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Travel

Traveling to the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and more destinations post-hurricane season

When back-to-back hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the Caribbean in September, they left a broad swath of damage across the tourist-friendly islands there. Less than six months later, they are again ready to welcome vacationers, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Here is the latest update from the most affected islands, but be aware that the recovery is a work in progress and hotel opening dates are not carved in stone. It’s a good idea to call before you book.

U.S. Virgin Islands

St.Croix, U S Virgin Islands, Caribbean
Photo Credit: Alamy /Jon Arnold

The U.S. Virgin Islands are open for business, but as with all the hurricane-lashed islands, travelers should do the research before booking a trip. While online booking is still available for most accommodations, if there are any doubts, make a phone call and request photos of the property to ensure all is well.

“While many visitor experiences are still nice, there are areas where the recovery is ongoing,” said Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty. “Visitors over this period should be flexible and prepared for minor inconveniences. We recommend you check all arrangements both online and by calling before travel.”

Power has been restored to 98 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands; airports on St. Thomas and St. Croix are operating; and cruise ship calls to St. Thomas have returned to pre-hurricane levels.

However, on islands where the airports were heavily damaged, airline schedules may still be in flux, and even passengers with confirmed tickets should reconfirm and frequently check flights. 

On St. Thomas, the Marriott Frenchman’s Cove reopened Feb. 16, although repairs are ongoing. Others that are open include the Wyndham Margaritaville Vacation Club, Emerald Beach Resort, the Windward Passage Hotel, and the Lindbergh Bay Hotel and Villas. Bolongo Bay Beach Resort is to reopen in June.

On St. John, all roads, trails and beaches at the Virgin Islands National Park reopened in December. Among the places that are currently open are Grande Bay Resort, Gallows Point Resort, Estate Lindholm, Cruz Bay Boutique Hotel, and the Sea Shore Allure.

On St. Croix, pictured, the Caravelle Hotel & Casino is closing April 30 for repairs from Hurricane Maria’s damage and will reopen Sept. 1. During that time the casino and RumRunners Restaurant will remain open. Others on St. Croix that are also open include The Buccaneer, Club Comanche, Chenay Bay Beach Resort, Arawak Bay The Inn at Salt River, and Cottages by the Sea.

More information is available at usviupdate.com

British Virgin Islands

The Sugar Mill Hotel and Restaurant in Tortola,
Photo Credit: Alamy/Mauritius Images

Electricity has been restored to 85 percent of the islands’ population, with full power scheduled for April. Major damage to the water distribution network has affected some areas that rely on the public water supply, but tourism businesses usually have a backup water supply.

Reconstruction and hotel reopenings will continue into 2019, with a total of 400 rooms on the islands and 1,000 berths on yachts currently available.

The Anegada Beach Club reopened Feb. 1. Scrub Island Marina will open its doors again in March, with the resort and spa to follow in July. Oil Nut Bay on Virgin Gorda will begin taking villa reservations in March, although its marina, beach club, restaurant and resort amenities reopened in December. 

The Sugar Mill Hotel & Restaurant, pictured, will reopen by April 1, and the Cooper Island Beach Club will open its doors again sometime in April. The BVI Sailing Regatta is scheduled for March 26 to April 1. The BVI Tourist Board is offering a promotion that includes a four-night stay for the price of three at select properties during visits between Feb. 15 and April 15 (bvitourism.com/i-love-anegada; use code ANGW18).

More information is available at bvitourism.com.
 

St. Maarten and St. Martin

The main attraction at Rainforest Adventures Rockland Estate
Photo Credit: Rainforest Adventures/Loic Bryan

Two countries on one island, St. Maarten and St. Martin are both bouncing back from the hurricanes’ destruction. St. Maarten, the Dutch side of the island, has seen electricity restored to 95 percent of the country, and telecommunications have been almost fully restored, said acting tourism minister Cornelius de Weever.

While recovery efforts continue at the harbor, cruise ships are docking, and the airport is open, with its departure lounge in a new provisional structure and a provisional arrival pavilion scheduled to open in March, he said. Currently, the arrival lounge is under a tent. The main terminal of the airport is scheduled to reopen later this year.

“The island is recovering well,” de Weever said. “The good thing about the island now is, on the days the cruise ships are not in port, the island is very quiet, and it kind of reminds you of St. Maarten 30 years ago. You can actually be on a beach all by yourself and just enjoying it.”

In November, the newest attraction on St. Maarten opened: the Rainforest Adventures’ Rockland Estate eco-park, which includes the Flying Dutchman, pictured, touted as the world’s steepest zip line, and the Soualiga Sky Explorer chairlift. Emilio’s restaurant is a new addition to St. Maarten’s culinary options, de Weever said.

There are currently 27 accommodations open, totaling 669 units, while 36 others will begin reopening in the coming weeks and months. Belair Beach Hotel is tentatively reopening in March, while the Sea Palace Resort hopes to open its doors again April 1. 

