Worried about travelling to the Caribbean post-hurricane? Here are the places safe to visit

Hindustan Times Oct 11, 2017 09:52 am
The Dominican Republic remains a major tourist destination.
The Dominican Republic remains a major tourist destination.(Shutterstock)

Some travellers looking ahead to winter and spring getaways may be wondering what their options are, with all the headlines about hurricane damage in the Caribbean. Some islands like Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and St. Martin have a way to go in recovery from the storms. But many others were relatively unscathed. Destinations where it’s business as usual include Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas.

Here are some recommendations from a couple of travel experts about other places you might consider if you had your heart set on a destination that’s now off-limits, but you’re still hoping for sun, sand and sea:

Beaches, history and diving

Brian Major, executive editor for the Caribbean and Latin America for the trade media company travAlliancemedia, says if you look on a map, it’s easier to understand the storms’ path. The hurricanes mainly impacted the Caribbean’s northeastern Leeward Islands, which include among other destinations Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, St. Martin, Dominica, Anguilla and St. Barts. Largely unaffected were islands located farther south, like Grenada and Trinidad, and farther east, like Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

The view of a rocky beach on the island Half Moon Cay in Bahamas. (Shutterstock)

Major offered a few other ideas as alternatives to hurricane-impacted destinations:

* Consider Martinique or Curacao if you’re looking for the European cultural mix found on St. Martin. There’s terrific air service to Martinique, he said, and an excellent highway system if you care to rent a car, wonderful food and mostly boutique hotels, along with interesting historic sites like the Schoelcher Library, named for a famed abolitionist. On Curacao, you’ll find great diving, Dutch-style gabled houses on the waterfront, and local food vendors at Plasa Bieu.

*Consider Montserrat for rugged landscapes and outdoor adventures like what Dominica is known for. Montserrat is a volcanic island with soaring mountains, inland rivers, waterfalls, diving and snorkelling.

*The Bahamas, like the Virgin Islands, offer a little of everything, with easy access from many US cities (about 300 km miles or 480 km from Florida). They offer every stripe of resort, from all-inclusive to small historic. Travellers who want to experience the famed Atlantis waterpark on Paradise Island without paying for lodging at the resort often stay across the street at the Comfort Suites. For adventurers, head to Exuma Island. There are even small private islands where you can pitch a tent.

* Try Barbados for cosmopolitan flair and nice beaches. A former British colony, it offers everything from UNESCO World Heritage sites to horse racing. Hotels range from all-inclusives like Sandals to three- and four-star and boutique hotels. It’s easy to rent a car and drive around (though Americans must learn to stay on the left) or hire a driver for a tour.

Aruba offers excellent casinos and beaches. (Shutterstock)

Eco-adventures, casinos and culture

Kelly A. Luf, a Boston-based leader for Liberty Travel’s Northeast region, offers these ideas for travellers looking for alternatives to hurricane-impacted islands.

*Consider St. Lucia for a customer who was maybe hoping for something like St. John, where they could have a lot of outdoor eco-adventure. Experiences include hiking, hot springs and mineral baths, and diving to underwater national parks.

*Try Aruba if you love a vibrant downtown and shopping like you’d find on St. Thomas. Aruba also offers excellent casinos and gaming and incredible beaches.

*Barbados might work if you enjoyed the refinement and food on the French side of St. Martin. It’s got European-style culture and great dining options that make it the only island that’s Zagat-rated. You’d be equally wowed with an upscale meal at The Cliff or a fish sandwich from a chattel house, a traditional local eatery.

Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands have always been favourites and travel agents are rebooking travellers whose trips to St. Thomas and Puerto Rico were cancelled because of the hurricanes. Another option: Norwegian Cruise Line trips out of Honolulu.

Cuba has cleaned up hurricane damage and prices are lower than in recent years. Just be aware of warnings from about unexplained sonic attacks in Cuba and be sure to comply with travel regulations.

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