All Caribbean islands are vulnerable to hurricanes, and Jamaica is no exception. However, thanks to geography, Jamaica has historically experienced far fewer storms than other nearby islands and statistically is less likely to experience a direct hit. Traveling around the Caribbean during hurricane season always comes with a risk, but if you're looking for a tropical getaway on warm beaches, Jamaica is one of the safest choices you can make.
When Is Hurricane Season?
Hurricanes and tropical storms can happen at any time of year, but most commonly occur during the official hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30. Even within the season, 96 percent of major hurricanes—those that are Category 3, 4, or 5—occur in the months of August, September, and October. Hotels in hurricane-prone areas often lower their prices to entice guests during these months, since it's the low season for tourism in the Caribbean. The odds of a storm disrupting your trip are extremely low, but if you're planning travel during these months, don't disregard the possibility.
Since many Atlantic storms begin to curve north as they roll through the Caribbean, the islands further west—such as Jamaica—are more likely to be spared from direct hits. Hurricane Sandy passed by Jamaica in 2012 as a Category 1 hurricane and left the eastern half of the island in ruins before moving up the East Coast of the U.S. and shutting down New York City. Hurricane Dean in 2007 and Hurricane Ivan in 2004 never made landfall in Jamaica, but both brushed by the island and did a significant amount of damage regardless.
The last hurricane to truly devastate Jamaica was Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, which was one of the worst disasters to fall upon the country in recent history and the most severe storm to make landfall on the island since Hurricane Charlie in 1951. Powerful hurricanes rarely strike Jamaica directly, but nearby hurricanes or even less-intense tropical storms can still wreak havoc on travel plans, so keep an eye on weather forecasts leading up to your trip.
What Does It Mean for My Vacation Plans?
Statistically, the chances of a hurricane or tropical storm hitting Jamaica during your visit are very slim. Still, there are choices you can make to lower the risk of a hurricane disrupting your vacation. If you want to take advantage of hotel deals, travel outside of the heaviest storm months from August to October. June, July, and November are still low-season months for tourism within the hurricane season but statistically are a much safer bet.
If you're traveling during hurricane season—especially during the peak August-to-October period—it is recommended that you buy travel insurance that covers hurricanes. Note that in most cases, you must purchase insurance more than 24 hours before a hurricane is named. Such insurance is inexpensive and will protect your investment should you need to cancel flights or hotel reservations. Usually, if your trip is delayed or canceled due to a storm, you'll get a refund up to the limit of coverage. Also, many hotels and airlines will offer a rescheduled itinerary or a refund if a hurricane interrupts your planned vacation, but not always. Always read the fine print carefully before confirming your reservation to see what the policy is when a storm interrupts your trip.
If you're traveling to a hurricane-prone area during the risky season, download the hurricane app from the American Red Cross for storm updates and many useful features such as locations of Red Cross shelters and location-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather alerts that keep you informed should the forecast predict storms.