Hurricanes Irma and Maria unleashed havoc on a handful of islands in the Caribbean, but travel experts emphasize the tourist-dependent region isn't shuttered.
"The best way to help the economy is to return to the places people were traveling to before," said Dan Marmontello, Caribbean product manager for the Cheap Caribbean website. "The islands need the money to continue repairing ... and the more people continue to return to these islands, the faster the process will go."
In reality, Marmontello said only about 30 percent of the region's destinations sustained significant storm damage. And many of those areas are working to repair and reopen restaurants, resorts and other tourists spots even as they try to restore more basic services. If you want to go on a tropical vacation, these are the Caribbean destinations that are ready to welcome tourists, according to AAA Travel.
- Lodging price example: All-inclusive accommodations for two start at $700 per night at the Cocos Hotel
Antigua is one half of a two-island nation with Barbuda. And, though only 28 miles separate the two, Antigua was largely spared by Hurricane Irma, which devastated the smaller island to the north. In fact, Antigua is now hosting many cruise ship passengers whose original itineraries had them set to dock on islands such as Saint Martin, which sustained much heavier damage.
The unexpected visitors will find plenty to keep them occupied, including lounging on one of Antigua's array of beaches or bargain hunting for souvenirs and spices in St. John's bustling Saturday Morning Market.
- Lodging price example: Rates for a double room start at $140 a night at the MVC Eagle Beach Resort
One of the most affordable winter destinations, Aruba is becoming increasingly attractive to tourists. Marmontello said he expects that trend to continue in 2018. In fact, the island draws many repeat visitors with its blend of nightlife, nature and nearly ideal weather.
One attraction, Arikok National Park, encompasses almost 18 percent of the island's landmass. Vacationers who want to explore it should have plenty of sunshine, considering Aruba only gets about 20 inches of rainfall a year.
- Lodging price example: Nightly rates for a club room start at $249 at the Green Turtle Club Resort & Marina
Known for its beautiful beaches, the Bahamas' 700 islands bore some of the brunt of Irma and Maria. But tourist destinations, including Nassau, were largely unscathed.
Nassau boasts first-class snorkeling and scuba diving. It's home to expansive resorts, including the Atlantis Paradise Island Bahamas, Sandals Royal Bahamian, Warwick Paradise Island Bahamas and Baha Mar, which is home to more than 20 eateries alone.
- Lodging price example: Rates start at $371 a night if vacationers book a room at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion before the end of 2017
Barbados offers beaches, bays and boardwalk views. Visitors also can enjoy the locally produced rum in small bars known as rum shops. If they can pull themselves away from the island's outdoor attractions, vacationers can tour rum distilleries, beer breweries and historical attractions that include the Barbados Museum & Historical Society, which is housed in a 19th-century military prison.
- Lodging price example: Rates for a double room at the Pelican Beach Resorts in Dangriga start at $123.38 per night
Belize is technically a Central American country, but more than 200 islands extend off its Caribbean coastline. About a tenth of those are home to attractions such as idyllic beaches, boutique resorts and Belize's barrier reef. Plus, it's an easy trip to the mainland, where tourists can explore Mayan ruins and more.
- Lodging price example: Nightly rates at the Pompano Beach Club, which include breakfast, start at $450
Bermuda's attractions include the town of St. George. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is the oldest continuously occupied town of English origin in the western hemisphere and showcases St. Peter's Church, which dates back to 1612, King's Square and other historically significant spots.
For travelers seeking more active adventures, there's rock climbing, cliff jumping or hydrobiking across clear Caribbean waters aboard a cycle outfitted with catamaran floats.
- Lodging price example: Double rooms at the Central Hotel Bonaire, which offers year-round rates, start at $115 a night
Notable for its natural attractions, Bonaire is home to a flamingo sanctuary that serves as a breeding ground for the Southern Caribbean Flamingo. The island also offers world-class diving and snorkeling to view a coral reef that's been designated its own national park.
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- Lodging price example: Nightly room rates for a double room at the Trupial Inn Hotel & Casino start at $125 (until April 14, 2018)
This is the last of the three Caribbean destinations grouped under the abbreviation ABC by travel professionals. The islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao are all outside the hurricane belt and are seeing their tourism industry flourish as travelers seek safe options in the region, Marmontello said.
Curaçao offers beautiful beaches, colonial history and Caribbean cuisine with a multicultural flair. And visitors can finish off dinner with a drink made with the liqueur that shares its name with the island.
- Lodging price example: Rates at the Casa de Campo Resort and Villas start at $190 a night for vacationers who book before Nov. 30 for travel between Jan. 4 and Dec. 21. 2018
The Dominican Republic's geography includes everything from mountains to deserts to beaches. And its attractions are as diverse as its terrain.
