Ah, the Caribbean (Photo: Thinkstock)
Hurricane season runs June 1 through November 30, and although summer’s all but over the Caribbean’s discounted rates during shoulder-season (now, until high season starts in mid-December) are making an eleventh-hour getaway look mighty tempting. But with three full months of storm season left, you’ll want to narrow your choices to destinations to hurricane-proof destinations. Ok, well, nowhere is hurricane-proof, but there are islands where a hurricane is least likely to (literally) rain on your parade. Here’s the skinny on six spots beyond the Caribbean hurricane belt where, when it comes to sunny skies and calm seas, the odds are in your favor.
Aruba’s Palm Beach (Photo: Thinkstock)
Best known for its beaches, casinos, and multi-cultural population, the “A” in the ABC Island chain (that includes Bonaire and Curacao) has warm, dry, Instagram-perfect weather all year-round. Although Hurricane Ivan made landfall there 11 years ago, the “Happy Island’s” position outside the hurricane belt makes it a good bet.
Why go now: Located off the coast of Venezuela, Aruba claims some of the Caribbean’s best beaches, and with less brutal temps than summertime, fall offers a chance to bask more comfortably on the sands of Palm, Eagle, or Baby Beach. Restaurant Week runs September 28 to October 9, offering roving gourmands prix-fixe menus at many of the island’s 200 eateries (sampling local cuisine at The Old Cunucu House, a participating restaurant, is must). And making the trek to cactus-studded Arikok National Park for a swim in the natural shell-shaped pool, Conchi, is always worth the trip.
Related: Top 20 Beach Bars in the Caribbean
Bottom Bay beach in Barbados (Photo: Thinkstock)
Out on it’s own in the easternmost reach of the Caribbean, the birthplace of rum is well-positioned to avoid most hurricanes, which tend to travel from one landmass to another. The last direct hit was way back in 1955.
Why go now: The Food, Wine and Rum Festival, November 19-22, gives visitors a chance to experience all three during an island-wide series of tastings, dinners, and presentations from chefs including Marcus Samuelsson and Carla Hall. In between meals, hang 10 on west (Atlantic) coast surf spots or check out Harrison’s Cave, a mile-long network of limestone caverns you can explore via electric tram. And rum lovers shouldn’t miss touring the distilleries at St. Nicholas Abbey and Mount Gay, where they’ve been making the potent potable since the 18th century.
Boca Slagbaai beach in Bonaire (Photo: Thinkstock)
Officials on this arid isle tell us you’ve only got a 2.2 percent chance of experiencing a hurricane here (the last was in 1999, when Hurricane Lenny caused only minimal damage).
Why go now: The island’s Fall Festival offers deep discounts on hotel, dive, dining, and excursion packages through December 19. But with a whopping 89 dive sites and 67 coral species, Bonaire is one of the Caribbean’s best diving destinations any time of year. On land, evergreen options range from sampling the island’s famous iguana soup (it tastes like chicken) and the world’s only cactus liqueur to touring the restored slave huts adjoining the island’s famous salt flats.
Willemstad, Curacao (Photo: Thinkstock)
This Dutch island’s proximity to the equator (12 degrees north) helps stave off the complex wind patterns that drive hurricanes, and the imposing land mass of Venezuela, just 40 miles south, is such a deterrent that Curaçao hasn’t seen a head-on hurricane since 1877.
Why go now: Curacao’s diverse culture (more than 50 nationalities live here); the iconic and colorful Dutch Colonial architecture of its capital, Willemstad; and the weird and wonderful local eats (think stewed goat and iguana soup) always make visiting a good idea. But shoulder season also brings Curacao Pride, which runs from September 30 to October 4 and is one of only a handful of LGBT celebrations in the Caribbean. And slightly cooler weather will hopefully help runners in the KLM Curaçao Marathon and Half Marathon on November 29. However, touring the factory where the legendary Blue Curaçao liqueur is made is a must-do, any time of year.
St. George’s, Grenada (Photo: Thinkstock)
Almost parallel to the ABC Islands but further east, Grenada (and sister islands Carriacou and Petite Martinique) usually dodge storm systems, and took their last hurricane hit from Ivan in 2004.
Why go now: With average temperatures of between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and a coast ringed by sugary sand beaches, it’s hard to come up with a reason not to visit the 133-square-mile territory known as the Spice Isle (it produces a third of the world’s nutmeg supply). And with three new non-stop JetBlue flights from JFK International Airport in New York and a new Sandals resort on the idyllic sounding Pink Gin Beach, there’s no time like the present. But whenever you visit, don’t go back home without a bar (or three) of organic local chocolate.
Pigeon Point, Tobago (Photo: Thinkstock)
Located just outside the hurricane belt in the southernmost waters of the Caribbean, this twin-island nation (most famous for its joyously riotous pre-Lenten Carnival) hasn’t had a brush with a hurricane since 1963, when Flora hit Tobago.
Why go now: Foodies will love Tobago’s Blue Food Festival on October 18, when chefs impress with their prowess transforming dasheen, a local root vegetable that turns blue when cooked, into a variety of dishes. Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is widely celebrated by “Trinbago’s” large East Indian-descended population, so November 11 is a great time to experience a uniquely Caribbean interpretation of the Hindu tradition. And fall’s cooler temps and lower humidity make exploring the hiking trails and waterfalls of Tobago’s Main Ridge rainforest, the oldest protected reserve in the Western Hemisphere, much more comfortable.