St Maarten Vacation Experience: Touching Airplanes at Sunset Beach Bar
Okay. Well, I didn’t really touch an airplane, but that didn’t stop me or about 50 other people from believing we could and stretching both hands way out in the air—further than we had ever stretched in our whole lives—and braving this speeding bulk that comes in heavy and loud and just above our heads. I hold my breath and wait to be swept up in its relentless current and flung out into the sea in a whirl of sand, but to my disappointment, I am safe and sound and one of the many disappointed faces fooled for the third time this afternoon.
“Dat’s it,” this man says. “Dat’s the last of ‘em.” He smiles big and laughs with all of the casual kindness of a local man. I imagine he’s seen these planes come in a thousand times, but still he smiles, still he enjoys us while we enjoy those jumbo jets bringing folks to this incredible island from all over the world. When he wanders off to the bar, I am soon to follow.
I like to think I am one of the true vacationers. The one who stays out later than the rest, long after the tourists have gone back to the hotel to charge their cameras, long after the families have gone back to the resort to tend to their sunburns. Yup. It’s just me, a handful of smiling locals, and a surprisingly young crowd of traveling Americans, French and German. All of us are sipping beers and watching as the last of the sun spills orange and red and purple into the water and seems to make the whole ocean blush. There’s a couple just married, and I do mean just. She is still in her wedding dress, all smiles and glowing and in love. I’m not sure if it’s love for her husband or love for Maho Beach at sunset. This is what Sunset Beach Bar is all about.
There are no walls to Sunset Beach Bar. Nothing to keep you from taking in all of the beautiful people and all of the beautiful scenery. We’re all momentarily distracted, cheering and laughing and glad there are no walls when a group of young men try to throw their friend in the water, fully clothed, and we get to watch. No walls. Not here. There are no rules either. At Sunset Beach Bar, you can be topless if you want to. It will get you a free drink. But no one here is brave enough. Not yet at least.
The bartender smiles and crosses the last of the planes off his makeshift schedule. When he crosses flight 997 off the board and there are no more numbers to cross out, that’s how you know the planes are done and the bar will clear out a little. But Sunset Beach Bar will keep going long into the night. I’ll go on hoping the bartender is wrong about that being the last plane. I’ll go on wishing for one more, just one more. I’ll be wishing for one more long after I leave.
About Sunset Beach Bar
Sunset Beach Bar is located on Maho Beach, just on the other side of a tiny road and a fence that separates the beach from the beautifully designed Princess Juliana International Airport. Those planes we were trying to touch come from all over the world and each one passes by this perfect little spot. That’s why Sunset Beach Bar might just be the most well known bar in St. Maarten. But fame doesn’t mean a whole lot on St. Maarten. Sunset Beach Bar is the same sort of cool groove it’s always been. And everyone who comes is grateful.