Best time to visit the Caribbean
By Mark Hodson, Sunday Times Travel Writer and Editor of 101 Holidays
Q. When is the best time to visit the Caribbean?
A. This depends on two factors: climate and price. You want to visit in a period of good weather but out of peak season. Unless money’s no object, of course. Generally, the time to avoid is the hurricane season, which officially runs between 1 June and 30 November. However, the high-risk period is typically confined to a short period from mid-August to early October. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit Jamaica and Cuba with winds of 150mph in the first few days of October.
2017 was a particularly bad year, with Hurricane Irma – a category 5 storm – wreaking destruction across the northern Caribbean in early September. The worst affected territories included Anguilla, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos Islands, Cuba and the British Virgin Islands.
Media coverage might suggest that the whole Caribbean was affected, but this is a very large region and many islands escaped unscathed. As a rule, the path of most hurricanes sweeps across the northern Caribbean towards Florida. There are many islands in the southern Caribbean that are rarely affected badly by hurricanes. These include Barbados, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago.
If you avoid the statistically most risky period – mid August to early October – you can still enjoy relatively risk-free holidays in the official hurricane season.
You will still find great weather in June and July, and August is a popular time to visit the southern Caribbean islands, such as Barbados. I’ve also enjoyed sunny trips to the Caribbean in October and November, though you may experience short heavy rain showers in the late afternoon or evening.
Temperatures tend to remain constant throughout the year at around 29°C to 31°C. Rarely does the Caribbean get too hot, thanks to the constant sea breezes.
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In terms of price, the peak tourist period across the Caribbean is between Christmas and Easter. This is when most hotels put up their rates and airlines hike their fares. It’s a wonderful time to be in the Caribbean because the weather at home is so bad, but it can get busy especially during the school holidays on popular islands such as Barbados and Antigua.
Prices also rise from mid-July to the end of August. Not because the weather is especially good, but because this is when families want to travel.
For my money, the best time to visit the Caribbean is between the end of the Easter holidays and the beginning of the summer holidays. Prices are low, beaches are uncrowded and the weather tends to be excellent. The occasional brief rain shower is even quite entertaining.
However, Jamaican-born Mandy Gore-Booth of Pilot PR reckons the best time to visit is November. “It’s the end of hurricane season, but still low-season prices and just a little bit cooler,” she explains. And, of course, the weather is usually grim at home.
What about the Bahamas and Bermuda?
The islands of the Bahamas are not officially in the Caribbean – they are in the Atlantic Ocean – but they do fall within the same hurricane belt as Cuba, Florida and the Virgin Islands. Parts of the Bahamas were devastated by Hurricane Dorian in August 2019. Even at the best of times, it is best to avoid the islands in the depths of winter – from November through February, as the weather can get chilly.
Bermuda is entirely different. This group of islands is stranded in the mid-Atlantic far from the Caribbean. The best time to visit is between May and October (winter is a bit too cold). March and April usually offer fine weather, but the sea can be cold if you like to swim.
Last updated: 11 September 2019