Caribbean Travel After the Hurricanes: Everything You Need to Know Before You Go

Caribbean Travel After the Hurricanes: Everything You Need to Know Before You Go

Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria took heavy tolls — but not all was lost.

By Kathryn Romeyn

We all know by now that the 2017 hurricane season was unkind to the Caribbean. Between Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria, the area was pounded to a devastating pulp over and over, with each new storm seemingly targeting a new group of islands. In fact, the string of storms this fall has been one of the worst in the area in the last century.

Fortunately, not absolutely all was lost, and much of the gorgeous Caribbean is actually open, operational, and ready to welcome back its fans — think Beyonce and Jay Z, the Beckhams, and Bella Hadid — for sunny fall and festive seasons. After all, there are more than 7,000 islands in all, and many made it through the rain and wind relatively unscathed.

Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island was one of the worst hit by Irma, as the Virgin boss holed up in a wine cellar with his staff; many of his neighbors in the British Virgin Islands (Rosewood Little Dix Bay, Caneel Bay) are also closed with no announcements yet as to reopening dates.

But nearby St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, was less affected, with The Buccaneer Hotel — visited on The Bachelor and by Michael Jackson and Joe Biden — reopening November 1 and in the meantime being used as a FEMA command center to help deal with damage.

Of course, Puerto Rico’s massive devastation left not only much of the island without electricity, but many top resorts including W Retreat & Spa on Vieques Island, St. Regis Bahia Beach, and a pair of Ritz-Carlton properties (San Juan and Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve) closed until further notice.

To the west, the Dominican Republic is in fairly good shape. The ultra-deluxe Eden Roc at Cap Cana, for example, sustained minimal damage to its recent expansion of 26 new beachfront suites, the Eden Roc Beach Club, and a fine dining restaurant, with a new spa opening in 2018. The resort will donate a percentage of proceeds from the Thomas Keller Gastronomy & Golf Weekend (November 15-19) to the Caribbean Recovery Fund. Meanwhile Ani Villas’ new property is on schedule to soft open in time for Thanksgiving, and Amanera reopens November 1 after a planned two-month closure for maintenance and landscaping (more enhancements are coming in 2018).

Good news for the likes of celeb fans such as Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Julia Roberts: Turks and Caicos is doing just fine, with minor impact from the hurricanes and plenty of newness to keep things interesting. The Gansevoort reopened in early October and come winter debuts six expansive, exclusive new villas — $4,500 per night kind of exclusive. The new-this-year Shore Club is also revealing six new villas, each with six bedrooms (stars travel with a posse, after all), next year. Sailrock Resort reopens in mid-December, with a new restaurant and beach bar, touting efforts to support rebuilding South Caicos with donations to a local foundation. Grace Bay Resorts, too, is making an effort to help the community by starting a Go Fund Me to help repair and rebuild homes of its team.

The biggest news out of the Bahamas, an area that was less affected by the storms, is the opening of SLS Baha Mar in late November, which means Nassau finally has a true five-star resort. It’s not just a place for travelers to lie their well-coiffed heads on fluffy beds; it’s poised to be a major destination for excellent dining, with a slew of revered concepts opening, including Katsuya by Starck Baha Mar, Cleo Mediterráneo, Fi’Lia by James Beard–winning chef Michael Schwartz, and a Skybar, among others. Also creating buzz is The Cove at Atlantis, which debuts a vibrant reimagining of its pool and beach areas by designer Lulu de Kwiatkowski, including exclusive lounge chairs, surfboards, and new amenities. Additionally, Sip Sip — the Harbor Island fave of Robert De Niro, Diane von Furstenberg and Jimmy Fallon — opens at The Cove in November. Additionally, One&Only Ocean Club, Bahamas, just launched an immersive new experience called Catch, Cook, Cocktail, which involves a guided fishing trip to catch local grouper, a hands-on cooking class and mixology lesson to make Bahamian daiquiris.

Unfortunately, A-listers’ go-to Caribbean island of St. Barths did not fare quite as well. The chic Le Toiny has delayed its reopening until 2018 and plans to reveal new villas at that time, while Le Guanahani is working toward opening its doors again next summer. But this winter, Le Sereno introduces three dreamy new villas clocking in at more than 7,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor space each. Additionally, truffle lovers can visit in December for a themed dinner using the fancy ingredient straight from its sister property in Italy. Because of extensive damage, many other properties are still assessing and are closed, with Villa Marie St Barth planning to reopen their restaurant Francois Plantation in December (and the hotel in March).

St. Lucia’s Marigot Bay Resort & Marina may make waves with its new restaurant, Hurricane Hole (named for its unique position as a safe haven from storms), while Sugar Beach’s new beachfront residences — going from $8 to $15 million — are absolutely something to aspire to. Windjammer Landing, too, has news: The property just completed the second phase of a $50 million renovation, debuting four new three-bedroom villas. On Antigua, properties like Carlisle Bay and Curtain Bluff were unharmed, and are using their fortunate position to help sister island Barbuda, which was horribly damaged. The Carlisle Bay for Barbuda program allows guests to engage in voluntourism opportunities with the Red Cross, while the latter reopens October 28 after a scheduled renovation closure and is raising money through the Old Road Fund.

Other lucky spots include Grenada, outside the hurricane belt, where the luxe Silversands Grenada is scheduled to open as planned next year, and Nevis and St. Kitts, where Montpelier Plantation & Beach is now hosting guests as a Relais & Chateaux property (and celebrating its 50th anniversary). As of November 1, sun seekers can soak it up from the area’s first Park Hyatt, on St. Kitts, which has 78 guest rooms and 48 suites, plus three dining venues. Jamaica, too, was undisturbed—new programming and experiences at The Tyrall Club and Strawberry Hill are further draws to the laid-back paradise.

Anguilla, which sustained enough damage to cause temporary closures at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla and Any Villas, still has news in the form of Belmond Cap Juluca’s planned renovation and rebranding — including a revamp of all public spaces, guest rooms, spa, and new beachfront villas — for late 2018. But on a high note, Grand Cayman is up and running. The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman holds its 10th annual Cayman Cookout come January, while the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa just finished an extensive facelift that is worth seeing in person. Just one of nearly endless reasons now is the time to head to the Caribbean. 

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