Visitors can watch whales, explore parks and preserves, or groove to merengue music at corner bars that double as grocery stores. And, given its status as a popular spot for tourists, the Dominican Republic offers accommodations to fit every preference and pocketbook and likely will be one of the best Caribbean destinations for deal seekers, Marmontello said.
- Lodging price example: Nightly room rates at the Resort Ocho Rios start at $100 and include continental breakfast
Jamaica boasts plenty of beaches and all-inclusive resorts. Visitors who want to extend the adventure can explore caves and mountain scenery stocked with waterfalls and wildlife.
Jamaica is also known for its cuisine and music culture, which spawned superstars such as Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff. Reggae fans can visit the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston and sample current grooves at one of the sound-system parties the city is known for.
- Lodging price example: Room rates for a double at the Hotel Bambou start at 162 euros per night ― around $190
This Caribbean island retains a decidedly French feel and features an active volcano. Rising 1,397 meters above the island, Mount Pelée ― which last erupted in 1929 ― is Martinique's highest peak and offers hikers physical challenges and fantastic views.
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Visiting can be expensive, so frugal travelers should probably avoid the winter months, when room rates are at their highest.
- Lodging price example: Room rates at Anse Chastanet start at $475 per night (April 16-May 31, 2018)
The twin peaks of the Pitons are this island nation's most iconic natural landmarks for good reason. A hike up Gros Piton, the taller of the two, takes fit travelers through temperate dry rainforest, elfin woodland and cloud forest flora rife with massive wild tobacco trees.
For a less-taxing taste of nature, tourists can visit the 6-acre Diamond Botanical Garden and Waterfall or just spend a day lounging on one of Saint Lucia's many beaches.
St. Kitts and Nevis
- Lodging price example: Nightly room rates start at $135 at Timothy Beach Resort
This dual-island nation offers beautiful beaches and bays, and its undersea scenery is equally engaging. Divers can explore shipwrecks and coral reefs by day, then spend their nights dining and dancing to soca music.
For travelers in the mood for a little island hopping, Cheap Caribbean is also offering a three-island rum tour through May 1, 2018, that makes stops in St. Kitts, Antigua and Barbados. The travel company will donate part of the tour's take to the nonprofit organization Tourism Cares, which is one of the many charitable groups currently working on hurricane relief efforts.
The Cayman Islands
- Lodging price example: The villas at the Avalon Condominiums start at $595 a night for up to four guests
The Cayman Islands offer ample opportunities for snorkeling, sailing and sunning on the beach. Its largest island, Grand Cayman, is also home to Mastic Trail, a well-maintained gravel path that dates back 200 years. The trail travels through a native mangrove swamp and a 2 million-year-old woodland area.
And, as a longtime tourist draw, the island also features attractions. For example, check out Stingray City to view the creatures while scuba diving or snorkeling.
Trinidad and Tobago
- Lodging price example: With the exception of the Carnival period, double-occupancy rates in a standard room start at $140 a night at the Ambassador Hotel and Conference Centre
Together, Trinidad and Tobago offer bird watching, beaches and a study in contrasts. Tobago is best known for its turquoise-colored seas and white-sand beaches while the more urban Trinidad is home to some unsightly oil refineries and urban estates and ― in February ― the region's most-raucous Carnival celebration. But Trinidad also features a vast bird sanctuary and a nature center where visitors can see hundreds of species of native birds and other wildlife.
Turks and Caicos
- Lodging price example: Double-occupancy rates at The Meridian Club, including all meals and most activities, start at $925 per night for a four- to six-night stay
One of the hottest celebrity hot spots in the world, the Turks and Caicos islands are surrounded by the world's third-largest barrier reef, which creates stunning views of coral and a ring of swimmer-friendly water around its 230 miles of sugary sand beaches. And though the islands did sustain some damage from this season's hurricanes, tourism officials say Turks and Caicos are ready to welcome visitors. The tourism business will boost recovery efforts for the whole region.
Tips for Traveling to the Caribbean
For those who are considering Caribbean travel, but concerned about damaged destinations or weather events ― especially since the Atlantic hurricane season extends through Nov. 30 ― industry professionals recommend working with a trusted travel agent and possibly purchasing travel insurance. Effective agents also can tell clients which airports, restaurants and resorts are accessible and open for business.
"Plus, a travel agent can keep you informed and assist with itinerary changes," said Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokesperson. "It's also smart to keep yourself informed by knowing your travel providers' latest updates as well as cancellation and rebooking policies."
Hotel rates are price examples for stays during various travel dates chosen at the writer's discretion and are subject to change. For the most up-to-date rate information, please contact the hotel directly.