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Knowing when to go can make or break a Caribbean escape

Deciding when to visit the Caribbean may seem complicated, especially when considering weather, crowds, special events, closures, and price fluctuations. To make things more complex, each of these factors can vary dramatically by island. However, with a little planning and research, anytime can be a good time to experience paradise in the Caribbean.

Although the weather stays consistently warm throughout the year, with temperatures in the 70s and 80s, the Caribbean has two major travel seasons. The high season, from mid-December to mid-April, usually brings the most ideal weather, but also the most crowds and the highest prices. The low season, from mid-April through mid-December, sees fewer visitors and often has the lowest prices, but hurricanes pose a threat. Also, prices are typically elevated during high-demand dates such as Christmas, Easter, Carnival, and the summer honeymoon season.

As a general rule, if you want to save money and avoid crowds, go during off-peak times. If you want to experience the most action and the best weather, go during peak times. However, as with any rule, there are exceptions. Here are a few things to note, along with a few strategies, to help maximize value whenever you want to go.

Off-peak season

Aside from hurricane threats, the summer off season can be an ideal time to go, especially when it comes to saving money. For example, many hotels and airlines offer reduced rates during the summer months. These savings can be quite dramatic, usually between 20 and 40 percent. Some hotels and vacation packagers will offer value-added promotions that include free nights, food, activities, and other incentives.

The late spring and early fall can also be affordable and less crowded times to visit. The weather, although unpredictable, may be fairly mild during these months, and the prices are well worth the visit. Some hotels even offer lower rates than any other time of the year.

Here are a few examples of the savings one can expect when traveling during the off season:

Hotel Peak rate Off-peak rate Savings
Coyaba Beach Resort (Jamaica) $350 (December 16 through April 15) $225 (April 16 through December 15) 36%
El Convento Hotel and Resort (Puerto Rico) $355 (December 1 through April 30) $225 (May 1 through November 30) 37%
Playa Linda Beach Resort (Aruba) $278 (December 19 through April 30) $155 (May 1 through June 25)/$185 (June 26 through December 17) 44%
The Hotel at Grace Bay Club (Turks and Caicos) $725 (January 4 through March 31) $425 (June 1 through October 31) 41%
Ladera (St. Lucia) $450 (January 3 through April 16 ) $280 (June 11 through September 30) 38%
Crystal Waters Villas (Jamaica) $150 (December 15 through April 15) $110 (April 16 through December 14) 27%
Atlantis (The Bahamas) $395 (January 2 through February 15 weekend) $275 (September 5 through October 9 weekend) 30%

Prices are based on the lowest published rate for the designated time period. Rates vary by date and availability. Weekend rates tend to be higher than weekday rates.

It’s important to note that off-season travel can have some drawbacks. For instance, some hotels close for maintenance and renovations in the summer. Also, airlines may raise fares to certain islands such as St. Lucia because of the drop in visitation and reduced flight schedules. However, according to Berthia Parle, president of the Caribbean Hotels Association, many charters are beginning to extend the frequency of their routes in response to an increase in demand.

Peak season

Because many people visit the Caribbean during the winter to escape the cold conditions in the north, prices and crowds escalate during the peak season. However, higher visitor volume can be a benefit. For instance, due to high demand during the winter, some airlines add more flights to popular destinations such as the Dominican Republic. Because there’s a larger supply of available seats, they don’t need to raise fares, and they might even reduce prices to stay competitive with other airlines. If you want to go to the Caribbean when it’s peak without paying a premium, look for islands that have a high volume of flights such as the Bahamas and Puerto Rico, along with the Dominican Republic.

Carnival

Carnival can be an extremely busy and expensive time, especially for islands that celebrate in February like Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique, Curacao, and St. Barthelemy. To ensure availability and decent prices, book at least a year in advance, as many visitors book for the year ahead during the current festival. However, lesser-known celebrations on some islands occur during off-peak months when prices are less likely to skyrocket. Carnival events, such as those on St. Lucia, Saba, and St. Eustatius in July, and Grenada in August, can offer an affordable alternative to the more popular festivals; however, it’s still a good idea to make advance reservations.

Hurricane season

Although hurricane season officially runs from June through November, there are many ways to increase your chances of avoiding storms so you can still take advantage of the thinner crowds and lower prices available during the off-season. First of all, be aware that hurricanes tend to be the most active during the months of August, September, and October, so traveling either before or after these months can be a safer bet.

Also, consider visiting islands located outside the hurricane belt such as Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, and Trinidad and Tobago. For these islands, summers are pleasant with only scattered showers. Nevertheless, Parle says “Storms defy comprehension and logic. No island is completely immune.” It’s always wise to check weather patterns before traveling during peak hurricane months and protect your travel investment by purchasing travel insurance. You can keep a close eye on weather reports from sites such as the National Hurricane Center that offer live accounts of storm activities. For more information, read [% 11068 | | Nail down your vacation plans for hurricane season travel %].

The Caribbean offers many different choices for different travelers, and there’s a perfect island for just about any situation or time of year. If warm winter weather sounds like the perfect getaway, then book in advance and keep an eye out for package deals during the peak season. If great savings fits the bill regardless of weather, then book in the off-season, especially in June or September. If the chance of hurricanes is troublesome, but the price is right, then visit one of the islands located outside the hurricane belt for great weather and value. Visit our Caribbean Travel Guide to start planning which vacation will suit your needs.

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