Average Caribbean Weather: Best and Worst Times to Go

Updated on May 30, 2018
promisem profile image

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean.

Hurricane Iris, 2001. Source: NASA public domain
Hurricane Iris, 2001. Source: NASA public domain

Do You Prefer Sunshine or Hurricanes?

Weather in the Caribbean can give visitors a beautiful experience or a disaster that is best forgotten. It mainly depends on when you go.

Average Caribbean daytime temperatures are in the mid-80s Fahrenheit for most destinations. That average varies by only a few degrees each month. But nothing is average or predictable about the rainfall.

To decide when to go to the Caribbean and avoid most of the rain, visitors need to know what to expect from the annual hurricane season. It officially runs from June 1 through November 30 each year.

6 Quick Climate Tips

  1. Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao have the least rain.
  2. April, June, and July have the best combination of warm temperatures and low rainfall.
  3. May brings with it a brief rainy season in many places.
  4. September and October are the worst months to go, because of the risk of tropical storms or hurricanes.
  5. From December through February, stick with southern destinations such as Antigua, Barbados, and St. Lucia.
  6. The best time to visit almost any island in the Caribbean is January through April.

Caribbean rainfall in inches by month for major destinations. © 2017 Scott Bateman
Caribbean rainfall in inches by month for major destinations. © 2017 Scott Bateman

Best Times to Visit

The best time to visit most islands in the Caribbean is January through April because of comfortable temperatures and low risk of rain.

Seawater is often cool for swimming in January and February, especially in the mornings. So those months are ideal for people who like land activities and excursions.

Tourists who like water activities such as swimming, snorkeling and laying on beaches may want to go in March and April for warmer temperatures.

Although May is even warmer than April, it also has a higher risk of rain for some destinations. For example, historical data shows that Grand Cayman averages two inches of rain in April but six inches in May, according to the National Meteorological Service of the Cayman Islands.

Then the Caribbean hurricane season begins in June.

Hurricane Season

The Caribbean is known for a rainy season that brings tropical storms and hurricanes. Some islands can get hit especially hard with rain and heavy winds.

During late spring, summer, and fall, tropical storms often form in the Atlantic, off the African continent, and move west toward the Caribbean.

As they approach the Americas, they tend to swerve to the right, and follow various paths over the Caribbean or the Gulf, often reaching the Eastern US and even Canada or Europe.

Historical Paths of Atlantic Hurricanes

Once formed, a storm moving over warm water can grow into a hurricane in a matter of days.

On the average (some years are much more productive) the Caribbean hurricane season has about 12 to 15 major storms each year, and about four or five develop into hurricanes.

A hurricane can drop back in intensity to a storm again for a few days before fading away.

Tropical weather in the Atlantic is closely watched, and Caribbean weather forecasts are fairly reliable because the weather follows a predictable set of patterns.

The season starts slowly, builds over early summer, and doesn't peak until early September. The storm and hurricane threat is why the fewest number of people vacation in the Caribbean in September.

This chart shows historical storm and hurricane activity in the Caribbean and Atlantic by month. Note how it peaks in September and October. Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
This chart shows historical storm and hurricane activity in the Caribbean and Atlantic by month. Note how it peaks in September and October. Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Average Caribbean Weather By Month

January

Caribbean weather in January is certainly warmer than the U.S., Canada, or Europe, but some places are warmer than others. The warmest destinations include Cayman Islands and St. Lucia; the coolest include the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and Turks and Caicos. Rain averages about two to three inches per month. Keep in mind that sea temperatures is often cool for swimming in northern locations.

February

Temperatures in February show little movement. In some places they increase a degree while in others they decline. In Dominica, rainfall increases to four inches. Costa Rica reaches a low point for rain, which is good news for western Caribbean cruises.

March

March is one of the most popular months for visiting the Caribbean, not just because of spring break, but because of warming temperatures and low rainfall for many destinations. In Dominica, rainfall climbs again to five inches, but keep in mind that Dominica is a lush island with waterfalls and tropical rainforests. It's a great place for ecotourism, though not so much for lying on a beach. Costa Rica continues to have low rainfall.

