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Caribbean Hurricane Season Travel Tips

Caribbean hurricane season chart
This Caribbean hurricane season chart shows the average number of tropical storms and hurricanes by month. © 2018 Scott S. Bateman
The Caribbean hurricane season has a major impact on travel planning, even for people who start their vacation plans early in the year.

The annual hurricane season officially begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30. September historically is the worst month of the season for hurricane risk for cruise and resort visitors. Anyone planning to take a cruise or hotel vacation in the Caribbean will find that the risk of rain, storms and even hurricanes will go up as the season moves from summer to fall.

The average Caribbean hurricane season may have as many as 12 to 20 named storms of which six could become hurricanes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The season always increases the risk of a bad vacation because of the number of tropical storms and hurricanes that roll through the region between June and November every year.

Caribbean climate is especially bad in September and October because those months typically have the highest level of storm and hurricane activity each year.

2020 Hurricane Season Results


The 2020 hurricane season was a record-breaking year with 30 named storms, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Named storms have top winds of at least 39 miles per hour.

Out of the 30 named storms, 13 became hurricanes with top winds of more than 74 miles per hour. Six became major hurricanes with top winds of more than 111 miles per hour.

The 2020 Caribbean hurricane season had the most named storms in recorded history, beating the total of 28 in 2005, the NOAA said. The year also had the second-highest number of hurricanes. It was the fifth year in a row with an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season.

10-Day Weather Forecasts | See average Caribbean weather in: January - February - March - April - May - June - July - August - September - October - November - December

Hurricane Season Travel Tips


caribbean monthly rainfall
Note the spike in rain during September and October for many Caribbean destinations.
The worst Caribbean weather we ever experienced took place in May, before the beginning of the hurricane season. A freak tropical storm brought clouds and rain every day during a seven-day cruise. Likewise, some of the best weather in our experience took place during the hurricane season.

Cruise and resort visitors should understand from these experiences that bad weather isn't certain during hurricane season. Nor is good weather certain outside of the season. But the odds of bad weather go up beginning in June. Weather historicall gets worse each month until reaching the high point in September.

Even in September, cruise ships typically avoid bad weather by steering around it. Stopover visitors who stay at a destination for up to a week or more have a greater risk of experiencing a storm or hurricane.

But the odds of avoiding them are still good, even during the peak of the season. They rarely hit an island directly. Instead, they often pass nearby and bring high winds and heavy rains to the islands. Barbuda was a rare exception from Hurricane Irma.

What is a Tropical Cyclone?


The weather activity that develops into the potential for a hurricane is called a tropical cyclone.

"A tropical cyclone is a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has a closed low-level circulation," the U.S. National Hurricane Center says.

The center divides cyclones into four types depending on their wind speeds.

  1. Tropical depression: maximum sustained winds of 38 mph or less.
  2. Tropical storm: maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph.
  3. Hurricane: maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or higher.
  4. Major hurricane: maximum sustained winds of 111 mph or higher with a "category" number of 3, 4 or 5.


A tropical depression is not strong enough to force travelers to evacuate from islands. A tropical storm usually doesn't lead to evacuations either, although it may produce some structural damage.

Tropical cyclones usually form in the Atlantic Ocean and move west toward the Caribbean. Sometimes they grow in strength and sometimes weaken in strength as they approach the region.

Hurricane Season By Month


The following statistics show the historical averages for hurricanes and tropical storms in the Caribbean. The numbers come from the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

  • June - 1 tropical storm
  • July - 3 storms, 2 become hurricanes
  • August - 3 storms, 2 become hurricanes
  • September - 4 storms, 2 become hurricanes
  • October - 4 storms, few rarely become hurricanes
  • November - infrequent storms


High and Low Risk Islands


best Caribbean vacations
Tropical storm and hurricane activity chart (Credit: NOAA)
Some destinations have higher risks than others.

On average, about 12 to 15 storms move through the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico each year. Individual destinations may avoid most of them because they lie outside of the storms' paths.

The southern ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao lie outside of the hurricane zone. It is why Aruba in particular has higher visits in September and October than most destinations.

However, it too experiences bad weather from nearby storms and hurricanes, and occasionally it is directly hit.

In the Atlantic Basin in 2010, a total of 19 named storms formed – tied with 1887 and 1995 for third highest on record, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Of those, 12 became hurricanes – tied with 1969 for second highest on record. Five of those reached major hurricane status of Category 3 or higher.

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