Traveling to the Caribbean During Hurricane Season

traveling to the caribbean during hurricane season

With reports of damage from the numerous hurricanes of 2017 still fresh in everyone’s mind, the question of whether it’s safe to travel to the Caribbean or other hurricane-prone areas during the summer and early fall may be top-of-mind for many travelers planning their upcoming vacations.

How Often Do Hurricanes Occur in the Caribbean?

When considering booking a trip to the Caribbean during hurricane season, it is important to consider how often hurricanes occur.

On average, about four named tropical systems will have an impact somewhere in the Caribbean in a given year. Of those storms, fewer than three will reach hurricane intensity (sustained winds in excess of 74 mph), and fewer than two will reach major hurricane status (sustained winds in excess of 110 mph).

However, the Caribbean is a big place and there is a lot of regional variability in those numbers. Looking at historical storm data for the past 100 years for the region can help us quantify the hurricane risk more directly.

Frequency of Hurricanes in the Caribbean Infographic

The above infographic provides an estimate of the recurrence intervals of storms (or how many years between storms on average) by region throughout the Caribbean. The larger the number, the longer the time between storms (and the lower the average storm frequency).

If you’re planning a trip to the Caribbean during hurricane season, you may want to consider visiting an island such as Aruba, Curacao or Bonaire as they experience a major hurricane only once every 100 years (on average).

Conversely, in the Bahamas, for example, storm frequency is relatively high. A hurricane-strength storm has occurred every two years, and a major hurricane about every five years. Historically those islands can expect a named storm to occur just about every year.

In any given year, the chances that there will be major hurricane disruptions to a Caribbean vacation may be lower than you think. However, keep in mind that these statistics do not mean that the islands impacted in 2017 are out of the woods for storms in 2018. These are long-term averages, and every hurricane season brings some element of risk to your trip planning.

Travel insurance can help mitigate that risk and give you some peace of mind when you travel to hurricane-prone areas.

Other Hurricane Regions

Other hurricane- and typhoon-prone areas have their own risk levels, and some are lower than you might think.

Hawaii has only been hit by two hurricanes in the past 100 years: Hurricane Dot (1959) and Hurricane Iniki (1992). Other locations such as Indonesia and Singapore are south of the typhoon belt and have a very low risk at any time of the year.

If you are traveling to the tropics in the summer and fall, chances are good that your vacation will be uneventful (from a hurricane perspective, anyway!). However, check the details of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are adequately covered for the unlucky chance that you run into one of those storms.

And remember to buy early! Once a storm is named, it’s too late to buy that protection.

Damage From the 2017 Hurricane Season

What about traveling to the Caribbean after hurricane season? Taking a look at last year’s hurricane by the numbers, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s report on the impact of the 2017 hurricane season on Caribbean travel and tourism:

  • “The 2017 hurricane season resulted in an estimated loss of 826,100 visitors to the Caribbean.”
  • “These visitors would have generated US$741 million and supported 11,005 jobs.”
  • “Research suggests that recovery to previous levels could take up to four years, resulting in an approximate loss of US$3 billion.”

That’s actually good news for travelers because where there’s economic impact there’s often accelerated recovery to get the affected areas back on track. While some islands are still recovering from the combined impacts from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the overall picture may be improving for the region.

2017 Services and Facilities Update

Basic services have been restored to a majority of impacted areas, including airports and cruise ports, and many hotels and resort properties have completed repairs and reopened with full services.

Specifically:

  • Barbuda, St. Martin/Sint Maarten, and Anguilla were the most severely damaged by Hurricane Irma’s Category 5 winds, and have been the slowest to recover. Some facilities are open, but more widespread recovery will not be completed until the winter of 2018-2019.
    The U.S. and British Virgin Islands have restored electricity and water, as well as opened airports. Significant portions of the islands are back to pre-hurricane conditions. However, hotels and resorts have been slower to reopen, with fewer than half the properties (including many of the largest resorts) operational heading into the summer season.
  • Puerto Rico has made significant progress towards recovery from the impacts of Maria, with electricity and water restored to most of the island. While there are still numerous properties closed for repairs, many others are fully operational. San Juan has had a strong cruise season, and many of the city’s hotels and restaurants have reopened and are back in business.

Before you book, make sure you fully vet your resort accommodations and know how to cover your travel investment before you go.

If you decide to travel during hurricane season, be sure to review our hurricane safety tips.

Protect yourself from the unexpected. Get a quote for a travel protection plan today.