When it comes to weather, the Caribbean is renowned for having arguably the most desirable climate on the planet, with temperatures a gorgeous 24-29 ° C year round. It’s never cold, never roasting, and rain falls to a fairly predictable rhythm – keeping these tropical islands lush and leafy. The best time to visit the Caribbean is generally considered to be December to April, when it’s slightly cooler (particularly in the northern Caribbean), drier and less humid, and tourists flock to escape the northern winter. May to November can be soggy, with hurricanes possible from July to October – though these are rare in the far south, such as Trinidad and Tobago and the ABC Islands.
Within this, though, the best time to visit the Caribbean will vary depending on your interests, budget and island. Nesting turtles, migrating birds and submarine species all have their favorite seasons. Additionally, May to June and late November to mid December provide cheaper rates and fewer crowds – while still experiencing good weather for you to enjoy on a virtually empty beach of other tourists.
WHERE TO GO & WHEN
Greater Antilles, inc. Jamaica, Dominican Republic
Hugely popular due to their proximity to the USA, cheap flights and accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets, the Caribbean’s largest islands are bustling from Christmas to spring break, with another peak in the summer holidays for families. August to September is the main hurricane season, with big ones hitting roughly every decade, and rains lasting until November. Winters are pleasantly cooler, with a minimum of 20 ° C.
As frosty relations with the US finally thaw, Cuba is poised for a change. If you want to witness the island of your imagination, the best time to visit Cuba is now. For the best weather, March to mid April are warm, sunny and mostly dry – before the rains begin in May. Hurricanes are a risk from August to October. January and February are cooler but generally cheaper than Christmas and Easter. The further east you go, the hotter, wetter and stormier it gets.
Leeward Islands, inc. Virgin Islands, Antigua, St. Kitts
These islands enjoy balmy winters with an average temperature of 27 ° C; mid December to mid April are the peak months, with November and early December offering slightly cheaper rates but good weather. The Leeward Islands experience heavy rains from July to November, and lie squarely in the path of hurricanes. However, the trade winds keep temps more pleasant during the summer than elsewhere in the Caribbean, and prices are low.
Windward Islands, inc. Saint Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, Martinique
The Caribbean’s littlest islands follow a typically Caribbean weather pattern, with December to April the peak months (drier, cooler, less humid) – and September to October the most prolific for hurricanes, with rains starting in June. More mountainous islands – including Saint Lucia and Dominica – experience higher rainfall than those at a lower elevation – though this does make them lusher and lovelier for birdlife and waterfalls.
Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, formerly known as the Dutch Antilles, sit well inside the Caribbean, off Venezuela’s north coast. Consequently, they are far south of the hurricane belt and enjoy a much drier climate. This is a brilliant spot for an off-peak Caribbean holiday as April through to August are warm but tempered by trade winds, with no storms, few visitors, no cruise ships and low prices. The winds are also fantastic for windsurfers.
HURRICANE SEASON IN THE CARIBBEAN
1st June to 30th November is the Caribbean’s official hurricane season. On rare occasions, they can occur as early as May. July is often free of tropical storms as the water cools, while warmer water temperatures make October the month when the most hurricanes form, with June the second most likely. However, hurricanes are not guaranteed – and those that do occur vary greatly in intensity and impact.
Some Caribbean regions are far more prone to being hit by hurricanes than others. The southern Caribbean lies outside the main hurricane belt, so severe storms here are infrequent – hitting once every 50 years or so. This region includes Trinidad and Tobago, the Dutch islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao (all close to the coast of Venezuela) and Panama. Hurricanes occur most frequently in the north eastern Caribbean, around Cuba, Florida and the Dominican Republic – and particularly the Bahamas ..
Most Caribbean storms form over the Atlantic – some from as far away as the coast of West Africa. They are charged by warm water and moist air – something the Caribbean has plenty of in the soggy summer months. The tropical storms grow in intensity, and as the warm air rises, thunderstorms occur. The hurricanes are, in effect, a huge cluster of thunderstorms. The faster the warm air rises, the more it churns the surface – causing huge waves at sea and powerful winds. Both the winds and the subsequent waves and flooding pose a threat to coastal communities. Hurricanes are fueled by warm water, which is why they ease off when traveling over land. It is also why these tiny islands, surrounded by the tepid Caribbean Sea, are particularly vulnerable to hurricanes.