It’s been 10 months since three powerful Category 4 and 5 hurricanes — Irma, Jose and Maria — tore through the Caribbean over a two-week period in September, leaving a trail of devastation that upended island life and created major challenges for hotels, resorts, restaurants and other tourism-related businesses in about 30 percent of the region. Recovery has varied from island to island, but daily life and tourism are getting back on track. Here’s a rundown of how individual islands are faring.
MOSTLY BACK TO NORMAL
These seven islands were hit, but have mostly recovered and are welcoming visitors.
Anguilla’s airport reopened quickly and its roads and beaches were cleared, but many hotels and resorts were damaged by Irma, followed by Jose. A number have reopened (including Four Seasons Resort Anguilla, Zemi Beach House, Reef by CuisinArt, Carimar Beach Club, Shoal Bay Villas and Meads Bay Villas), while November openings are planned for Malliohana, An Auberge Resort; CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa and Belmond Cap Juluca.
The larger and more populated of two adjacent islands officially known as Antigua and Barbuda escaped “largely unscathed” from Irma, which decimated its sister island. Antigua suffered some wind and water damage, but most beaches, resorts and restaurants reopened just days afterwards.
As Irma barreled through the islands, Havana was hit hard by wind and storm surges that flooded roads and damaged buildings. But most tourism infrastructure reopened by late October and cruise ship arrivals — the easiest way for most Americans to visit Cuba — were not affected.
While generally protected from hurricanes by its location next to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic took a glancing blow from both Irma and Maria — but recovery was quick.
When Irma hit this 13-square-mile French island, it left heavy damage in its wake, especially to resorts and villas. A speedy clean-up had the town of Gustavia cleared of debris and about 50 percent of resorts, villas and restaurants bounced back by late 2017 and early 2018. The rest are scheduled for late 2018 re-openings, including Le Toiny (October), Hotel Christopher (October), Le Sereno (November), Cheval Blanc St. Barth Isle de France (December) and Eden Rock (December). Le Guanahani, currently undergoing repairs, has not yet set an opening date.
St. Kitts & Nevis
Both islands, while in the path of Irma, sustained mainly minor damage and hotels and resorts reopened quickly.
Turks & Caicos
Hit by both Irma and Maria, this island chain had a speedy recovery, with resort areas on Providenciales (namely Grace Bay), North Caicos, Middle Caicos and much of Grand Turk back to normal. Grand Turk, along with South Caicos and Salt Cay, were hardest hit, and while cruise ships returned fairly quickly to Grand Turk, the latter two islands (home to boutique diving resorts) are not fully back to pre-hurricane status.
THE RECOVERY CONTINUES
These six islands were hardest hit. Many resorts and business have reopened and are welcoming visitors, while others plan to reopen in late 2018, early 2019 and beyond.
About 95 percent of homes and business were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Irma and the entire population was evacuated. Many residents have returned, roads have been cleared and the Frigate Bird Sanctuary is open and repopulating, but the only resort set to reopen is Barbuda Belle in November.
British Virgin Islands
The BVIs continue to recover after suffering major damage from both Irma and Maria. The airport at Beef Island on Tortola is open, interisland ferries are running and beaches (including The Baths on Virgin Gorda) are as beautiful as ever. But resort reopenings have been staggered: Cooper Island, Guana Island, Oil Nut Bay villas, Anegada Beach Club and Sebastian’s on the fall and some not until 2019. These include Scrub Island Resort & Spa (October) and Necker Island (partially in October). Rosewood Little Dix Bay and Bitter End Yacht Club won’t reopen until late 2019 and Peter Island Resort has not set a date.
Tiny Dominica took a direct hit from Maria and while most public services on the “Nature Island”—known for its hiking trails, waterfalls and dive sites—are restored, the storm damaged 26 hotels and destroyed 13. Only about 40 percent of its hotel rooms were bookable as of June, but partial reopenings are scheduled at Pequod Bay and Secret Beach Cottages, while Jungle Bay Resort will reopen 30 villas in February.
