Hurricane season in 2017 has not been kind to the Caribbean, leaving numerous destinations reeling in the aftermath. While many Caribbean destinations have asked for vacationers to head elsewhere for the time being to allow the islands to recover, others were only impacted minimally (if at all) and welcome visitors in need of a tropical escape.
Here's what you need to know about where to go, as well as how you can help those islands that weren't so lucky.
Flamingos roam a beach in Aruba — Photo courtesy of iStock / VanWyckExpress
Due to Aruba's location in the southwestern Caribbean, weather conditions are consistent throughout most of the year. Visitors to this "One Happy Island" will find over 300 restaurants, numerous resorts, 90 nationalities, year-round sunshine, pristine beaches and loads of outdoor adventures.
Bavaro Beach in Dominican Republic — Photo courtesy of Barcelo Hotel Group
The Dominican Republic escaped Irma, Maria and Jose relatively unscathed, and tourism has returned to normal on this Greater Antilles island. In fact, Culinary Week will kick off at the end of October at Barceló Bávaro Grand Resort in Punta Cana.
St. Kitts and Nevis
A ruined sugar mill on the island of St. Kitts — Photo courtesy of iStock / BCWH
The sister islands of St. Kitts and Nevis have been given the all-clear for tourism to continue as normal. The islands, situated just 2 miles apart, offer uncrowded beaches, lush mountain rainforests, historic ruins and long-dormant volcanoes waiting to be explored.
Carlisle Bay — Photo courtesy of Leading Hotels of the World
It's full steam ahead on the island of Antigua, where visitors practically have a beach for every day of the year. Guests staying at Carlisle Bay Resort can lend a helping hand with relief efforts for neighboring Barbuda as part of the Carlisle Bay for Barbuda program.
A swimming pig of the Exuma islands — Photo courtesy of iStock / shalamov
While Irma took her toll on some of the Bahamas' 700 islands, the islands that typically welcome travelers made it through largely untouched. And the flight from Miami is less than an hour, making this a quick and convenient Caribbean escape.
Snorkeling with stingrays in the Cayman Islands — Photo courtesy of iStock / EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER
The three Cayman Islands were just about completely spared from the hurricanes, and with plenty of flights per day from the U.S., they're easy to get to. Plan a trip for November to take in the festivities of Pirates Week, a national family-friendly festival celebrating its 40th year.
Quiet beach on St. Lucia — Photo courtesy of iStock / jaminwell
The island of St. Lucia in the southern Caribbean wasn't at all impacted by the hurricanes. Travelers can fly direct from JFK (or connect in Miami) and enjoy palm-lined beaches, pristine rainforest and the verdant Piton Mountains.
Waterfall in the center of Jamaica — Photo courtesy of iStock / GummyBone
White sand beaches, a distinct culinary tradition and its own soundtrack of reggae music – there's nowhere else in the world quite like Jamaica. The island seems made for adventure, but for those who prefer a little R&R, it's also got some of the best all-inclusives in the Caribbean.
Coastline of French Martinique — Photo courtesy of iStock / LisaStrachan
The island of Martinique was spared a direct hit by both Irma and Maria, and the airport and ports were quickly reopened. Visitors to this mountainous volcanic island enjoy a stunning array of landscapes, excellent hiking, top-notch cuisine and a rich cultural heritage.
Ways to help Caribbean islands in need
Between Hurricanes Irma and Maria, numerous islands suffered heartbreaking damage and significant blows to their tourism infrastructures. Here's how to help islands in need until they're back up on their feet and ready for visitors:
- Donate to a charity helping in the recovery efforts, such as the Caribbean Tourism Organization relief fund.
- Donate blood to the American Red Cross to help replenish stores used to treat those injured during the storms.
- Volunteer for a disaster relief organization like All Hands Volunteers or Team Rubicon.
- Purchase an item from the Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Amazon Wish List.
- Visit the Caribbean. Tourism is a major driver of the Caribbean economy, and bringing dollars into the region, even if it's not directly to the affected islands, is a great way to support the Caribbean economy.