The Caribbean is home to idyllic, paradise islands and some of the nastiest weather known to humankind. Visitors intent on a Caribbean holiday can obtain peace of mind by carefully selecting the time of year they visit or by opting for a destination on the edge of the hurricane belt, where the wild weather risk is low.
Think of the Caribbean and you will probably have visions of tranquil islands with palm trees, white sands and clear, blue seas with gentle waves lapping on the shore. The trade winds blow gently, giving refreshing relief from the midday sun.
That is indeed the Caribbean holiday island experience, but it has a flip side. Hurricanes whip the sea into a frenzy of surging waves, the palm trees are bent almost horizontal and the view is obliterated by drenching tropical rain. Only a small proportion of the millions of visitors to the idyllic holiday destinations of the Caribbean will get to see this. Still fewer will become fatalities, thanks to advance warning systems and efficient evacuation plans. But the really good news is that you can spend your vacation on a Caribbean paradise island without having to worry about tropical storms and lethal weather.
Avoiding Hurricanes: Strategy #1
Tropical storms are seasonal. Due to their location relatively close to the equator, most Caribbean islands have a climate that varies remarkably little throughout the year. If you’re dead set on not risking hurricane havoc then it’s easy to schedule your visit for dates that fall outside the hurricane season.
On most Caribbean islands, the hurricane season extends from June or July to about November, with peak incidence of tropical storms in September. However, that doesn’t mean that hurricanes don’t and won’t hit at other times of the year. They do. It does mean that by choosing your dates carefully you can improve your odds of a storm-free vacation.
For obvious reasons, the hurricane season is also usually the low season for tourism, so you won’t get the lowest rates. However, if you are tied to dates when the hurricane risk is at its height, you do have other options.
Hurricane-free holidays: Strategy #2
Hurricanes and cyclones form under particular conditions, at particular times and in particular places. A bit of research can help you identify which destination is most favourable when you are able to travel. But there is another avenue. Fortunately, not all Caribbean destinations lie in the hurricane belt and, of those that do, some lie outside the main hurricane paths and have rarely suffered from the devastation that wild weather causes.
Trinidad & Tobago
For anyone nervous about hurricanes, Trinidad and Tobago might be the answer. Technically, these islands lie outside the hurricane belt, though that does not exempt them from tropical storms. Only two hurricanes have affected the islands in the last fifty years: Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and before that, Hurricane Flora in 1963.
The Turks & Caicos Islands
The Turks and Caicos Islands are also less vulnerable to the excesses of tropical weather than some other Caribbean destinations. No hurricane has caused landfall here in the last twenty years and the odds of a hurricane striking are (on current data) a little less than once a decade. However, especially with climate change and shifting weather in the present, that is not a guarantee that the pattern will persist. However, once again, it does up the odds of a hurricane-free holiday, especially if you visit during the summer months.
US Virgin Islands
The US Virgin Islands lie within the hurricane belt but have seldom experienced the stormy weather that has all but flattened some other Caribbean islands. No serious hurricane has affected St. Thomas, in the US Virgin Islands, for fifteen years, although the strike by Hurricane Marilyn in 1995 caused huge damage and five deaths.
St Vincent (the Grenadines)
If that sounds too dangerous, then St. Vincent and the Grenadines may be a more appealing option. Destructive weather usually passes to the north of the islands, with the last major hurricane, Hurricane Janet, hitting as long ago as 1955. Storms are still a risk in the rainy season, but you are unlikely to encounter catastrophic weather at this destination.
Others: hurricane free
The islands of the Lesser Antilles are also Caribbean destinations that lie outside the hurricane belt. Curacao, the nearby island of Aruba and the lesser-known island of Bonaire are all destinations that travellers who don’t want to risk a hurricane on their holiday can consider.