Tropical storms and hurricanes have a significant impact on Caribbean weather, especially between June and November. But most travelers overestimate the threat of hurricanes while overlooking other weather factors that can affect their trip. Across the Caribbean, though weather patterns vary, the climate falls under the category of "tropical marine," where there is a distinct wet and dry season and minimal variation in temperature. This also means that, although there is a risk of hurricanes, there is a reasonably defined time of year when the risk is highest, and there is relatively little chance of certain islands being hit at all.
Bottom line: There are dozens of islands in the Caribbean, so the odds of a hurricane hitting the one you're vacationing on are slim. Some islands, like Curacao, Aruba, and Bonaire, almost never get hit by big storms. And you'll dodge the rainy season altogether if you travel to the Caribbean between December and May.
Hurricane Season in the Caribbean
The official hurricane season for the Caribbean runs from June 1 through November 30, although the peak of the season is from mid-August to late October.
"If you're planning an outside Caribbean wedding on a specific date, it's more likely to be interrupted by rain during the hurricane season," says Bob Sheets, former director of the National Hurricane Center. "But if you're taking a one- or two-week vacation to the islands and that's the best time for you to go, then go. You may get a day of rain, but the odds of you getting hit by a hurricane in the Caribbean are quite small."
So, check the weather before you go, but don't let the fear of bad weather prevent you from heading to the Caribbean. The chances are good that the weather here will be better than what you have back home, and you'll be basking in the sunshine rather than dodging raindrops during most if not all of your trip!
Popular Islands in the Caribbean
The Dominican Republic experiences a generally hot, humid tropical climate year-round. Temperatures vary from region to region, but Santo Domingo sees average temperatures from 77 degrees F (25 C) to 82 F (28 C). May through November are the wettest months. Temperatures in Punta Cana, one of the Dominican Republic's most popular resort towns, range from 84 F (29 C) to 70 F (21 C) during the year. Meanwhile, the country's high elevations can be chilly. For visitors looking to avoid hurricane season, crowds, and wet weather, April is a popular month during the shoulder season.
Jamaica is a popular destination any time of the year, thanks to its warm, tropical weather. On the coast, temperatures range from 72 F (22 C) to 88 F (31 C), with chilly mornings and evenings. Jamaica experiences an average of approximately 80 inches of rain per year, but some locations in the country's Blue Mountains receive more than 300 inches. The wettest months are May through October.
Unlike many Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico is excellent to visit any time of year. The island does experience rainy season, but showers are often brief and isolated. The Southern part of the country is drier than the North, and temperatures do drop considerably at higher elevations. Puerto Rico is rarely affected by hurricanes, although fall 2017's Hurricane Maria was the deadliest ever in the country.
The Bahamas consist of 700 islands with temperatures usually hoving between a very pleasant 70 and 80 F. The country doesn't truly have an off-season, but September to May is peak travel time. Summers can be warm, with high temperatures close to 90 F (32 C). Some hotels and resorts will close during the summer months. Water is warm year-round, making any time appropriate for swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
Aruba's climate is hot and tropical, with temperatures averaging 84 F (28 C) most of the year. Unlike many of its Caribbean neighbors, Aruba receives very little rainfall—just over 20 inches per year. The rainiest months are October through December. In general, the island is sunny and windy.
Rainy Season in the Caribbean
Low season in the Caribbean usually kicks off in June, which is also one of the region's wettest months. July and August are slightly drier but are extremely hot and humid. Note that hurricane season runs from June through November, so while the chance of getting caught in a hurricane is unlikely, it can happen—although you're more likely to experience rain.
What to Pack: Even when it's wet, temperatures in the Caribbean are still quite warm so pack lightweight clothing and beach attire. Most showers are quick and pass by in an hour (if not less!), so they're generally easy to avoid. Don't forget your sunscreen—you can get a burn even on a cloudy day.
Dry Season in the Caribbean
For less wind and more stable conditions, visit the Caribbean during its dry season, ranging from February to June. During these months, you can expect low winds, clear skies, and very few rain showers. However, as with all plans involving weather, it is always best to check the local weather before leaving on your trip so you can best plan out what to bring, what do to, and how to get the most out of your Caribbean getaway.
What to Pack: Make the most of the Caribbean's great weather by spending lots of time outdoors! Pack a swimsuit, beach or pool coverups, and other light clothing like shorts, linen pants, and flowy dresses. Insect repellant and sunscreen is always a must-pack in the Caribbean.