April

April is another great month to visit the Caribbean, for the same reasons as March, but with some exceptions. In San Juan, Puerto Rico, rainfall reaches its first high point of the year at six inches. It's not the best time for a long-term stay, but it's okay for cruise visitors, who can visit indoors San Juan historical sites and shopping.

May

Caribbean weather in May includes a brief rainy season for many destinations. Aruba is a safe bet because it is the driest island of all. Rainfall at Cancun, Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, and Dominica jumps to five inches or more per month.

June

This is a bad month for the Bahamas, with an average of nine inches of rain. Cozumel gets eight inches, while Belize and Costa Rica average more than 10. For people who like hot weather, Cancun, Cayman Islands, and Cozumel have average high temperatures that reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

June is the official beginning of the annual Caribbean hurricane season. But historically it almost no hurricanes and only one tropical storm every other year, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Tropical storms often threaten the Caribbean during hurricane season from June through November. Source: Pixabay Creative Commons license
Tropical storms often threaten the Caribbean during hurricane season from June through November. Source: Pixabay Creative Commons license

July

Hurricane season is starting to make itself known, with six inches or more of rainfall for the Bahamas, Barbados, the Cayman Islands, and St. Lucia. It's a good month for Antigua, Cancun, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. July averages three tropical storms with two that become hurricanes.

August

"Ugh" is a good word to describe rainfall for the Bahamas and Cancun. Every major destination except for the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao averages four inches or more. On average, August has three tropical storms with two that become hurricanes.

September

September is the worst month of the year for Caribbean weather because it’s the worst month of the annual hurricane season. An average of four tropical storms occur in September with two that become hurricanes. Avoid Caribbean destinations, except possibly the ABC islands—Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao—and maybe the Dominican Republic. But at least September is warm.

October

October is barely better than September, usually the second worst month of the year for Caribbean weather. All of the major destinations average five inches or more of rain. On average, four tropical storms develop, but they rarely grow into hurricanes.

November

The Bahamas finally get a break from the rain and wind, but the temperatures are starting to drop too. Barbados, Cancun, and Jamaica are becoming better options. St. Maarten has the heaviest rain of the year. On average, only one tropical storm forms every other year. Hurricanes are rare.

December

The hurricane season is officially over and rainfall declines everywhere. But temperatures are declining as well; the Bahamas, Cancun, and other northern destinations are usually too chilly for swimming. Dominican Republic and St. Thomas are worthy options. Tourist activity starts to increase in the Caribbean as northerners start to flee cold winter weather.

Average high temperatures in Fahrenheit by month for major Caribbean destinations. © 2018 by Scott Bateman
Average high temperatures in Fahrenheit by month for major Caribbean destinations. © 2018 by Scott Bateman

Caribbean Temperatures By Month

What most people consider the Caribbean ranges from the Bahamas in the north to Aruba, Barbados and Trinidad in the south. The total distance is more than 1,000 miles.

Average Caribbean temperatures in the daytime usually are in the mid to upper 80s Fahrenheit for most destinations throughout the year, except for the Bahamas, which fall into the 70s during the winter.

A few locations such as Cozumel and Grand Cayman see average highs above 90 during the summer.

Nighttime lows drop into the mid to upper 70s. Winter daytime air temperatures stay warm in most places. But winter water temperatures become a bit uncomfortable in places such as Cancun.

Rain bands from a tropical storm can spread out over a large area. Source: U.S. National Weather Service
Rain bands from a tropical storm can spread out over a large area. Source: U.S. National Weather Service

How Weather Affects Cruises and Stopovers

Climate in the Caribbean may pose less of a problem for cruise visitors than for stopover visitors.

Ships can steer away from bad weather, although they may not avoid it entirely. At least cruise staff can deal with rough seas. Passengers can wear motion-sickness patches and adjust their diet to settle upset stomachs.

