Hurricanes Irma, José, and Maria landed a one-two-three punch to some of our most beloved islands and hotels in the Caribbean last fall. While many of those affected are back in business, recovery efforts are still underway in select areas. Which islands are safe to travel to? Which are still recovering? Here’s a quick rundown of the current state of affairs.
Nearly 70% of the Caribbean region was untouched by the storms. Islands outside of the hurricanes’ paths that suffered minimal to no damage include: Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Bonaire, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Guyana, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
In addition, many islands addressed repairs within days after Irma and are fully operational. These include Antigua, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, and St. Kitts and Nevis.
Consider travel to these island nations business as usual.
Anguilla: As of December 2017, electrical power was restored to the entire island. Some hotels and rental villas are open for the winter, as are many restaurants and beach bars, while other hotels plan to re-open throughout 2018. Flight service continues to improve, including daily departures on JetBlue, Delta, and American (five days a week on Seaborne).
Bahamas: The islands’ major tourism hubs are back in business, but a number of its southern outlying islands remain damaged.
St. Bart's: Flights have resumed operations, roads are clear, and facilities including electricity and water are running. While a handful of resorts continue to rebuild, many others and restaurants are back in business or plan to reopen by the summer. Gustavia's cruise port is open.
Turks and Caicos: Grand Turk's cruise center reopened November 2017, and Providenciales is mostly up and running. Most hotels will have reopened by end of January 2018.
Barbuda: Sadly, Barbuda sustained the brunt of Irma's wrath. Prime minister Gaston Browne reported 95% damage to the island, and very few of its 1,800 residents have returned since evacuating to neighboring Antigua. Schools remain closed. The Barbuda Belle hotel, one of its largest harbingers of recent tourism, is rebuilding for Q4 2018.
BVI: While roads have been cleared of debris, clean-ups of the wreckage are still underway both inland and on the coast. Some hotels suffered significant damage and remain closed indefinitely; others have begun taking reservations for Spring 2018. Cruise ships have begin dropping anchor at Tortola and Virgin Gorda, where restaurants are slowly reopening. Yacht charters are also available.
Dominica: Widespread damage crippled much of the island, but the island is showing signs of rebirth: the main airport is open, Portsmouth welcomed the first post-Irma cruise ship call in December 2017, and many hotels and dive sites have plans to reopen (in some cases, partially) in January 2018. Secret Bay has announced a reopening date of November 2018.
Puerto Rico: The good news: water systems are operating at 86% capacity, most roads have been cleared, and hospitals and most supermarkets and gas stations are open. The bad news: a third of the island remains without power. Most of San Juan has power and open hotels and restaurants, and its port has resumed operations for all cruise lines. The main airport is open for both domestic and international flights.
St. Martin/St. Maarten: St. Maarten's Princess Juliana airport has partially reopened and power has been restored in select areas, but only a handful of hotels have announced tentative reopening dates beginning in March 2018. The St. Maarten cruise port reopened December 2017.
NOTE: This information was accurate at time of publication. Recovery efforts are ongoing and continue to improve.
Many islands and organizations impacted by Irma have set up relief funds via GoFundMe, and donations and volunteers are always welcomed for the American Red Cross and the SPCA in the wake of natural disasters. However, one of the best ways travelers can help beyond donations is to keep traveling to the Caribbean. Islands unaffected (or minimally affected) by the storms are desperate for business—bringing tourism dollars to the region helps support local economies that depend heavily on the industry.