10 Islands You Can Still Visit in Hurricane Season
Although no Caribbean destination is completely hurricane-proof, these gorgeous islands come closest to being year-round tropical paradises.
Is there a hurricane belt?
Late summer and fall can be a difficult time to plan a Caribbean vacation: Great deals on hotel and airfare can often be had, but that’s in part because it’s the height of hurricane season, which runs from June to November and peaks in August through October. Although some experts say there’s no such thing as a “hurricane belt,” certain islands do get hit more often due to weather patterns and trade winds. So, the northeastern Caribbean islands are more likely to be struck, with islands closer to South America less likely and worth taking the small risk of a storm.
Before you book, check on cancellation policies, get travel insurance that provides for hurricanes, and make sure your hotel has a safety plan on the off chance one does strike while you’re there. As your trip approaches, keep an eye on the forecast, as no island is completely immune to hurricanes. But, smart travelers will most likely be safe from storms by visiting one of the secret island escapes below.
The “ABC Islands” of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao are the classic destinations to go to avoid hurricanes—off the coast of South America, they’re about as far south in the Caribbean as you can get. Aruba offers gorgeous white sand beaches, top-notch restaurants, and an arid climate that’s lovely year-round. This could be why it’s the Caribbean island that’s the most revisited of them all. Besides the beaches, check out the natural bridges of the northern coastline; snorkel or dive to the largest shipwreck in the Caribbean, the Antilla; or explore the desert of Arikok National Park. Choose to stay in either the high-rise hotels on Palm Beach or the low rises along Eagle Beach.
If you’re a nature lover who thrives on exploring unspoiled environments both on land and in the water, Bonaire is for you. Biking, hiking, kayaking, and windsurfing are just some of the adventures that await the intrepid visitor. Plus, the coral reef just offshore is a protected area, Bonaire National Marine Park, that offers top dive sites and amazing snorkeling. Visiting in the summer and fall means fewer crowds, even though it’s already one of the 11 least-crowded islands in the Caribbean. The vibe of its accommodations, such as the Harbor Village Beach Club, is fashionable yet laid-back.
With its charming and rainbow-colored Dutch colonial architecture, visitors to Curacao’s capital of Willemstad might think they hopped on a plane to Europe instead. Its restaurants, such as Fort Nassau, have also been rated some of the best in the Caribbean. Like its fellow ABC islands, Curacao boasts crystal clear waters, amazing diving and snorkeling, and a low chance of hurricanes. Tucked away along Curacao’s coastline are gorgeous beaches and coves such as Playa Kenapa (which includes Grote Knip and Klein Knip), Daaibooi Beach, Playa Lagun, and Playa Porto Marie.
Just off the coast of Venezuela, the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago is also safely out of the path of most hurricanes. The larger island of Trinidad does have its share of oil refineries—after all, the steel drums heard all over the Caribbean originated here, fashioned from oil barrels. But natural beauty can be also be found in abundance on the lush island—such as at the beaches at Maracas Bay and Las Cuevas Bay, Caroni Bird Sanctuary, and the gorgeous Gasparee Caves. Trinidad is also well-known for its lively celebrations, including the Hindu festival of lights, Divali (Diwali) on October 27.
Like its larger neighbor, tiny Tobago features stunning biodiversity and beautiful beaches; but is decidedly less busy and built-up as some areas of Trinidad. In addition to the beaches of Englishman’s Bay, Pigeon Point, and No Man’s Land, visitors seeking pristine paradise can look no further than Buccoo Reef and its Nylon Pool (a natural pool in the middle of the reef), and Main Ridge Forest Reserve, a rainforest that contains the spectacular Argyle Falls. The entire island is one of the under-the-radar gems only found in the Caribbean.
Besides Trinidad and Tobago, which lie further south and a bit further east, Grenada is the southern-most in the curve of Caribbean Windward Islands, sparing it from most storms. Called the “Spice Island,” Grenada actually carries the smell of nutmeg in the air—or so some visitors will say. With its colonial atmosphere and brightly colored buildings, Grenada’s St. George’s Harbor is one of the most picturesque in the Caribbean. Along with touring the spice plantations, guests can visit the River Antoine Rum Distillery, which has been making the stuff since 1785. But the island’s scenic beauty is also not to be missed, so make a stop at Grand Anse beach (one of the 50 best beaches in the world), swim in Annandale Falls, and hop a boat to the isolates isles of Carriacou and Petite Martinique (both part of Grenada).
Although some Barbadian tourism professionals have said confusion over Caribbean geography might lead some potential travelers to think otherwise, Barbados hasn’t had a direct hit from a hurricane since 1955. Lying to the northeast of Grenada, it’s actually the most eastern Caribbean island. Rugged Bathsheba Beach is popular with surfers, but those looking for a relaxing soak can also take in the naturally formed Bathsheba pools. Other lovely stretches of sand—and there are many on this island—include Dover Beach and Carlisle Bay. For more natural wonders, visit Hunte’s Gardens and Harrison’s Cave. The island also has a thriving food scene, with everything from the Friday night Fish Fry in the town of Oistins to the fine dining at The Cliff. Barbados is one of the 12 off-season deals you’ll want to book now, according to experts.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Like its neighbor Barbados, this group of islands hasn’t been hit directly since 1955 and are a safe(r) bet to avoid a major storm. Travelers to these isles have their pick of 32 little-visited tropical paradises to visit or even sail to for the day, including Tobago Cays, Bequia, Mustique, and Mayreau. Although some boast upscale restaurants and elegant hotels, the draw for these islands is seclusion and relaxation—so stick your toes in the sand, hop on a catamaran to look for sea turtles, or snorkel in the crystal waters. On splurge-worthy Palm Island, you can even have a whole place to yourself (and your fellow guests of the resort).
Bocas del Toro Islands, Panama
This is probably one destination you haven’t heard of before, but one that should be on your radar if you like laid-back vibes, funky beach bars, diverse flora and fauna, and, of course, a low risk of hurricane. The island group off Panama’s Caribbean coast near Costa Rica is also one of the 10 best places to travel alone as a woman. Where else can visitors experience unique locales like Playa Estrella on Isla Colon, where tons of starfish make their home; Bird Island, where tons of colorful feathered friends live; Sloth Island, where you can see the creatures in the wild; and Red Frog Beach, home to the namesake animal—but look, don’t touch because they’re poisonous.
San Andrés, Colombia
Another off-the-beaten-path island, San Andrés is part of Colombia, but lies north of Panama and east of Nicaragua, out of range of most hurricanes. With a distinctly Caribbean vibe, the island features white sand beaches, turquoise water (a “sea of seven colors,” as it’s called), and a thriving reggae music scene. Must-visit beaches include Johnny Cay, Rocky Cay, and Playa de Spratt Bight. Snorkeling is also particularly good at Caya El Acuario off the coast, as well as West View, where you can actually jump off a diving board built into the rock.