Maria brought death and devastation to this U.S. territory, which struggled for months to restore power, although cruise ships returned to San Juan in late 2017. Now 95 percent of the island now has electricity and tourism is stabilizing with about 90 percent of hotel rooms are bookable (some even if properties aren’t fully reopened). Openings scheduled for late 2018 and early 2019 include: El San Juan Hotel, A Curio Collection by Hilton (October); Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve (October); St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort (October); Caribe Hilton (December); W Retreat & Spa Vieques (January); and El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort (January). The Ritz-Carlton San Juan has not announced a reopening date, but spring 2019 is likely.
St. Maarten/St. Martin
First Irma, then Jose and finally Maria all hit this dual-nation (Dutch and French) island, which now has 95 percent of its power restored. Princess Juliana Airport, whose terminal was severely damaged and is being rebuilt, reopened in October 2017 using large air-conditioned tents for arrivals and departures. About 50 percent of hotel rooms are expected to be available by year’s end, including those at Sapphire Beach Club Resort (October), Grand Case Beach Club (October), Sonesta Ocean Point (November), Riu Palace St. Martin (November) and Belmond La Samanna (December). Sonesta Maho Bay Beach Resort is expected to reopen in February.
U.S. Virgin Islands
This three-island U.S. territory suffered a double whammy as St. Thomas and St. John were hit by Irma and St. Croix was hammered by Maria. While cruise ship arrivals to St. Thomas are back to normal and other transportation and attractions are about 80 percent operational, only about 50 percent of restaurants and 60 percent of hotel rooms across all three islands have reopened. On St. Croix, The Buccaneer is open and the Caravelle Hotel & Casino will reopen in September. On St. Thomas, Bolongo Bay reopened in June, but most of the top resorts there and St. John remain closed until 2019, including The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas, Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort, Sugar Bay Resort & Spa and The Westin St. John Resort & Villas. No opening date has been set for Caneel Bay.
NOT AFFECTED BY HURRICANES
These 17 islands didn’t suffer direct hits during the 2017 hurricane season.
This Dutch island off the coast of Venezuela tangles with a hurricane about every 30 years—the last was Felix in 2007.
While a few non-tourist islands were damaged by Irma, New Providence island (home to Nassau and Paradise Island), Grand Bahama, Exuma, Eleuthera, Harbour Island and other islands were mostly untouched.
Hurricanes rarely score a direct hit on this southern island, located where he Caribbean meets the Atlantic.
Like neighboring Aruba and Curacao, this ABC Island lies below the track of most hurricanes.
Located in the western Caribbean, this trio of islands (Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman) saw no impact from the 2017 storms. Its last major hurricanes were Ivan and Paloma in 2008.
Hurricane Felix in 2007 was the last to affect this rarely hit Dutch island.
While Maria did skirt this French island, downing trees and power lines, there was no major damage to infrastructure.
Spared by Maria, this southern island’s last big hit was Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Irma thankfully missed Haiti, which was still recovering from 2016’s Matthew.
The island, which suffered catastrophic damage by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, as well as flooding and damage by both Ivan in 2004 and Matthew in 2016, was largely untouched by Irma and Maria.
This southern French island escaped the brunt of Hurricane Maria.
Maria downed power lines and created a mess, but this 39-square-mile island escaped largely intact.
Located near St. Maarten/St. Martin, this tiny island sustained only minimal damage from Irma and quickly recovered.
The island quickly got into post-Irma clean-up mode — downed trees, utility poles and damaged roofs — after the storm devastated neighboring St. Maarten/St. Martin.
This lush island in the southern Caribbean has not had a major brush with a hurricane since 1980.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Hurricanes aren’t common in this string of southern Caribbean islands — but the last one was Tomas in 2010.
Trinidad & Tobago
These neighboring islands are rarely hit by hurricanes, but can experiences tropical storm conditions.