A year ago, on the morning of September 6th of 2018, last minute preparations were taking place to prepare for the unimaginable. A menacing and historic storm that grew stronger by the minute and was taking a more direct and worrisome path that only optimized it’s destructive nature and impact. The worst possible scenario was being eclipsed every few minutes by a scarier and more foreboding forecast. A storm that was previously expected to deliver winds of 140 to 150 miles per hour was now forecasting 185 mph sustained winds and guests of over 220 mph. To put that in perspective, an EF-5 Tornado (the highest scale possible) has winds over 200 mph and be known to wipe out towns in a few minutes. Hurricane Irma became a sustained tornado that would last for hours ripping roofs, uprooting trees and turning debris into missiles capable of embedding into concrete.
The next few hours were solely focused on immediate survival. The afternoon, as the winds subsided, would be focused on survival for the next few months and the very first steps in rebuilding what was destroyed. Decades of progress became mere memories within a few intolerable hours.
In the year since Irma, encouraging green shoots of recovery are appearing as the devastated Caribbean islands are rebounding and welcoming guests. The following is a quick synopsis of each island’s condition and what to expect for the upcoming 2018/2019 winter travel season.
The island of St Martin took the hardest hit from Hurricane Irma. The absolute center of the eye passed through Simpson lagoon and Cupecoy. While the culinary town of Grand Case on the northern half of the island never experienced the desired reprieve of the storms eye, but rather being subjected to hours of the continuous and incessant battering of Irma’s the strongest winds in the eye wall. Even though the island handles Category 1 and Category 2 hurricanes with relative ease, this epic storm was supernatural and devastating. Countless lives were changed forever.
On the one year anniversary of the storm, St Martin is in the midst of a renaissance. The island is open for business since May of 2018 and welcoming guests. The beaches are beautiful. The turquoise blues of the Caribbean still tantalize and restaurants still mesmerize with their unique French Caribbean flair.
What to expect?
St Martin’s full recovery will take a few years but the island is certainly a good destination for 2018/2019 winter travel. The essence of what our guests enjoy, the luxury standard of their own villa, restaurants, beaches and rental cars are returning with many more options relaunching each month. St Martin’s villas are historically quite reasonable when compared to other Caribbean destinations. They have always delivered a superior experience at a fraction of the cost of other islands. This year, the expected promotions will be quite alluring. Guest will be able to enjoy a luxurious vacation at their own private luxury villa that rivals the costs of cruises or 4 star hotels.
Please note that villas will not relaunch unless the villa is of equal or superior standard to it’s condition prior to the hurricane. Many new villas are launching and many are returning fully renovated and upgraded.
The beaches on the Caribbean side are in very good shape and have more sand then in previous years. Mullet Bay, Baie Rouge, Baie Longue, Plum Bay beach are in great shape. Orient beach is rebounding. The Sargussum seaweed issue that is affecting the Atlantic side of most Caribbean islands is expected to subside in the winter months with the cooler water temperatures. We expect that Orient Beach will be a good option starting in November once the beachside restaurants return
Grocery stores are full. The infrastructure (water and electricity) are reliable and WIFI is returning to the previous standard. Rental cars are available. The island is safe.
A good selection of restaurants have been opened and many more are scheduled to return. Simpson Bay has fully returned back to normal. Porto Cupecoy handled the storm quite well and Mario’s Bistro is open and welcoming diners. Grand Case restaurants have re-opened such as Spiga, L’Auberge Gourmand, Rainbow, La Villa and Bistrot Caraibes with others expected to re-open soon. Bikini restaurant on Orient Beach has re-opened with Kontiki and Kakao expected to re-open in late November.
St Martin is a good choice for winter travel as long as guests understand that the island is still rebounding and that sights of devastation will be readily apparent. But the destination has several key advantages. The island offers direct flights from major eastern US seaboard cities. St Martin is well rounded and not a sleep destination. There is always something to do and nearby islands to visit. The value of a St Martin vacation is uncomparable to other destinations. And lastly, and most importantly, you will be contributing to the renaissance of the island.
The island of St Barts had the most remarkable comeback imaginable. Within a month or so, the roads were cleared and the island was in remarkable shape. The beachfront hotels did sustain major damage due to storm surges. They are expected to be back in operation late 2018 with some hotels (ex. hotel Guanahani), scheduled to relaunch in late 2019.
Nevertheless, Winter 2018/2019 is shaping up to be a very busy season with many of the restaurants and shops relaunched and villas in fabulous shape. The primary issue affecting the island is the lack of flights into nearby St Martin that we expect to dramatically improve starting in November 2018 with expanded flight schedules by most US airlines.
The destination is highly recommended for travelers. The recovery of St Barts is well ahead of expectations and guests should enjoy the relatively same standard of vacation as in previous years with just a few exceptions.
The picturesque island was devastated during hurricane Irma however, the villas on the island held up remarkably well. The villas rebounded within a few months and have been welcoming guests. Many of the villas are self-sustained with generators and cisterns so their reliance on the island’s infrastructure is limited.
If you want to relax and decompress on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, then Anguilla is an ideal choice. The villas are in great shape and access to the island is normalizing once flights to St Martin resume their previous timetable. Seabourne airlines offers direct air service from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The interior of the island has not seen much progress over decades so it’s current condition is not of significance to visitors.
The rebound of the BVIs has been complicated by the lack of government help and organization. While St Martin and St Barts have been greatly assisted by the French and Dutch governments, the BVIs have not received the same assistance.
The re-emergence of the BVIs will take more time than other destinations.
We are advising guests to defer vacationing in the BVIs until a stronger recovery takes hold. At this point in time, there is limited information and assurances for guests to properly plan and enjoy a vacation for the winter 2018/2019 season.