Last year’s hurricane season was a brutal one for the Caribbean and the southern region of the US. With a total of 10 hurricanes, 6 of them being major hurricanes, it is safe to say that 2017’s hurricane season has been one of the most active in recent history. The Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and the southern region of the US saw the direct effect of mother nature’s strength, with sustained winds that reached up to 185 mph.
While the US and Gulf of Mexico had their significant share of damage, the Caribbean was one of the most affected regions, as several islands were hit more than once by several tropical storms and hurricanes. But, even after such a strong season, the Caribbean is still open for business. Here are five islands that were severely affected by hurricanes last year, yet you should still visit them on your next trip.
Puerto Rico might have been at the center of the biggest hurricane disaster story in the US during 2017. The island felt the first effects of the season during Hurricane Irma, which passed just over 50 miles north of the island as a category five hurricane. Even though it didn’t make landfall, it did significant damage in the island and left over one million residents without power.
Just two weeks after Irma, Hurricane Maria did make landfall in Puerto Rico as a category four hurricane, carving a trail of destruction across the entire island. Power was lost across the island, thousands of buildings were destroyed, and the rebuilding efforts were estimated to take months.
By now, most of Puerto Rico has power and nature has regained its vitality and lush green color. The tourism industry has jumped back in full action by welcoming cruises, reopening hotels, and offering new travel opportunities to travelers looking to not only visit the island but also have an adventurous voluntourism experience in regions still significantly affected.
Several hotels, airlines, and cruises are offering even better deals to attract visitors to an island that is still just as beautiful and enchanting as before the hurricanes.
Antigua and Barbuda
This tiny country includes two major islands just 40 km apart. Hurricane Irma affected both islands, but it impacted Barbuda the most – it basically annihilated it. The category five hurricane made landfall in Barbuda, destroying more than 90% of its buildings. Barbuda’s 1,600 inhabitants were forced to abandon the island, and the clean-up is estimated to take over a year.
Fortunately, Antigua, the main island, fared better as it was mostly undamaged. Most of Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism infrastructure is located on this island, including its international airport, which is up and running and welcoming visitors as usual.
Antigua’s natural wonders still conserve their pristine conditions and beauty, especially its 365 beaches. It’s award-winning villas, hotels, restaurants, and memorable attractions still show the best of Antigua and Barbuda. And the people, they are just as warm and welcoming as before.
For now, Barbuda is off the “menu,” but it will slowly welcome tourists later in the year as it rebuilds its infrastructure.
The British Virgin Islands
Hurricanes Irma and Maria collapsed the infrastructure, electricity, and communications lines of the British Virgin Islands, which are still in the process of recovery. The tourism infrastructure was crippled, but the country is working fast on rebuilding one of its most important sources of revenue. The country’s most prominent boat charter businesses, The Moorings and Sunsail, are already welcoming tourists to sail and hop across these beautiful islands and sleep by their pristine beaches.
Hurricane Maria destroyed over 25% of buildings in Dominica and damaged over 85% of the homes there. Still, the island is open for business. Like with Puerto Rico, many hotels have reopened, and several tourism companies started offering voluntourism trips to not only enjoy the island’s charms but also help rebuild it.
Irma impacted the northern region of Cuba, destroyed many of Havana’s fragile buildings, and flooded most of the old capital city. Similar to several other Caribbean islands, buildings collapsed across the country, roads were destroyed, and water and power services were down.
Surprisingly, as fragile as Cuba’s infrastructure might be, the country managed to restore its main services to most residents within a reasonable time and worked hard to keep its tourism virtually intact. Cuba is also a large island, so you can travel to several regions outside of Havana that were not affected at all by the hurricane. Have in mind, though, that to visit Cuba, as an American citizen, you need to comply with one of the 12 OFAC visa categories established by the Department of State.
Ready to soak on that tropical sun and relax on those warm, Caribbean beaches?
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