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Most people take Caribbean vacations during the winter and early spring to escape the cold up north. But during this peak season of travel, you’ll pay the highest prices and face the biggest crowds. When considering an off-season jaunt here, the first that probably comes to mind is the possibility of hurricanes, which can occur between June and November, with the greatest chance in August through October. Fortunately, there are some islands that are rarely hit, often said to be outside of the “hurricane belt.” While no island is 100 percent immune, savvy travelers can take advantage of discounted prices, peaceful bliss, and a low risk of storms by visiting one of these Caribbean islands.
The farther south you go in the Caribbean, the less the odds are for a hurricane, which makes Aruba ideal, lying just 15 miles off the Venezuelan coast. Plus the temperature southern waters make the reefs some of the world’s top diving sites (including the Caribbean’s largest shipwreck), while the chalk-white beaches like Eagle Beach provide opportunities for picturesque strolls and swimming in the calm, clear turquoise waters. The island also hosts a number of luxury beachfront resorts, while prehistoric sites feature ancient cave pictographs and mysterious rock formations and divi-divi trees provide some magnificent photo-ops.
Trinidad is one of the two islands in Trinidad and Tobago, and as it sits just off the coast of Venezuela, it’s safe from the path of most hurricanes. The largest of the two, it’s famous for the steel drums which originated here, now heard across the Caribbean. If you want to be immersed in the music and culture, attend the biggest festival of the year, the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival held at the end of February – everyone is asked to participate, including visitors.
While the island does have some oil refineries, there is still plenty of natural beauty to be found which includes lush greenery and gorgeous beaches at Las Cuevas and Maracas bays, the Gasparee Caves, and Caroni Bird Sanctuary. Foodies will discover a haven, with a diverse selection of eats that often blend the Caribbean and South Asian fare. Roti is its most iconic dish, with roti stands and eateries throughout the capital Port of Spain.
The easternmost island in the Caribbean, Barbados hadn’t been hit by a major hurricane in over 60 years until 2021, experiencing some of the wrath from Hurricane Elsa, a Category 1 storm. But with a record like that, your odds are good that it won’t happen again for quite a while. The island nation boasts many gorgeous oceanfront hotels and picture-perfect beaches, including both white and pink stretches framed by clear azure waters, but it draws many visitors for its food and culture alone. The island is widely regarded as the Caribbean’s culinary capital, with everything from fresh grilled fish to fried plantain and macaroni pie. In October every year, the Food and Rum Festival takes over Bridgetown streets and beyond, honoring the rum tradition and featuring unique meals prepared by local and guest chefs.
Bonaire is 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela, outside of “Hurricane Alley.” Ideal for nature lovers who want to explore both land and water, activities here are many from top sites for diving and snorkeling in Bonaire National Marine Park to kayaking, windsurfing, hiking, and biking. As one of the least crowded islands in the Caribbean, in the summer and fall, you’ll enjoy an even more secluded feel and a laid-back atmosphere with something for all types of travelers from couples to families with children. It’s even home to one of the world’s most spectacular pink sand beaches, a narrow strip of sand on the west coast with the pink hue derived from millions of tiny crushed shells.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, a remote archipelago with the closest neighborhood, Barbados, 100 miles away, has remained primarily undeveloped. Saint Vincent island is the largest of the 32, home to the country’s highest peak and largest volcano, La Soufriere. While this region of the Caribbean isn’t outside of the so-called hurricane belt, on average the islands are hit just once every 21 years. Wallilabou Bay, a picturesque spot on the leeward coast, was transformed into the harbor town of Port Royal for “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” in 2003. Visitors can also discover black sand beaches, waterfalls, colorful markets, and gardens too. The perfect spot to lay down a towel may be the white powdery sands along Saltwhistle Bay, shaded by palm and grape trees and edged by a dazzling aquamarine sea.
