Lower-risk tropical travel during hurricane season

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Tobago sunset (Photo: Josh Roberts)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on July 20, 2006. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Azores, beach, Christine Sarkis, destination, Hawaii, Mexico, Panama, seasonality, shoulder season, Trinidad and Tobago, vacation package.

Unfortunately, the same elements that draw tourists to tropical destinations, namely the warm air and water, make many of these places prone to tropical storms and hurricanes. This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting another active hurricane season in the North Atlantic region, which means that the Caribbean is likely to see more extreme weather this summer and fall. But there are alternative tropical destinations that are at lower risk for hurricanes, and are within a few hours of the continental U.S. by plane.

The ABC islands—Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao—may be the best-known, low-hurricane-risk Caribbean islands, but there are more destinations in the Caribbean, Atlantic, and Pacific that offer summer and fall beach vacations with decreased chances of extreme weather. Some may still experience the daily rain showers of a summer wet season, but as the saying goes, if you don't like the weather in the tropics, just wait 15 minutes.

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In addition to a lower risk of extreme weather, many of these destinations offer lower prices that come along with summer or fall low seasons, giving vacationers the chance to benefit from better prices and good weather.

Trinidad and Tobago

Like the ABCs, Trinidad and Tobago are located in the Caribbean but fall outside of the traditional hurricane belt, though summer and fall are the rainy seasons. However, from mid-September to mid-October, the islands experience the Petit Carême, which brings sunny days without rain.

Tobago is a relaxed tropical beach destination that isn't as built up as many of the other Caribbean islands, and it runs on a slower, more relaxed "island time." Trinidad, by contrast, is composed of crowded cities along the coast and a mountainous interior that attracts adventurers looking for hiking, kayaking, and caving opportunities.

For more information about this pair of islands, visit the Trinidad and Tobago tourism website.

Panama

Unlike most of Central America, Panama sits just below the traditional hurricane belt. However, summer and fall are the wet, or "green", seasons, when rain tends to fall for a few hours each afternoon. Panama has long stretches of coast on both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and is known for excellent snorkeling and diving. Ecotourism is another major draw, and American visitors will benefit from the convenience of an Eastern Standard Time zone and a U.S. dollar paper currency (though Panama mints its own coinage).

For more information about Panama, visit the Panama tourism website.

Azores

The Azores are a group of nine Portuguese islands located in the Atlantic about four hours by plane from the East Coast of the U.S. and two hours from mainland Portugal. They are shielded from hurricanes by cooler water, making the islands a lower-risk alternative to hurricane-season island travel. The Azores have a milder climate than Caribbean island destinations, with average August temperatures in the high 70s.

This semi-tropical archipelago isn't a typical beach destination. Though visitors can find black sand beaches and swim in water heated by hot thermal pockets that mix with the cool ocean water, the Azores are a better fit for culturally adventurous travelers who also want to explore historical and outdoors attractions in addition to hitting the beach. The tourism infrastructure is geared more towards Europeans, and it's a destination that hasn't quite been discovered by Americans yet. It is reasonably easy to get to though, as the airline Azores Express offers affordable flights from select U.S. departure cities.

For more information about the Azores, visit the Azores tourism website.

Hawaii

In the last 50 years, just five hurricanes or tropical storms have caused serious damage in Hawaii. And this year, NOAA's Central Pacific Hurricane Center has predicted a slightly below average season for tropical storms, making Hawaii a lower-risk destination this hurricane season.

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