I get requests for Caribbean vacations almost on a weekly basis. What’s not to love about the Caribbean? Beautiful beaches, amazing jungles and hills and clear, blue water. There are so many islands to choose from, and each island has it’s own unique characteristics. The very first question I get, however, is “What about travel after Hurricane Irma?”
Don’t let the hurricane put you off traveling to the region. Plenty of islands are still open for business, with several more in the works, and their economies need us now more than ever.
Travel after Hurricane Irma – which islands were hit hardest?
Barbuda: A very small island, all of it’s inhabitants were forced to abandon their homes before the hurricane. The damage to this island was totally annihilating and the island was flattened. So far, nothing has been done and the majority of the islanders have not returned. Unfortunately, Barbuda can be marked off the list for visiting for a very long time.
U.S. Virgin Islands: St. Thomas and St. John suffered the most damage, with St. John taking the brunt of it. Hurricane Maria then affected St. Croix. St. John is one of our favorite islands and we’ve been there several times. Sadly, our favorite resort in the world, Caneel Bay, was completely destroyed. Another heartbreak – this resort will take a long time to rebuild. However, these islands are having visitors return. Rental homes, smaller hotels and cruise ports are open for business. As our some restaurants and bars.
Dominica: Many people haven’t heard of this tiny island (and often confuse it with Dominican Republic). Their destruction was complete, as well. 73,000 residents were affected by the storm and even the Prime Minister was left without his home.
Cuba: Cuba has been experience some much needed tourism but unfortunately had to be hit by a hurricane. The hurricanes hit quite hard, flooded the streets, destroyed some buildings and took some lives. However, Cuba is coming back. I just returned from a week in Cuba and didn’t see any evidence of hurricane damage. It was business as usual.
British Virgin Islands: I’m sure most people remember Richard Branson tweeting about his hunkering down on his private island, weathering the storm. The hurricanes hit the BVIs hard and flattened much of them. Bitter End Yacht Club, a beautiful resort, was totally destroyed and the infrastructure was devastated.
St. Martin: 90% of the island was destroyed and countless lives were lost. Cleanup is moving along and the airport has reopened. Hotels will be having soft openings in 2018-2019 and the cruise port has reopened.
Puerto Rico: Puerto Rican citizens lost everything. Nevertheless, it’s people are strong and working on rebuilding. Power still hasn’t been restored to the island completely. Countless people died and many fled to the mainland United States and probably will not return.
So where can we go?
First off, consider visiting some of the above listed if at all possible. These islands really need tourism to survive and rebuild. If your favorite resort isn’t open yet, try something new!
Barbuda is not open for business, but did not have many hotel rooms in the first place. Antigua, a close neighbor was affected but the resorts on the island are back in business and the beaches are white sand with clear blue water.
Many of St. Thomas accommodations are open for business and the cruise post is operating. The island is rather large, with plenty of options to choose from. St. John, not so much. St. John is two-thirds a national park and there were only a handful of resorts in the first place. The large resorts on the island are closed until further notice, however, there are several smaller hotels and villas that are open and visitors are being welcomed. Many restaurants are still closed and rebuilding, but there are still plenty open in Cruz Bay and Coral Bay for food and entertainment. Don’t hesitate to visit this beautiful island with a little pre-planning and research. It is our favorite!
Dominica has a few hotels open for business but many, many are still closed and cruise lines aren’t stopping there. The hotels open have lovely resort amenities, but outside of the resorts it’s still pretty destroyed. And many dive shops are still closed, as there was a lot of damage to the reefs.
Cuba is open! If you’re American, be careful of the travel restrictions and go with a legitimate tour group. Restrictions for Americans are in effect; and they remain fluid so check with a travel agent before booking to make sure everything is legal. I recently went with my favorite Cuban tour operator, Cuba Private Travel, and had a fantastic time seeing Havana, Vinales Valley, Cinfuegos and Trinidad.
The British Virgin Islands…while most of the beaches are reopened, a lot of resorts have been unable to open. Closed until further notice? Long Bay Beach Resort & Villas, Treasure Isle, Surfsong Villa Resort, Turtle Bay Lambert Beach Resort and Heritage Inn.
Puerto Rico is working really hard and travel there is possible. 90% of the island has electricity and plenty of resorts are planning on reopening sometime between April and October of 2018. Numerous restaurants and casinos have opened and brand new hotels are in the process of building.
The airport in St. Martin has reopened with limited service. Most of the resorts will be opening sometime between April and late summer with the exception of the following – The Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach, Alegria Hotel, Ocean Club, Royal Islander Resort, the Towers at Mullet Bay, Flamingo Resort and Royal Palm Resort remain closed. Cruises are stoping here as they had before.
Picking an Island
If you don’t want to chance it and are looking for a completely undamaged island, there are plenty to choose from. There are many islands with little to no damage at all. Consider:
Turks and Caicos
the Cayman Islands
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago
The Caribbean is a huge favorite of our family. While we haven’t explored nearly as much as we would like, we plan to in the future. The options for islands and resorts is ever changing after the storms and if you still aren’t sure, check with a travel agent or check out Caribbean Travel Update – a fantastic resource for each island. And if all else fails, consider a cruise!