Fall is taking its time in arriving across much of the USA, but there’s no doubt the change is in the air. And for all the joys of autumn colors and harvest festivals, followed by the snowy frolicking of winter. Millions of us every year find the need to slip away from the chill for a bit of “forever summer” beach bumming bliss. This year, you might be wondering if the Caribbean is an option. After all, the news, images, and videos have been pretty grim. The definitive answer is yes, it is a good idea, even a great one.
First, let’s get some perspective. There are 33 Caribbean islands that beach lovers flock to year-round. 23 of them had the supreme fortune to escape 2017’s two headline-grabbing hurricanes either completely unscathed or very minimally affected. The other 10 vacation favorites are on the road to recovery, though with major differences in the amount of damage to address and the time it will take to rebuild. Most of these islands are also welcoming visitors although, again, in varying degrees as per the differing damage.
Second, let’s remember how important our visits are to the entire region. Tourism is the main economic driver for the Caribbean family of islands. As vital as the one-off donations are that so many people have made, nothing can take the place of supporting the islands’ main source of revenue and jobs – that is, vacationing there. Even the undamaged islands will become collateral casualties if people stay away due to a misunderstanding of the situation across the region.
So, let’s do a rundown to see what’s really going on. Why a Fall or Winter 2017/18 Caribbean vacation should definitely be on your “just do it” list.
No Damage – Islands Fully Operational – Enjoy!
Aruba, Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Trinidad
Minimal Damage – Islands Fully or Mostly Operational – Enjoy!
Antigua, Bahamas, Bonaire, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts, St. Vincent, Turks & Caicos
Significant or Severe Damage – Islands Are in Recovery, Partially Operational – Contact Tourism Boards/Resorts for Options
Following is a very basic summary for the status of each seriously affected island. As you will see, not only do conditions vary widely between islands, but even within them. Resorts on some islands were damaged minimally or not at all and are welcoming visitors, while others on the same island may not reopen until late 2017 or even late 2018. For specifics on visiting one of these islands, we advise directly contacting the tourism board or any resort that interests you.
Anguilla: Severely impacted. Repairs are going well, however, though some resorts are open and others will open soon, many do not expect to reopen in 2017.
Barbuda: The island suffered total devastation. No timeline for its recovery is available.
British Virgin Islands: Severely impacted. Repairs are going well, however, much of the tourism infrastructure will not be operational until late 2017.
Dominica: Severely impacted. Repairs will take many months and there is no expectation of notable operations in 2017.
Puerto Rico: As a Territory of the United States, we’ve received the most information about this island. This is both good and problematic. Good because we’re informed, but problematic because the news has left many people with the impression that Puerto Rico is a total disaster zone best avoided. This is quite inaccurate. As airports and cruise ports are open, many resorts are welcoming guests, and many more will be opening their doors this month.
The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is maintaining an incredibly useful, detailed, daily update of everything relevant to vacationers. Along with live chat and a hotline for personal assistance with any question you may have. It’s really quite impressive — check it out here.
St. Barths: Severely impacted. Repairs are going well, however, much of the tourism infrastructure will not be operational until late 2017 or into 2018.
St. Croix: Sporadic damage. Some resorts were completely unaffected or had only minimal damage and are welcoming visitors, while others will re-open later this year. Many resorts, however, were hit quite hard and won’t reopen until unspecified dates in 2018. Cruise ports are expected to open in late October.
St. John: Same status as St. Croix.
St. Maarten: Severely impacted, with a few bright spots. The airport will reopen October 10. Some resorts miraculously emerged completely unscathed or only minimally damaged and are welcoming visitors, which will do the island much good in the way of jobs and morale. Most resorts, however, were extensively damaged and the re-opening dates are staggered from late Fall 2017 to Fall 2018, with some possibly permanently closed.
St. Thomas: Same status as St. Croix and St. John.
So there you have it. There are hundreds of wonderful resorts, hotels, inns, and B&Bs that emerged perfectly or very well from the fury of Irma and Maria, spread across nearly two dozen extremely fortunate islands that remain the beach bumming, scuba diving, parasailing, horseback riding on the shore paradises they’ve been for decades.
And if you want to imbue your vacation with the spirit of philanthropy, you can choose to make your getaway on one of the less fortunate islands that yet have much to offer, and have the greatest need of your patronage. Either way, yes, a Caribbean vacation this season is absolutely a good idea.