipse of a widebody as it prepares to put wheels down on the tarmac at St. Maarten's Princess Juliana Airport (SXM). Thanks to the island's popularity as an international tourist destination and gateway to the Eastern Caribbean, a variety of aircraft types land here daily. Naturally they're full of people just like you, looking for a good time in paradise.

From the US, all the big boys visit. There's our favorite—the nonstop from JFK (and others from BOS & SJU) on JetBlue—but also nonstops from Atlanta on Delta, Newark on United, Charlotte & Philly on US Airways and Miami on American. The island is full of Canadians thanks to arrivals from WestJet and Sunwing, and even the Dutch and French rep their populations with a KLM 747 from Amsterdam and an Air France A340 from Paris.

For a full airline list, check out the live arrivals updates on SXM's official website.

2. By tiny airplane

Some would say that this is the only proper way to experience the hair-raising landing at SXM. Some small airlines operate propellor planes into St. Maarten from other Caribbean islands, so you'd need to the get to the islands first anyway. If you're all about making a sharp and steep approach, then check out these airlines: LIAT, St. Barth Commuter and Insel Air, or just consider going the private charter route.

3. By big ship

We know it's hard to believe, but nearly as big an attraction as the planespotting is the shopping and beach time desired by cruise passengers, who arrive by the thousands nearly every day. All the big lines call at Philipsburg—the city the cruise port calls home—and during our 48 hours we spotted megaships from Celebrity, Princess, Carnival, Norwegian and an LGBT charter cruise onboard Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas.

Thanks to that last one, our afternoon plane spotting on Maho Beach was a speedo-fest, as over 1,000 of the 3,000+ on that ship made their way to the beach to catch the infamous arrival of the KLM 747 (more on that later).

4. By tiny ship

Joining the big cruise boys out on the waves are the private pleasure craft—the yachts taking their multi-millionaire or even billionaire owners out for a good time. St. Maarten's convenient location super close to St. Barths means it's also a popular starting point for yacht charters.

One time we sailed into Simpson Bay alongside the Sherakhan, out on a charter. Google Image Search that thing; it's a looker with quite the backstory, as far as yachts go. Still, though yachts like the Sherakhan regularly go for six digits per week, there are charters of all sizes and time lengths so long as your budget is higher than that of a cruise passenger.

A final option would be to fly into one of St. Maarten's neighboring islands with ferry service. These include Anguilla, St. Barth and St. Kitts.

[Photos: Cynthia Drescher/Jaunted]

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