Which Caribbean islands and destinations can you still visit in 2018, after the damage hurricanes Irma and Maria left behind? Did you know that 75% of the islands in the Caribbean were untouched by Hurricanes Irma & Maria?
Hurricanes hit the Caribbean region every year or so. But in 2017, two of the deadliest hurricanes hit some of the most idyllic — and tourism-dependent — destinations.
The weeks are going by, and some of the damaged islands are recovering quickly, others more slowly, while some islands are now almost uninhabitable.
For us, Americans and Canadians, it means one of our favorite regions in the world has been taken away from us. Being so close to home, and offering heavenly landscapes, luxury resorts, stunning wildlife, adrenaline filled activities and finger-licking cuisines, the Caribbean has always been one of the best destinations in the world.
How about now? What are the best Caribbean destinations to visit in 2018, after the hurricanes Irma and Maria?
The Low-Down about the Hurricanes Irma and Maria
From August 30 to September 16, 2017, category 5 hurricane Irma hits the Caribbean. On its path, Irma’s strong winds reached 185 miles per hour and kill a total of 134 persons. The damage costs are over $64.66 billion US dollars, and it is unofficially ranked #4 costliest hurricane.
Before the Caribbean could even catch its breath, another category 5 hurricane, this one named Maria, hits the region from September 16 to October 3, 2017, with winds as strong as 175 miles per hour. As of November 13, a total of 129 fatalities have been recorded (direct and indirect) and the damage cost reaches over $51.2 billion US dollars. It is the costliest hurricane in Puerto Rico’s history.
As we all watched those two deadly hurricanes destroy everything on their way, we felt powerless.
The weeks have passed, and now we are all wondering what we can do to help. Because in reality, we are talking about real people: dads, moms, kids, even babies, who lost their homes, lost all their belongings, lost their lives. We all want to help, and quite frankly, we are a very bad human being if we don’t care about those people and don’t want to help them, in our own way.
How can we help?
The best way to help the Caribbean is to visit the Caribbean.
All the destinations that were hit by the hurricanes were planning to welcome a certain amount of tourists and travelers, and the money that comes along with it.
In fact, most of the Caribbean’s economy relies on tourism. Part of the devastated islands’ recovery will be tied to how quickly visitors reappear.
If most of us, as travelers, we choose other destinations than the Caribbean, then people will lose their jobs, families won’t have money to pay the rent and kids will go to bed hungry at night.
Yes, we can truly help the Caribbean by visiting the Caribbean. And by the way, have you ever imagined a more pleasant way to help the ones in need?
Still, traveling and going on a vacation is precious time and money for us, so we want to help but also choose our destination wisely.
Here’s the truth about the Caribbean destinations that were severely damaged, the ones that already recovered and the ones that were never even touched.
This list is updated frequently. Last update on December 12, 2017.
The Caribbean destinations that were severely damaged
Here are the Caribbean destinations that were very severely damaged and that cannot fully welcome tourists yet. Some parts of those islands are OK, while other parts are still recovering.
Please visit the official destination or more particularly hotel’s websites to know more details about their recovery and open to business status.
Anguilla is bouncing back from Hurricane Irma’s devastation and is on the road to full recovery. Many hotels and guesthouses are open for business. The airport was opened soon after the sad events, and now plans are underway to expand the Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport.
Barbuda was destroyed by the hurricane which passed directly over the small island: 1 person died and 90% of homes were destroyed. All of its 1,600 residents were moved to Antigua before Hurricane Maria. Now all of Barbuda needs to be rebuilt.
Antigua, on the other hand, has been spared by the hurricanes.
Commercial airline flights have resumed to the British Virgin Islands at the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport.
The Tortola Pier Park’s cruise and shopping facility are on the track of getting restored. The BVI ferry companies (Road Town Fast Ferry and Native Son) have resumed operations between the BVI and the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Thomas). Also, many sea charters have also announced that they will resume operations in the winter season.
Still, most impacted land facilities remain unavailable.
Dominica – Updated on March 26, 2018
Dominica now welcomes international and regional flights at the Douglas Charles Airport and the Canefield Airport. L’Express des Iles fast ferry service was operational within a few weeks after Hurricane Maria and provides service between Dominica, Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Lucia.
A total of 393 hotel/guest house rooms are available, which represents 41% of the total stock of 962 rooms available before Hurricane Maria.
The majority of sites and attractions, 19 of the 23 on the island, have been officially declared open to visitors, such as the signature sites of Trafalgar Falls, Middleham Falls, Emerald Pool, Fresh Water Lake and the Indian River. You can enjoy easy to moderate hikes across the island including the Syndicate Nature Trail, Cabrits/Fort Shirley, and others. Diving tours are currently available with 6 dive operators offering dive tours at all of the key dive sites on the north, south and west coasts of the island.
Before Hurricane Maria, Dominica was on course to receive 219 cruise calls during the 2017-2018 cruise season. This number has since been reduced to 34 calls and the country welcomed the first cruise vessel following the hurricane on December 28, 2017. Since then, the island has received an additional 16 cruise calls.
