Ask Oyster: Destination weddings in hurricane season
Question: Katie H.
I'm looking for a tropical location to have a destination wedding for 20 to 25 people. I'm interested in the end of summer or early fall time of the year. Yes, I know that's around hurricane season for a lot of the Caribbean, but it's the best time for getting away from work for my fiancée. Other preferences include: sunny and warm, great beaches, lots of activities, not super crowded and touristy. As one of your previous questions put it, "luxury is not required, but not uncomfortable."
Answer: Will Begeny, Oyster’s Senior Editor
June through November is the hurricane season for much of the Caribbean. But what does this mean? During these months (August through mid-October, mostly) there is a greater chance that a tropical storm or a hurricane could develop off the Atlantic.
However, “hurricane season” does not translate to “rainy season.” While an off-shore storm can bring some unpleasent weather, the chances of daily rain varies dramatically from island to island (and within the islands themselves). In parts of Jamaica, for example, July is one of the driest months.
That said, I would recommend pushing your wedding as early (June-July) or as late (November) as possible. In a more "protected" western island like Jamaica (which has Cuba to the north and the D.R. to the east) the chances of a storm hitting outside of August and September is relatively slight. But if you’d rather not test your luck, you can also head to the “A.B.C. Islands” (Aruba, Bonnaire, and Curacao), which are outside the hurricane belt on the southernmost edge of the Caribbean. Among them, Aruba is the most developed and the easiest to get to.
Since you're looking for a resort that isn't “super crowded and touristy” and because hundred-mile-an-hour winds can put a damper on a traditional wedding ceremony, here are three hotels worth considering:
1. Jake’s, South Coast, Jamaica
- Laid-back, uniquely beautiful location (far from most tourists)
- An otherworldly black-sand beach (great for photos)
- Very arid climate; scarce chance of rain
- Excellent wedding coordinator; at most big resorts, it can take weeks for someone to get back to you (not the case here)
- Great spa on-site
- Easy to secure the great majority of the guest rooms (few to no strangers at your wedding)
- Private, outdoor tubs in the bi-level honeymoon suite
- Broad range of room rates; from very low-end to ultra-luxe villas
- Near river-rafting (with alligators), waterfalls, great boating, and fun local hangouts
- Excellent, largely local fruit and fish
- Up to a three-hour drive from the airport (much of it on a very bumpy road)
- Some rooms lack air conditioning
- Can be especially hot in July; expect to sweat
- The nearby beach isn’t “conventionally beautiful” and the waves can be a bit rough
2. Tensing Pen, Negril, Jamaica
- Stunning location on the seaside cliffs -- the most beautiful sunsets in Jamaica
- Very tiny hotel -- a small group could easily take over the whole place
- Other hotels nearby, including the chichi Caves next door (if you want to get away from the hoopla on your wedding night)
- Couples massages outside, on the cliffs, hidden from the rest of the resort
- Excellent food -- especially for the price
- No beach
- Cliffs can be a bit dangerous for young children
- About a two-hour drive from Montego Bay airport (if you choose not to take a local flight into Negril)
- Surrounding streets can be a little dicey for some travelers (pot-smoking Rastafarians abound)
3. Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort and Casino
- Outside the hurricane belt
- Beautiful, modern rooms with flatscreens and iPod docks
- Gorgeous beach (in a more traditional sense)
- Short drive from the airport
- 24-hour room service
- Top-notch spa
- Casino, watersports, outdoor tours, great restaurants, shopping, and nightclubs nearby
- Often, it’s a longer, more expensive flight to Aruba than elsewhere in the Caribbean
- Less exotic-feeling locale -- it can feel more like a suburban shopping mall than a tropical getaway.
- Considerably more expensive room rates than at other hotels in the Caribbean
- More non-guests milling about -- though, the number of guests will likely be fewer in the fall
- If there’s a hurricane, flights could still get delayed or canceled
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