Most Interesting Airport Landings by the Sea

Nevin Spearman, March 02, 2016
Fares from Washington DC:

    When it comes to airport approaches, we've all read about ones that are the most scenic and thrilling, but has anyone ever thought about which ones are downright the most interesting? These seven airport approaches will give you a glimpse at some of the most interesting landings located by the sea!

    #7 Male International Airport (MLE) – Maldives Providenciales Airport

    Male International Airport (MLE) is the only international airport in the Maldives. Located on Hulhule Island, MLE along with Hulhule Island Hotel are the only establishments on the island. In other words, it may start to feel like you are in a tropical ghost town. However, most visitors only stay on this island before heading out to the other islands for their true resort experience. While approaching MLE you'll get the luxury of seeing the turquoise blue water, and if you are lucky enough to approach the airport by seaplane, you will get to land on one of four water runways in the sea plane terminal.

    #6 Hamilton Island Airport (HTI) – Australia

    Hamilton Island Airport, or as most call it the Great Barrier Reef Airport, is located off the coast of Queensland in Australia. While approaching this airport you'll get your first look at the Great Barrier Reef tucked beneath the sapphire blue water. Once you actually get to the runway you will feel like tropical royalty amongst the palm tree lined airport terminals. Just like in Male, try to take advantage of the sea planes. If you plan your trip between July and September, make sure to take a boat ride to see the migrating whales. 

    #5 Bora Bora Airport (BOB) – Bora Bora

    Bora Bora is more than just that the place the Kardashians visited during their reality show. This island is full of beauty, all of which can be seen as you approach the island. Yes, you get your crystal colored water, sandy beaches, and tropical foliage, but what makes a landing in Bora Bora so special is that you get all of this multiplied. While flying into the airport, you'll get a bird’s-eye view of a few different French Polynesian islands including Bora Bora, Huahine, Raiatea, and Tahaa. Pro tip, don’t forget to arrive at the airport for your departure early to guarantee the best view—many websites including Bora Bora Island Guide, have dedicated guides on where to sit for these views, so you probably won’t be the only one trying to get a coveted window seat.

    #4 Gibraltar Airport (GIB) – Gibraltar

    While approaching Gibraltar Airport (GIB), you will notice the beauty of the Rock of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea. However, what makes this approach interesting is the runway that intersects directly with Winston Churchill Avenue. Scary, right? Not really, the road closes for landings to prevent collisions and injuries. While visiting the territory make sure to take advantage of the tax-free products and the proximity to Spain. Just beware, if you are visiting Spain while on your trip, make sure to prepare and plan for possible delays when crossing the border—the ongoing dispute between Spain and Britain over the territory is known to cause delays for travelers.

    #3 Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport (SAB) – Saba

    Besides the view of Saba upon landing, the Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport (SAB) approach is one of the most frightening you’ll experience. Why? Well, SAB contains the world’s shortest runway and to top it all off, it starts and ends with a cliff.  The airport is technically closed to all traffic, but with a waiver from the Netherlands Antilles’ Civil Aviation Authority, small airplanes and helicopters are allowed to land here. If you're brave enough to make it here you are only a 15-minute airplane ride away from St. Martin! Or, if you have time to spare and want a scenic route to St. Martin, ferry service to the island is also available.

    (Photography: Cees Timmers,

    #2 Barra Airport (BRR) - Scotland

    What makes Barra Airport (BRR) airport so interesting has nothing to do with beauty, but all to do with the runway. BRR is the only airport in the world where scheduled flights have to use the beach as a runway. While approaching, you will arrive on one of the three runways each marked by wooden poles. Due to the proximity of the beach, flight schedules vary with the tide. Pro tip, once you arrive make sure to grab a bite at the airport café—we’ve heard it’s one of the best. Also take note of the windsock; due to the beach runway, there is no public access once the windsock is blowing.

    #1 Princess Julianna International Airport (SXM) – Saint Martin

    Besides the beauty of St. Martin, Princess Julianna International Airport (SXM) has something unique to offer. While flying into SXM, you’ll be so low it'll feel like you’re landing feet first on the beach—one glance out of the window and you'll make eye contact with a beachgoer.  Plane spotters and beachgoers hang out at Maho Beach to watch planes take off and land. Just try to avoid hanging onto the fence to see if you'll get blown by a plane. The video below from ABC News, is a great example of what can happen if you do.

    If you want to grab a drink and stay safe while plane spotting, make sure to stop by Sunset Bar & Grill. From what we heard, it’s one of the best places to plane spot and grab a drink around Maho Beach.