Secrets of the Shoulder Season

An Overview the Caribbean’s Shoulder Season
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Drying out in Trinidad and Tobago isn't so difficult—even in the wet season. (Corbis)
Party All the Time
Just because the tourist hordes descend on the Caribbean to escape the winter freeze shouldn’t imply that there’s still not a party goin’ on during the summer. St. Lucia’s Carnival (www.luciancarnival.com ) stretches from May 30 through July 20—and hits its stride throughout July. Tobago’s Heritage Festival (www.tobagowi.com/herit/heritfestivities.htm ) also falls in July, while Jamaica hosts the world’s largest international reggae festival in Montego Bay from July 18-24 (www.reggaesumfest.com ). And then there's the Barbados Crop Over Festival, a five-week celebration in honor of the sugar cane harvest that peaks in July and August (www.barbados.org/cropover.htm ).
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There’s a myth about our backyard tropical playground that says if you go to the Caribbean in June and July you’ll be beat down by endless rain and blown to bits by hurricanes, that nothing will be open and there won’t be anything to do. While the recent floods in Haiti and the Dominican Republic seem to support the myth, you’re wrong. “This is an epic time to go,” says Granville Greene, an independent travel journalist specializing in the Caribbean. “Some of the best trips I’ve had down there have been in the summer.”

A sure way to avoid many of the headline-grabbing storms is to head to places like Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, and Trinidad and Tobago, all islands which lie on the southern fringe of the “Hurricane Belt.” There you can expect to find temperatures in the mid-80s (thought summer would be ridiculously hot all the time, didn’t you?) and the water temps hovering in the bathtub-warm range. Trinidad and Tobago tend to be a little wetter this time of year, but the rainiest months for the others don’t come until much later—October and November. Even the rainiest months, though, don’t mean constant downpours. “Rainy season means one or two days a month of rain versus almost none at all in Bonaire,” says Tim Webb, president of Caradonna Caribbean Tours.

Other islands are dry in early summer as well. The skies over Martinique and Saint Vincent don’t open until early July, while August hails the start of the rainy months on Saint Eustatius and Saint Martin. Turks and Caicos: it doesn’t start to rain in earnest until September.

Rain isn’t the only thing you won’t find here this time of year, either. As the sun starts to warm the northern hemisphere, Caribbean crowds are virtually nil. That means Caribbean resorts and bungalows have to drop their prices—or at least throw in enticing freebies—to remain competitive.

On Bonaire, for example, Webb’s Caradonna agency (www.caradonna.com; 800-330-3322) books diving packages for families where you can score deep discounts with unlimited diving. The inclusive “Buddy Dive” family package at the resort of the same name allows certified divers aged 16 to 19 to go on as many dives as they can handle for seven free days. Mom and Dad get six days of unlimited tank air and seven days in a rental car. For those who aren’t certified, you can take the “Discover Scuba” course—that one-time introduction to diving—at no additional cost. All for $579 a person with four people. Other deals include seventh-night-free stays and adventure packages with mountain biking, hiking, and kayaking to round out the diving for $955 per person for double occupancy (valid July and August).

“You won’t get these types of deals in the winter,” Webb says, adding that Bonaire is renowned for its shore diving with 100-foot visibility. “The demand then is much higher so there’s no need to offer free nights or diving.”


Published: 23 Jun 2004 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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