The devastation of September 2017’s back-to-back Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria on some of the Caribbean’s most popular islands — the U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and St. Martin/St. Maarten among them — is a reminder that vacationing in the region in late summer and early fall is not without its risks. Luckily, many of the islands hit last year are well on the road to recovery and open for business. In addition, forecasters recently lowered predictions for the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which began June 1 and ends November 30, to below average with expectations of four hurricanes, only one of them major.
That means there’s still a risk — there always is, especially during the peak period from late August to mid-October — but if you’re eager to relax on a beach without worrying that your vacation could be ruined by a tropical storm-turned-hurricane churning toward your Caribbean paradise of choice, here are seven islands that are historically hurricane-free or have a low risk of a direct hit.
Aruba lies on the southern fringes of the hurricane belt, and locals likes to boast that only six hurricanes have passed within 62 miles of this Dutch island over the past 140 years (the last two were Janet in 1955 and Ivan in 2004, while the tail of Matthew whipped the island’s beaches in 2016). That means with no direct hits the odds are in your favor that you can head worry-free to this welcoming island with its popular Palm Beach and Eagle Beach resort areas, casinos and watersports.
Like Aruba, this neighboring ABC Island lies on the outer edge of the hurricane belt and has a history of avoiding major storms. Yet, there have been a few close calls: 2008’s Omar got near enough to destroy many of the island’s shallow coral reefs and 2016’s Matthew skirted the island and storm surge caused some beach erosion. But if you’re a diver, love arid landscapes or want to see pink flamingos, Bonaire is a pretty safe bet for a late summer or fall visit.
The “C” of the ABC Islands has not generally been in the path of major hurricanes. That said, 2010’s Tomas weakened to tropical storm status as it approached this Dutch island, stalled and caused heavy flooding. A few years before that, Felix (2007) passed to the north and drenched Curacao and Omar (2008) formed nearby and also dumped heavy rain. But since a direct hit is rare, this island remains a good option if you want to experience the historic ambience of Willemstad and the beauty of its cave-lined coasts, secluded beaches and vivid blue water.
AT LOW-RISK FOR DIRECT HITS
This Southern Caribbean island has generally avoided a direct hit over the past 100 years (Category-3 Allen in 1980 being the exception), although more than a half dozen storms have passed close enough to cause wind, rain and storm surge damage (notably Janet in 1955, Ivan in 2004 and Tomas in 2010). Given those odds, this upscale island, located where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean, is as low-risk as they come.
Trinidad and Tobago
It has been 85 years since the last major hurricane (storms were unnamed back in 1933) hit Trinidad and 55 years since Flora made landfall on Tobago in 1963. Due to their location, these neighboring Southern Caribbean islands are at minimal risk of a direct hit relative to other islands — although 2017’s Tropical Storm Bret caused wind and flood damage on both. Sun-seekers love Tobago for its crowd-free white-sand beaches, while Trinidad offers a vibrant, multicultural vibe and takes pride in its steel-pan music.
While Grenada lies in the Southern Caribbean and is generally at low-risk, 2004’s Ivan and 2005’s Emily, along with 1955’s Janet and 1963’s Flora, were the major exceptions. Category-4 Ivan stalled over this lush island for 15 long hours and devastated the agricultural and tourism businesses, and then Emily struck a year later. This tranquil island rebounded and has only had a few brushes with passing tropical storms in the years since. So if you love rum and nutmeg and want to mix beach relaxation with jungle adventure, head here.
Bocas del Toro, Panama
For a low-risk beach break during hurricane season, head farther south in the Caribbean to this up-and-coming Central American beach destination that has never suffered a direct hit (although Otto, which formed very late in the 2016 season, caused flooding and damage). I Bocas del Toro’s unspoiled beach-meets-jungle islands you can enjoy an eco-centric, off-the-grid escape.