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Vacationing to the Caribbean After the 2017 Hurricane Season: 4 Things You Need to Know

Picture it now. A fusion of Spanish, African, and Indian lifestyles within a tropical atmosphere of sun-warmed beaches, lush rainforests, and towering mountains in Puerto Rico. Or, rustic charm and cosmopolitan bustle in Magens Bay on St. Thomas. No matter which you choose, either of these two places is bound to deliver a vacation experience like no other.

When Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria made landfall only two weeks apart from one another in 2017, however, the idea of visiting these top Caribbean hotspots anytime soon seemed a bit far-fetched and tasteless. Especially after the people and town experienced such a devastating natural disaster.

Yet, fast forward to today, and the islands are rebuilding slowly, but surely, thanks in large part to visitors—aka travel lovers like you.

vacationing to the caribbean after the 2017 hurricane season

Though, the images you may see sprinkled across various media outlets, still showing absolute devastation in residential areas, can give you a different impression.

While these images are raw and real, they are limited to certain parts of the islands and don’t show the number of areas that have recovered.

So, to provide a clearer picture of the places tourists often frequent in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, I figured it was time to do some research and deliver you an update on the four areas of improvements you need to know before vacationing to the Caribbean.

1. Infrastructure.

Often, an area’s infrastructure can undergo widespread damage after a hurricane. And, that can affect all kinds of commonly-used spaces and systems—from roads to power supplies, water lines, and plumbing.

When it comes to Puerto Rico, according to the Puerto Rican government, 95.2% of the island has electricity and 98% has running water. And, those who do not are located in rural, remote communities.

What you may encounter, however, is more potholes on the road, flora that is green yet noticeably affected by the significant damage it endured, and weeds and grass overgrowing along major highways to and from your resort.

As for St. Thomas, power has been 100% restored, debris cleanup is 95% of the way done, and 100% of the beaches are open.

2. Transportation.

vacationing to the caribbean after the 2017 hurricane season

Curious about how the transportation sector is faring after the 2017 hurricane season?

All airports are open and operational in Puerto Rico. And, given the improved demand for travel as Puerto Rico continues to recover and welcome visitors, air travel looks to be at the same level as last summer.

As for ferry access, services operate several times a day between Fajardo and Vieques and Fajardo and Culebra. Also, the island’s major car rental companies are fully operational as ground transportation is functioning as usual.

Transportation to St. Thomas seems to be working its way back up to its typical performance levels. Airline capacity and schedules appear to be matched to accommodations at the island. And, airport arrivals are back up to 85% of what they had been before the storms.

3. Resorts.

Tourism represents a significant part of the Caribbean’s economy—supplying an approximate $1.8 billion per year for Puerto Rico and roughly $185 million per year for the U.S. Virgin Islands. So, it’s obvious the need for these two destinations’ resorts, beaches, and tour operators to return to a sense of normalcy ranks high on the list.

Therefore, as of mid-May 2018, 89% of hotels and resorts in Puerto Rico are up and running. The remaining 11% are being remodeled to be able to put an entirely new product on the market.

In particular, the Margaritaville Vacation Club at Wyndham Rio Mar Resort upgraded its eclectic range of restaurants and bar lounges and reopened for business on March 1, 2018. Worth mentioning is the Caicu Rum Bar. It’s a brand-new venue featuring handcrafted, rum-based cocktails—including a selection of rare private reserve batches.

vacationing to the caribbean after the 2017 hurricane season

Additionally, guests of the resort are once again able to take advantage of the secluded mile-long beach, the 7,000-square-foot Mandara Spa and fitness center, two championship 18-hole golf courses, casino, tennis center, lounges, and entertainment venues.

When it comes to the U.S. Virgin Islands, however, only 60% of accommodations are available to visitors—from guesthouses to several resorts. Yet, Wyndham St. Thomas, a Margaritaville Vacation Club Resort, fully reopened at the end of June 2018.

vacationing to the caribbean after the 2017 hurricane season

Everything at the resort, except for a couple of units that were located closer to the water, are fully functional. That includes organized activities and amenities (i.e., all of the pools, beaches, fire pit, and restaurants). Construction will be completed on those last few units by the end of 2018. 

4. Restaurants & Attractions.

No matter if you decide to vacation to Puerto Rico or St. Thomas, you should definitely consider venturing outside of the resort grounds to explore local restaurants and attractions.

As I write this, the following are open for business in Puerto Rico:

  • 16 out of 17 casinos—eight are open 24 hours
  • More than 1,885 restaurants around the island
  • 184 tourist attractions and 13 golf courses
    • Attractions include:
      • The Bacardi Tour
      • Castillo de San Cristobal
      • Catamaran rides in Fajardo
      • The Museum Parque de Bombas and the Museum of Art in Ponce
      • Luminescent tours in Vieques
      • Castillo San Felipe del Morro
      • Cueva Ventana
      • Fishing charter tours
      • Hacienda Campo Rico
      • Hacienda Carabali
      • Horseback riding tours
      • Mall of San Juan
      • Old San Juan Bike Tours
      • Plaza Las Americas
      • Toro Verde
      • Water attractions
    • Parts of El Yunque National Forest are still closed, although some lower trails are passable. The park will fully reopen after a renovation that will include an upgraded visitor information center.

 

vacationing to the caribbean after the 2017 hurricane season

As for St. Thomas, the following have also reopened for business:

  • Most major attractions, including trails and beaches (they all seem to be less crowded at the moment)
  • More than half of the restaurants, while the remainder continue to be in the rebuilding phase

 

Most importantly, if you’re traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands and are looking to savor good food, natural attractions, marine activities, and shopping, don’t delay booking your trip now. But, if you expect to see no remnants at all of the tremendous damage that was caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria, Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty suggests you wait a year, so your expectations are exceeded.

To stay up to date on the advancements continuing to be made, visit TravelWeekly.com.


In the end, those who live in the Caribbean islands and work within the service or tourism industries have been working diligently to clean up their towns and reopen their businesses after last year’s hurricane season.

So, if you’re thinking about a getaway to one of these two destinations for sun and sand, just imagine how the money you’re spending while traveling will help to further the repair work that’s still needed. And, it will also aid the residents, who’ve experienced heartbreaking trauma and loss, in regaining a sense of “home” and normalcy.

When you’re ready to book your home-away-from-home at Wyndham St. Thomas Margaritaville or Wyndham Rio Mar Margaritaville, give your Resort Specialists at Tripbound a call today at 1-888-816-5214.

Have questions about traveling to one of these two Caribbean islands? Drop a note below, and we’ll respond as soon as we can!

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