September 2017 was not a kind month for much of the Caribbean, including the Virgin Islands. Both the USVIs and BVIs were pounded by not one, but two Category 5 hurricanes: Irma, and then two weeks later, Maria. Left in their wake was extensive damage to homes, hotels and island infrastructure. News media was filled with pictures of the aftermath, including piles of damaged yachts. Restoration seemed years off, and in fact, some well known resorts have yet to reopen. However, the Caribbean is nothing if not resilient, and a visitor today would be hard pressed to see obvious signs of the damage from a short 18 months ago.
The first thing people mention when they speak of Cuba is the old cars. You don’t need to be in love with classic cars to warrant a visit, but your mind may certainly change during your first few hours in Havana.
Although Cuba is only a 90-mile stone’s throw away from the US, no new American cars have made their appearance on the island since the 50’s. After the 1959 Cuban Revolution, leader Fidel Castro placed a ban on foreign vehicle imports, including parts. As a result, Cubans had to keep alive what they had, so they hand-made car parts, improvised, took engines out of old Russian cars, and even used house paint.
The Sandals Foundation is celebrating 10 years of fulfilling its promise to the Caribbean community of investment in sustainable projects that improve schools and build capacity in the education system, restore and conserve marine wildlife and help marginalized people transform their lives through training and other community development programs. Over the next decade, the Foundation will support over 120 projects and programs annually across Antigua, the Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia and Turks & Caicos
Building back better has a dual meaning in the Caribbean as the region continues to rebound from the effects of the deadly and destructive 2017 hurricane season: not only are reconstructed hotels and infrastructure being designed to be more storm-resistant, but many resorts have taken the opportunity to invest in new facilities and amenities to come back even bigger and better than before the storms.
Why Barbados? Because it’s outside the hurricane belt and the tradewinds blow steadily, making the island comfortable year round. Because the sea is turquoise blue, the sandy beaches glistening white, the cuisine sophisticated, the Jacobean mansions and distilleries unique, the wreck diving amazing, and the cruise-ship port is five-minutes (about $6) by taxi to Bridgetown, the capital. And because the island is safe.
Antigua’s reputation has long been associated with the ultra-rich, home to estates owned by super-celebrities like Eric Clapton and Oprah Winfrey and the island getaway for British royalty, once Princess Diana’s favorite holiday destination. Because of this, many people envision Antigua as an exclusive, sedate island, and it is often overlooked by vacationers, especially families. It is true that Antigua and its sister-island Barbuda are not jam-packed with crowded resorts like many of its Caribbean neighbors, but this is not for a lack of excellent all-inclusives and things to do. Despite its fame, or perhaps as a result of it, Antigua is the best-kept secret in the Caribbean as a family destination where parents can enjoy time together while the kids have a blast, too.
To quote the Bajan muse Rihanna, Barbados wants to know “Where Have You Been,” especially come summertime in the Caribbean.
New year-round flights make Barbados more accessible than ever, and hot summer events include the revived Barbados Beach and Wellness Festival and of course the island’s unique take on Carnival, Crop Over, a month-long party that happens every July.
Jamaica took almost two dozen top honors at the 25th World Travel Awards Caribbean & North America Gala Ceremony, held fittingly in Jamaica under September’s dazzling stars and steamy breezes at Sandal’s Montego Bay.
Here’s a reality check for travelers wanting to visit Cuba. This is the best time in your lifetime to do it.
Government restrictions are now easily dealt with, and daily non-stop and direct flights to Havana are plentiful, inexpensive and easy to book. Travel agents can arrange for local tour operators to meet US clients and provide a personalized itinerary just for them.
The Caribbean suffered a double whammy in 2017: first from a pair of hurricanes that cut destructive paths through the region and cost the region an estimated 800,000 visitors, and then what Caribbean Tourism Organization Secretary General Hugh Riley calls an “image disaster” - the widely held perception that the entire Caribbean was devastated by the storms.