Post-hurricane rampage: Caribbean islands you can visit

2017-10-11 15:30
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Caribbean - Some travellers may be wondering what their options are when it comes to visiting Caribbean islands, following the recent spate of hurricanes that brought massive damage in the Atlantic region.

UPDATE: Thousands affected by Irma as tourism hit hard

Some islands like Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and St Martin have a long way to go in recovery from the storms. But many other places were relatively unscathed.

Island 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 spots you might consider if you had your heart set on an island 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 further south, like Grenada and Trinidad, and further west, like Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

Alternative destinations

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

Martinique or Curacao

Head to Martinique or Curacao if you're looking for the European cultural mix found on St Martin.

There's "terrific air service" to Martinique, he says, 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.

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Montserrat

Take a trip to 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 snorkeling.


The Bahamas

The Bahamas, like the Virgin Islands, offer a little of everything, with easy access from many US cities - about 480 km from Florida.

It offers "every type of resort, from all-inclusive to small historic." Travelers who want to experience the famed Atlantis water park 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.


Barbados

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-inclusive like Sandals hotel to three- and four-star, and boutique hotels. It's easy to rent a car and drive around or hire a driver for a tour.

For information on how hurricanes affected individual islands and resorts, Major recommended the contacting the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association.

Adventures wild and about

Kelly A. Luf, a Boston-based leader for Liberty Travel's Northeast region, offers ideas for travellers looking for island alternatives to hurricane-impacted destinations. Some of the options are:

St Lucia

Fly to 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.


Aruba

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

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.

Head to Hawaii

Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have always been favourites among Americans who prefer to travel without a passport. South African's must still apply for a visa if they plan to travel to Hawaii.

Luf says her office was able to rebook travellers to Hawaii whose trips to St Thomas and Puerto Rico were cancelled because of the hurricanes.

These customers thought Hawaii was unaffordable, she says, but ended up vacationing there for "not much more" than the Caribbean. Another option to try is the Norwegian Cruise Line sails out of Honolulu.

Cuba

Travel to Cuba remains legal for US citizens, the island has cleaned up hurricane damage and prices are lower than in recent years.

Just be aware of warnings from the US State Department about unexplained sonic attacks in Cuba and be sure to comply with travel regulations. The Trump administration says it will issue new regulations but so far has not.

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