The Caribbean—the region southeast of mainland North America and the Gulf of Mexico, east of Central America, and north of South America—has its official hurricane season from June 1 to November 30, peaking in August, September, and October. Summer comes in hot and humid on most of these tropical islands, then the weather starts to cool a few degrees as autumn arrives. But daytime air temperatures remain fairly consistent in the mid- to upper 80s year-round.
The frequency and intensity of Caribbean storms vary greatly from year to year, but even in the most intense hurricane season, the odds of your vacation being disrupted by weather remain quite low. Some destinations almost never get hit by hurricanes or tropical storms, so you can probably count on a trouble-free trip, though there are no guarantees with Mother Nature.
Choose the Right Destination
When planning your Caribbean vacation, keep in mind that the southernmost islands experience fewer dangerous storms than those in the Atlantic "hurricane belt" through the central and eastern portions of the Caribbean. These southern islands are among your safest options for a trip free of hurricane hassles.
- Bonaire has only a 2.2 percent annual risk of a hurricane striking the island. Located on the outer edge of the hurricane belt, the island has historically avoided major storms.
- Aruba and Curacao, Bonaire's sister islands tucked in near Venezuela, are low-risk areas in terms of hurricane potential. Aruba hasn't had direct hits due to its location. Curacao, 70 miles east of Aruba, is also south of the hurricane belt. Given where Curacao is located means it's not usually in the path of major hurricanes and receives few direct hits.
- Trinidad and Tobago, the dual-island nation, are a safe bet for trouble-free travel in the risky season. It has been more than 50 years since a hurricane has hit either island, thanks to their location.
- Barbados has had very few hurricanes in the last 100 years. Located just east of the Caribbean hurricane route, this is a good island to visit.
- Grenada is overall low risk, with some exceptions. It has been almost 15 years since any major hurricanes have hit. With a location just south of the hurricane belt, the island misses the strongest weather.
Book the Best Deals
You might not see candid advertising of hurricane season deals—most island marketing experts opt against calling attention to potential bad weather—but you should be able to secure reduced rates on lodging, transportation, and activities during the low season. Ask about summer and fall specials when you book your accommodations, and watch for flight discounts, especially after school resumes in late August or early September in the United States.
Once on the ground in your destination, look for deals on activities, which typically attract fewer crowds at this time of year. Caribbean locals do more inter-island traveling during the region's low season, so ask them for insider suggestions too.
Don't Let Rain Dampen Your Plans
Hurricane season correlates to the rainy season, which encompasses the entire Caribbean. But outside of an actual tropical storm event, the rain typically falls in bursts, with hours of sunshine possible in between. By most weather records, it's reasonable to expect up to nine hours of sunshine a day during the summer. More significant rainfall takes place in mountainous regions rather than at the beach, where short showers can provide welcome relief from the heat. It rarely rains on desert-like Aruba, and on many other islands, measurable precipitation usually falls in the late afternoon or early evening.
Unless lightning accompanies a rain shower, you can usually just go about your day as planned.
If you're traveling during hurricane season and have picked a safer island along with getting a deal, it's still important to be prepared for the rare chance of a natural disaster. Make sure you are ready by tackling the things on this list—also, do you need a plan B?
- Get to know the National Weather Service's Hurricane Tips and Resources and keep an eye on any potential storms. Hurricanes can start forming only days or weeks before your dreamed-of vacation.
- Find out what your insurance covers before you go. During hurricane season, you might consider buying travel insurance. Typically, if your trip is canceled or interrupted due to a storm, you can be refunded up to the limit of coverage. Note that in most cases, insurance must be purchased more than 24 hours before a hurricane is named.
- Check on your airline's policy and any tours booked for changes and/or cancellations due to weather before heading on your trip.
- Bring a list of emergency phone numbers for medical and travel insurance, doctors, and people to contact in an emergency. Note that hurricanes can bust transmission lines, so information may get cut off all of a sudden.
- Make sure to bring a valid and up-to-date identification card and passport for each person traveling.
- As for lodging, you may want to opt for a hotel with a hurricane guarantee. If a hurricane is predicted, many places allow you to cancel a reservation without penalty by offering a full refund or the ability to book again within a year. Read the wording carefully and ask the hotel in advance of your travels; it's also helpful to know if they provide transportation for an airport return.
- If using Airbnb for travel lodging, the company doesn't require documentation if a hurricane hits, but they will review each case to ensure you were affected. After cancelling your reservation, file a claim with them within 14 days of the disaster.
- If a hurricane hits: While you will typically count on hotel management to guide you through, make sure you at least have an evacuation plan and emergency kit. Go to high ground for shelter and follow instructions.