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 [%1255592 | | 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hawaii is a popular destination because it’s within the U.S., which means no passports or customs, and is particularly easy to get to from the West Coast. And though Hawaii has recently started to target visitors who will pay more for high-end accommodations and services, there are still reasonably priced accommodations to be found. Hawaii’s high season runs from June to August, but September brings low season, with reduced prices and better availability.
Though the Yucatan Peninsula and other parts of the Gulf of Mexico coast are affected by the North Atlantic hurricane region, which is predicted to have yet another higher-than-average season, the Pacific coast of Mexico can still be a good hurricane season choice. This year, NOAA is predicting a below normal season for storm activity in the East Pacific, the region that would affect the Pacific Coast of the country.
Popular beach destinations such as Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Acapulco, Huatulco, and Ixtapa are all on the Pacific Coast. September is generally the low season, with better prices and fewer crowds, and October and November are a shoulder season with prices that fall below high-season rates.
The NOAA Hurricane Center provides updated information about hurricanes. HurricaneCity.com has information about Atlantic hurricanes, and also ranks the top 50 hurricane-prone destinations in the U.S., Caribbean, and Mexico.
Tropical vacations should be a time to unwind, and there’s nothing relaxing about extreme weather. By choosing wisely, you can lower your risk of trip interruption, emergency evacuations, or worse; and instead focus on the fruity drinks, beach reading, and lazy days of vacation.