Caribbean open for visitors Most major destinations untouched by hurricanes
Yes, several islands were damaged by hurricanes over the past couple of months. And Canadian airlines have pretty much shut down winter service to battered St. Maarten. Puerto Rico is still in bad shape, as is Barbuda, Dominica and parts of other islands. But there was little or no damage to most major Caribbean islands, including Antigua, The Bahamas, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, St. Lucia and more.
In places that were hit, recovery is proceeding and many hotels and resorts have already reopened. That includes Anguilla, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, which suffered only minimal damage.
So, if you’re thinking about a winter trip, you can feel comfortable booking flights to many of the great destinations Canadians have grown to love. Not only will you have a fine vacation, but you’ll be doing a world of good for folks who rely on tourism to feed their families.
Speaking at a Caribbean Tourism Organization meeting in Toronto on Nov. 13, CTO secretary-general Hugh Riley told journalists the Caribbean is more dependent on tourism than any region on the planet.
“The best way to help the Caribbean is to visit the Caribbean,” he said.
Here is an update on a few places:
While sister island Barbuda was heavily damaged by Hurricane Irma, Antigua was spared. The island’s tourism folks like to boast they have 365 beaches, one for each day of the year.
Hermitage Bay is one of the best resorts in the Caribbean, with awesome suites, private plunge pools and ocean views. The view of English Harbour from Shirley Heights might be the best vista in the Caribbean. See visitantiguabarbuda.com.
This romantic and beautiful island was spared by the recent hurricanes and is operating at full steam. There are new, overwater bungalows at the Sandals resort on the north side of the island. New developments on the south end, near the international airport, are coming from both Fairmont and Ritz Carlton. The tourism bureau’s website is advertising deals for up to 65% off. See stlucia.org.
ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
Air Canada has started direct flights from Toronto to this unspoiled island chain south of St. Lucia.
St. Vincent — the main island — is steep and rugged on the windward side, but has farms and sandy beaches on the leeward side. Head to Wallilabou Bay to see where they filmed parts of the original Pirates of the Caribbean. And don’t miss the magnificent waterfalls, including Dark View Falls.
In all, 32 islands and cays make up the country. Young Island Resort is a wonderful spot on a tiny isle just minutes from the mainland by boat. Bequia is low-key and feels like a throwback to a simpler time. Mayreau is even quieter but has magnificent beaches. The stretch of sand at Saltwhistle Bay is one of the prettiest on the planet. Mustique is known as a retreat for the rich and famous, including Mick Jagger, Prince William and Canada’s own Bryan Adams. See discoversvg.com.
This island just north of St. Maarten was battered and bruised by Hurricane Irma but some places are operating as normal, including Shoal Bay Villas on Shoal Bay East — a long, magnificent beach with a series of fun beach bars and casual restaurants.
The luxury Zemi Beach Resort and the Four Seasons likely won’t re-open until sometime in the new year. Ditto for Cuisinart Resort, a lovely spot on a gorgeous beach on the south side of the island. The highlyrated Frangipani Resort will re-open sometime next month. The Reef Anguilla is taking reservations now and plans to re-open April 10. See ivisitanguilla.com.
One of the region’s top destinations, Jamaica wasn’t in the path of the hurricanes, so you’ll find things pretty much the same.
Negril has warm, shallow water and wonderful sunsets. The Jamaica Inn near Ocho Rios has colourful, low-rise units around a grassy square, plus a terrific beach and a tranquil spa. Sandals Royal Caribbean has fantastic rooms and overwater bungalows. For something truly unique, check out the unique units at Great Huts, including tree-house rooms next to a beautiful bay. See visitjamaica.com.
The DR was largely spared this past hurricane season. It’s one of the top winter destinations for Canadians, with everything from inexpensive, all-inclusive spots to super-luxury resorts.
Cap Cana and Punta Cana have marvellous beaches on the eastern tip of the island, with easy airport access. The Gansevoort Playa Imbert is a sensational spot near Sosua. Don’t miss Playa Rincon in the Samana area, where there are stunning beaches. See godominicanrepublic.com.
This chain of 700 islands was virtually unaffected by the big storms. Long Island is a heavenly slice of land with some beautiful beaches and a lower-than-low-key atmosphere. The locals are wonderful, and there’s spectacular diving. Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort is a nice resort on a great beach. See bahamas.com.
Despite a devastating hurricane season, it’s business as usual for most of the major Caribbean destinations this winter. Others, such as Anguilla, are in recovery mode. Only a few islands are not yet ready for visitors.