The annual Heineken Regatta will take place March 1 to 4, and the St. Maarten Carnival is scheduled for April 12 to May 3. 

In St. Martin, the French side of the island, Grand Case Airport is operational, and more than 60 restaurants are open, as are about 300 hotel rooms, with at least 10 more hotels scheduled to reopen before the end of 2018. Hotel La Plantation in Orient Bay will have a partial reopening on April 16.

More information is available at vacationstmaarten.com and st-martin.org.

St. Barth

Yachts are anchored at Gustavia Harbour (Port de
Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images/Helene Valenzuela

St. Barth continues to recover with all beaches cleaned and open since November; electricity and water restored to the entire island; and internet and cellphone service widely available. The airport is operating.

WIMCO Villas, a rental and concierge services company, has over 60 percent of its villa portfolio, more than 600 rooms, available for rent. The Hotel Christopher St. Barth reopened Feb. 20, while the Manapany Hotel and Villa Marie Saint-Barth will reopen in March. 

The government reports that 49 restaurants are open as are many shops. The St. Barth’s Bucket Regatta is scheduled for March 15 to 18, and Les Voiles de St. Barth regatta runs April 8 to 14.

More information is available at saintbarth-tourisme.com/en.


Pictured: Yachts anchored at Gustavia Harbour 

Anguilla

The Spa at Zemi Beach House Hotel &
Photo Credit: Dragonfly Image Partners/Dylan Cross

Islanders continue the recovery effort, with electricity and water completely restored. The new year began with the grand opening of the nine-unit Quintessence Hotel in Long Bay and its classic French restaurant, Julian’s. Zemi Beach House, pictured, reopens this month, followed by Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla in March and The Reef by CuisinArt on April 1.

Anguilla has more than 20 attractions currently operating, while the Aqua Park will reopen in March.

The airport is operating only during daylight hours. As a result of the hurricane, Anguilla is making improvements to its air and sea facilities. The Blowing Point ferry terminal was demolished to allow construction of a new facility. 

More information is available at irma.ivisitanguilla.com.

Dominica

Pagua Bay House, Dominica’s tranquil & chic boutique
Photo Credit: Pagua Bay House

Pounded by Hurricane Maria, Dominica’s hotels only began reopening on Jan. 1, with 388 of the country’s 960 rooms now available to tourists. On Feb. 8, a groundbreaking was held for the 120-room Anichi Resort and Spa in Portsmouth, expected to open in late 2019.

The first major cruise ship to call on Dominica (and the first call on Roseau Cruise Ship Berth) since Hurricane Maria was the MV Mein Schiff 3 of TUI Cruises in January. It’s expected to return five more times this cruise season.

More information is available at discoverdominica.com.

Pictured: Pagua Bay House

Turks and Caicos

The Mesnick family enjoyed some vacation time at
Photo Credit: Getty Images/John Parra

The Grand Turk Cruise Center reopened in November, and as of December most major resorts were open. Club Med Turkoise reopened earlier this year. Beaches Turks and Caicos resort, pictured, which sustained damage during Hurricane Irma, opened Dec. 14 after renovations and the addition of the Bombay Club, an Indian restaurant, said Cathy Decker, a spokeswoman for Sandals, a resort company.

More information is available at turksandcaicostourism.com.

Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua's English Harbor, long used by ships seeking
Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune / TNS/Alan Solomon

Antigua sailed through both hurricanes with minimal damage, but Barbuda was slammed by Hurricane Irma. Fewer than 20 percent of the 1,800 Barbuda residents who evacuated to Antigua after the storm have returned. Few homes have been reconnected to the electrical grid. However, construction is to begin later this year on actor Robert De Niro’s $250 million Paradise Found resort. There are also plans for a new airport on Barbuda.

More information is available at visitantiguabarbuda.com.

Pictured: Antigua's English Harbor

Puerto Rico

A couple raise a glass of wine at
Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images/Riardo Arduengo

Puerto Rico had catastrophic damage in Hurricane Maria, but at this point, electricity has been restored to 83.6 percent of the island, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, while 98.8 percent has drinkable water. All the island’s airports are operational, and there are more than 120 Puerto Rico Tourism Co.-endorsed hotels open, along with hundreds of family-run inns, called paradores, and Airbnb listings.

At Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Golf & Beach Resort, Dorado Beach Ritz-Carlton Reserve, El San Juan Hotel and others, 2,670 additional rooms are being revamped, with the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar anticipating a March reopening. The island will be adding 3,800 more rooms to its inventory by 2019, a 25 percent increase.

Puerto Rico has more than 120 tourist attractions up and running, along with 13 golf courses and 15 casinos. Cruise operations resumed less than three weeks after the hurricane.

More information available at seepuertorico.com.

Pictured: Old San Juan

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