Puerto Rico – Updated on December 12, 2017
As of December 12, 2017, more than 100 hotels in San Juan have resumed their operations, and more than 1,718 restaurants are open and ready to welcome visitors. San Juan is ready to receive travelers who want to enrich their travel experiences by helping others. Historical walks and bicycle tours are offered to tourists.
On November 30, the island welcomed more than 7,000 cruise passengers, the first group of passengers to cruise to the island after the Hurricanes. The passengers of the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas and the Carnival Conquest were received with an extremely warm welcome – Puerto Rican style. The festivities included free salsa classes, rum, and cocktail tastings, as well as traditional percussion groups, craft markets, street performers, children’s fairs, and more. In November and December, it is estimated that 58 cruises will be visiting San Juan. That means San Juan will welcome nearly 110,000 passengers.
The reopening of hotels and the arrival of cruises are important steps towards the restoration of the tourism industry. Puerto Rico will officially open its doors to travelers on December 20th.
St. Barts is recovering well from the passage of Hurricane Irma. Flights resumed at Gustaf III Airport on October 1. Electricity, water, and telecommunication systems are up and running throughout the island. Debris has been cleared from the roadways and all roads are fully accessible. Still, most hotels are still recovering and aren’t open for business.
The roads and the beaches have been cleared of all debris and nearly all households have electricity.
The two main airports –The Princess Juliana International and Saint Martin Grand Case – are open for business with about 60 flights a week from 12 airlines. Cruise ships have returned early December.
More than 80% of the restaurants on the Dutch side are open for business, and 1600 of the previous 4115 hotels take reservations. On the French side, 300 of the 1700 hotel rooms are again open to business and more than 60 restaurants have opened their doors.
Though there’s still work to be done on both sides of the island, major attractions like theRainforest Adventures, the Loterie Farm and the popular catamaran cruises which offer snorkeling and diving, are operational. The French side of the island even celebrated its annual Carnival festival.
The U.S. Virgin Islands is getting back to the business of welcoming visitors to its shores following Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The airports on St. Croix and St. Thomas are now open to commercial flights, and one of the flagship hotels on the island of St. Croix, The Buccaneer, has announced it is accepting reservations for leisure guests arriving on or after November 1. Seaport facilities are also open, and the Territory is looking forward to welcoming cruise visitors since November 11. Debris clean-up on roadways and beaches is ongoing.
The Caribbean destinations that have already recovered
Antigua has been spared by the hurricanes: no properties were damaged at all. Antigua is reporting it is open for business with excursions, tour operators, restaurants and hotels welcoming visitors.
Varadero has fully recovered from the hurricanes (I know, I was there 3 weeks ago!), while Cayo Coco’s airport, The Jardines del Rey international airport, has resumed operations.
The hurricanes didn’t make direct hits on the Dominican Republic and any minor damage was cleaned up within a week or so.
The main tourist destinations in The Bahamas – Freeport, Nassau – were completely spared by the Hurricanes. You can book your winter vacations there without any worries.
It was only parts of the southern and less-inhabited islands that were more severely damaged.
Turks and Caicos
The Turks and Caicos Islands are making a strong and speedy recovery following the passage of Hurricane Irma. Hurricane Maria did little to delay the rebuilding, and additional damage was minimal across most of the Turks and Caicos’ east islands. South Caicos, Grand Turk and Salt Cay aren’t fully functional as of today but are expected to reopen for high-season by mid-December.
The Caribbean destinations that were spared
Yes, 75% of the Caribbean was untouched by Hurricanes Irma & Maria!
Having been spared a direct hit by Hurricane Irma and/or Maria, these Caribbean destinations didn’t suffer damage to their infrastructure and are ready to welcome guests now and in the upcoming winter season.
- Cayman Islands
- St. Eustatius
- St. Kitts
- St. Lucia
- St. Vincent
- Trinidad and Tobago
As you can see, most of the Caribbean region has remained untouched by the hurricanes’ devastation.
The Caribbean destinations still without the Zika Virus
As you can read in my article Discover Zika Free Caribbean Islands, 5 destinations are still not infected with the Zika virus: Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and St. Barts (Saint Barthélemy). Even if there hasn’t been a case reported in over a year, it is important to note that there is still a risk of infection according to the CDC.
So if you are looking for the ultimate Caribbean destination to visit in 2018, which are the safest (without the Zika virus) and most pristine (that is 100% recovered or hasn’t been touched by hurricanes), here are the 4 ultimate Caribbean destinations to visit in 2018:
The 5 ultimate Caribbean destinations to visit in 2018
- Bahamas (Zika-free since March 2018)
- Cayman Islands
If you choose one of those 5 countries, you are assured of the best conditions to enjoy your vacation… well, that’s quickly said. It doesn’t mean everything will be perfect, and maybe another Caribbean island would be a better fit for your interests. Finally, you won’t have the satisfaction of helping the ones in need.
Only you can decide which Caribbean destination you’ll choose for 2018, and what motivates you.
Where were you planning to go this Winter?