Summer vacations

Summer vacations
Summer in the Caribbean reveals itself in a number of ways. For a start, the heat and humidity make a mockery of the cool Christmas evenings and steady trade winds. From August, hot, sticky nights crawl towards sultry days with temperatures in the mid-eighties, without a breath of breeze. Frequently, the day builds to an apocalyptic downpour that returns things all-too-briefly to normal. On the flip side, the sea temperature around this time of year is like a relaxing bath, and the beaches are almost empty. Besides, the hottest Caribbean midday pales into insignificance against temperatures notched up in the U.S. during the same period.

The summer months, though, are arguably the best time to visit the islands. The crowds have gone, and although some islands tend to board up until the tourist season returns, there are still outrageous hotel and flight deals to be seized. Visitors might have to do without their favorite restaurants, as the owner grabs a September vacation in Europe or the States, but no island can shut down completely, especially on islands with big timeshare bases, such as St. Maarten and Aruba. If it’s open, it’s likely to be up to 40 percent cheaper than in December. There are exceptions: the Summer Cropover festival in Barbados, and carnivals in Anguilla, Antigua, Statia and St. Lucia draw big crowds out of season.

The elephant in the room is the threat of hurricanes. From June to November, storms which usually build off the coast of Africa roll westwards across the Atlantic. The majority fizzle out or turn north long before they reach the Caribbean, but every island records in its history the years when major hurricanes struck. Some get through, but they do so with plenty of warning. At worst, visitors are faced with a curtailed vacation and early flight home. There is no such thing as waking up in the middle of an unexpected hurricane.

Even though it’s always summer in the Caribbean, there is something nostalgic about the drawing to an end of each off-season. For the big game fishermen, May through October means only one thing: blue marlin time, when these majestic fish gravitate towards Caribbean waters in greater numbers. For nature lovers, the summer months herald the precarious turtle nesting extravaganza, when endangered leatherbacks and hawksbills come ashore to lay their eggs in selected beaches. Visit Trinidad, St. Lucia, Barbados and Guadeloupe, in particular, to participate in turtle watching tours which guarantee the amphibians’ tranquility and safety. For young children on the long vacation, summer is the chance to earn some change selling fresh mangoes and ginep (Spanish Lime) at the roadside as these fruits ripen and drop en masse.

The Caribbean in summer has its own charm. Leave the Lent carnivals, big regattas, A-list invasion on megayachts and private jets for the rest of the year. July to October shows off the islands at their most authentic.

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