One of the Grenadine islands, Bequia is at latitude 13, closer to the equator which means it can get some tropical storms but rarely takes a direct hit from a hurricane, with the last serious one way back in 1955. One of its biggest appeals is that it’s managed to retain the feel of the “Old Caribbean,” as a colorful hidden treasure with little development providing a more authentic escape. You won’t find glamorous resorts, but there are multiple eateries serving delicious fresh seafood and ever-flowing rum punch. Soca, reggae, and many other genres of music can be enjoyed live too.
Nestled between Aruba and Bonaire near the Venezuelan coast, Curaçao isn’t likely to experience a hurricane. Two of the top things to do here involve going up, as in a hike to Mount Christoffel at 1,230-feet, and going down, as in diving to see one of the most famous shipwrecks in the area, the Superior Producer. There are 40 fabulous beaches for soaking up the sun while the colorful main town of Willemstad offers everything from museums, a floating market, and lots of unique shops to restaurants and bars that serve the island’s namesake blue liqueur made from the endemic Laraha fruit. With some 50 different nationalities found here, the cuisine is remarkably diverse, with French, Dutch, Brazilian, Indonesian, Japanese, and more.
Grenada, the “Island of Spice,” is one of the least visited Caribbean islands and the most affordable, not to mention that it’s located in the southernmost part of the Atlantic Hurricane basin, so the chances for a hurricane to hit are less than those further north or west. It offers lush rainforests with cascading waterfalls, cacao, and papaya trees along with volcanic craters that host freshwater lakes. As you hike, you’ll notice an aroma in the air, with fertile crops that grow cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, turmeric, and ginger. There are around 45 beaches, including Grand Anse, known as one of the most spectacular in the region, and just offshore you’ll find fantastic snorkeling with abundant marine life, including dolphins, and the first underwater sculpture park in the world.
One-half of the two-island nation pair that is Trinidad and Tobago, Tobago is the place to go for those who prefer tranquility to hustle and bustle. You won’t find any tourist crowds here but no matter where you are, you’ll be close to everything as it’s only six miles wide, much smaller than its sister, Trinidad, though both lie just off the coast of Venezuela putting the risk for a hurricane very low. There are idyllic beaches and an underwater paradise for snorkeling and diving along with casual eateries for dining on authentic cuisine like curry crab and dumplings, with homemade coconut ice cream for dessert.
San Andres, Columbia is out of range of most hurricanes. While it’s part of Colombia, it’s closer to Nicaragua, lying just east, providing a quintessential Caribbean vibe with brilliant turquoise water and white sandy beaches like the favorites, Playa de Spratt Bight, Rocky Cay, and Johnny Cay. A UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, there are also beautiful cays, islets, and vibrant coral reefs filled with native flora and fauna. For snorkeling head to Caya El Acuario off the coast, or to West View, with a diving board carved right into the rock.
You’ve probably never heard about Bocas del Toro, an archipelago of nine tropical islands which sit off the northwestern Caribbean coast of Panama. They provide some of the country’s top scuba diving and surf breaks while being at low risk for hurricanes. It offers diverse flora and fauna, a laid-back vibe, and plenty of funky beach bars. Check out unique spots like Isla Colon, home to Playa Estrella and a ton of starfish or Bird Island, with an endless array of feathered creatures. Sloth Island, as one might expect, is where you can spot sloths in the wild, and Red Frog Beach is home to…you guessed it, the cool-looking but poisonous red frog.
Mustique is a private island in the Grenadines that hosts luxurious accommodation. It’s known for attracting plenty of the rich and famous, including Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger and royalty like Prince William and Kate who’ve stayed multiple times. This is a place for those who only want to enjoy the best, living out the ultimate island fantasy complete with postcard-perfect white sand beaches and clear blue waters.
Canouan, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
An unspoiled 3.5-square-mile outpost in the lower risk Grenadines, Canouan may be out of the way but it’s worth the effort to get there. Join a sailing excursion to island-hop or just relax on the half-mile stretch of Godahl Beach with its pristine white sands bordering serene sapphire seas. Or play one of the world’s best golf courses, the Canouan Golf Club. No matter where you are you’re likely to spot the many tortoises that roam the island – there are several hundred. Not surprisingly, Canouan means “island of tortoises.”