The topic of hurricanes is fresh in my mind (unfortunately). Irene has come and gone, and we are still cleaning up the mess that she left in her wake.
Many people ask about traveling to the Caribbean during hurricane season. Is it safe? Which islands are most affected? Are there any benefits to visiting this time of year? Of course, nobody can tell you if your future trip will be affected by a hurricane, but it helps if you know some basic facts, as well as the pros and cons.
The official Caribbean hurricane season is from June 1st through November 30th. Some months are known to have more hurricane activity than others. October is the most likely month for a hurricane. The other months with the most hurricane activity are August and September. July is the least likely month for a hurricane.
Did you know that some Caribbean islands lie outside of the Caribbean hurricane belt? It’s true! The Dutch ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao do not experience hurricanes due to their southern locations (they can experience extreme tropical storms though). There are other southern Caribbean islands where hurricanes are more rare and tend to be less severe. These are Grenada, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago. The Bahamas have the unfortunate distinction of being the islands hit most often by Caribbean hurricanes.
Some travel sites, agencies and resorts offer hurricane guarantees. Cheapcaribbean, for instance, has a complimentary Hurricane and Weather Protection Plan, which is automatically added when you book. My best advise on this topic is to read the fine print. Some of the resorts offer a future credit and not a full refund. Know the policy before you book.
My Personal Thoughts
I frequently travel to the Caribbean during hurricane season. I actually prefer it. Am I crazy? Well, maybe. But there are some very legitimate reasons why I choose to do so.
1) Crowds (or lack thereof)
I love a deserted beach! And while I don’t always find my desert island, I can tell you that this crowd loathing person is much happier when avoiding peak season. Other travelers’ fear of hurricane season works to my advantage.
Who doesn’t want to take advantage of the lowest hotel rates and airfares? Also, many of the islands’ tourism boards run specials to attract visitors during hurricane season. These include items like restaurant, shopping and activity vouchers ($10 parasailing anyone?). You may also find that many hotels throw in extras such as complimentary breakfasts.
3) Water temperature
I don’t do well with cold. And my definition of cold probably doesn’t match yours. To me, cold is a water temperature below 79 F (26 C). The warmest Caribbean water temperatures happen to coincide with hurricane season. As long as I travel during hurricane season, I can forgo swimming with a drysuit (complete with hood and gloves).
There are some situations where I would advise thinking twice about a trip during hurricane season. Trips that are taken to celebrate major life events such as honeymoons, anniversaries and milestone birthdays are stressful enough to plan. Why worry about a hurricane ruining your special occasion? I also think that destination weddings and hurricane season don’t mix, especially if multiple out of town guests are scheduled to attend your wedding. While you may be tempted by the low costs and complimentary extras offered this time of year, this could be a recipe for disaster unless you see yourself as an Aruba (or Bonaire or Curacao) bride!
What are your thoughts on travel during hurricane season? Worth it, or too risky?