People who plan a cruise will find it useful to consider the following weather tips:

  • Late spring to mid-summer has the best Caribbean cruise weather, but it's also the most popular time to go.
  • Winter is a good time for southern destinations such as Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao.
  • The western Caribbean is rainy in early fall, especially in Cozumel and the Central American nations that line the Caribbean coast.
  • In the eastern Caribbean, weather is cool during the winter in northern destinations such as the Bahamas.
  • Stopover visitors—people who stay on an island for a week or so—face a greater risk of a tropical storm or even a full-fledged hurricane making landfall. Vacationers can’t really predict the weather a week in advance; two or three days out is more realistic.

No destination is particularly likely to lie right in the path of disaster from a storm or hurricane. But storms and hurricanes that pass through the region affect islands and coastlines over large areas. A tropical storm can dump large amounts of rain even at its outer edges.

One way to avoid getting entangled in a tropical storm is simply to stay away from the Caribbean, and especially the islands most likely to be hit, during September and October in particular. Another way of preparing for the possibility is to buy travel insurance.

Questions & Answers

  • I am cruising Cozumel, Belize, Roatan, and Grand Cayman from October 28th to November 5th. What kind of weather and temperatures should we expect?

    November is the final month of the Caribbean hurricane season. Fortunately, it's one of the least active months for hurricanes and tropical storms.

    If I were you, I would go expecting at least some rain and clouds. But I would cross my fingers and hope that good luck brings me good weather.

  • I'm going to be cruising the Caribbean on September 24th for a week down to Haiti and Mexico, will we be hit by a hurricane?

    September is the worst month of the year for rain and hurricanes in the Caribbean. It also has some of the cheapest cruise prices as a result.

    That said, cruise ships avoid hurricanes. Out of the four hurricanes that the Caribbean averages in September, the odds are extremely low that any of them will pass near your ship.

    You might also get lucky and go during a week when there are no hurricanes or tropical storms. You are more likely to experience an increase in rain and cloud cover.

Comments

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    • profile image

      Franz 

      4 days ago

      Why wasn’t Cuba and Haiti mentioned?

    • promisem profile imageAUTHOR

      Scott S Bateman 

      4 months ago

      Thanks for the question. The U.S. National Weather Service doesn't have historical information about St. Croix weather. Charlotte Amalie on nearby St. Thomas is a good guide for St. Croix.

    • profile image

      Monte B 

      4 months ago

      Why no St. Croix?

    • promisem profile imageAUTHOR

      Scott S Bateman 

      6 months ago

      Thanks for the comment, Shirley. The above information isn't a guarantee of good weather in the Caribbean, but I find that it helps quite a bit with planning when to visit.

    • profile image

      Shirley T 

      6 months ago

      Fantastic amount of detail and simple to follow Im looking to cruise the A B C island and wasnt sure about when to go Now I feel more equipped

      Thank you

    • promisem profile imageAUTHOR

      Scott S Bateman 

      6 months ago

      Thanks, Dora. I have been there countless times, and my article information comes from the local government weather services, but I'm grateful to get a comment from a Caribbean native.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Great details, even for me a Caribbean native. Informational and helpful. Thanks.

    • promisem profile imageAUTHOR

      Scott S Bateman 

      6 months ago

      Thank you, Liz. I did a lot of research for the article, and I have been to the Caribbean many times. So I hope it is helpful.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      6 months ago from UK

      This is a great reference article for anyone planning a visit to the Caribbean. There's a lot of useful information packed in here.

    • promisem profile imageAUTHOR

      Scott S Bateman 

      6 months ago

      Thanks, Louise. I highly recommend Dominican Republic. It has some beautiful all-inclusive resorts on equally beautiful beaches.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      6 months ago from Norfolk, England

      That was very interesting and useful to read. I'd love to visit the Dominican Republic. I hope some day I will be able to go!

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