High season in the Caribbean -- the time of year with full resorts and pricier flights -- runs from mid-December to mid-April. Plan well in advance for travel during the peak season, especially if your trip coincides with Christmas and New Years, spring break, or other school vacation weeks when rooms and seats book up early.
Though air and water temperatures fluctuate by only a few degrees throughout the year, North American winter brings the most stable weather conditions to the islands. From December to April, daytime highs hover in the mid-80s, and strong summer winds generally calm down to a refreshing breeze. Travelers looking for a respite from winter in the northern regions willingly overlook the downsides to high-season travel for the chance to bury their toes in warm sand.
Accommodation rates can drop by 30 percent from the second to the third week of April when the shoulder season between high and low season begins. Flights to your island destination may also reflect a 25-percent high-season surcharge.
If you want to travel in April or December, inquire about price fluctuations from one week to the next. The highest prices and heaviest demand occurs around holidays and during other weeks in the months of January, February, and March.
Rooms book early and flights fill fast in high season, so you should expect some crowds on the beaches, in the restaurants and around town. You can use tried-and-true budget traveler tips to both reduce your cost and mitigate wait times.
- Consider less popular and less well-known destinations when you plan your trip. The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Grenada, and Guadeloupe consistently rank among the most affordable destinations.
- Book accommodations a bit off the beaten track; most visitors want beachfront lodging, so if you head inland even by a few blocks, you can typically score a room at a lower price.
- Make lunch your big meal and dine out when dishes cost less and lines move quickly. You may find the lightest crowds in the lull between lunch and dinner, from about 2 to 5 p.m., though some places may observe siesta time and close during this period.
- Plan resort activities on a Saturday, typically change over the day when most visitors either arrive or depart.
Low season from mid-April to mid-December partially overlaps hurricane season in the Caribbean. Some resorts cut 50 percent or more off high-season rates to fill empty rooms in the off-season, and destination-wide deals and promotions involving discounts on lodging, food, attractions and even airfare try to entice travelers at this time of year. Travelers in the off-season typically enjoy plenty of sunshine with only occasional short showers in the late afternoons or overnight.
The Caribbean off-season extends into late fall in the Northern Hemisphere; booking mid-October to mid-December travel to the warm tropics can save you money, and the threat of hurricanes has mostly passed.