The Weather

The temperature variations in the Caribbean are surprisingly slight, averaging between 75°F and 85°F (24°C-29°C) in both winter and summer. It can get really chilly, however, especially in the early morning and at night. The Caribbean winter is usually like a perpetual May. Overall, temperatures in the mid-80s (high 20s Celsius) prevail throughout most of the region, and trade winds make for comfortable days and nights, even without air-conditioning.

The humidity and bugs can be a problem here year-round. However, more mosquitoes come out during the rainy season, which usually occurs in autumn.

If you come in the summer, be prepared for a really broiling midafternoon sun.

Brochures make people feel that it's always sunny in the Caribbean, and that isn't necessarily the case. Different islands get different amounts of rain. On Aruba it hardly ever rains; on other islands, you can have overcast skies your entire vacation. Winter is generally the driest season, but even then it can be wet in mountainous areas, and you can expect brief afternoon showers, especially in December and January, on Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Lucia, on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, and in northeast Jamaica.

The curse of Caribbean weather, the hurricane season lasts -- officially, at least -- from June 1 to November 30. But there's no cause for panic: Satellite forecasts give enough warning that precautions can be taken.

The High Season & the Off Season

The Caribbean has become a year-round destination. The "season" runs roughly from mid-December to mid-April, which is generally the driest time of year in the Caribbean and the most miserable time of year in the U.S. Northeast and Midwest and in Canada. Hotels charge their highest prices during the peak winter period, and you'll have to make your reservations well in advance -- months in advance if you want to travel over Christmas or in the depths of February, especially around U.S. Presidents Day weekend.

The off season in the Caribbean -- roughly from mid-April to mid-December (although this varies from hotel to hotel) -- is one big summer sale, though it's become more popular in recent years. In most cases, hotels, inns, and condos slash 20% to 50% off their winter rates.

Dollar for dollar, you'll spend less money by renting a summer house or self-sufficient unit in the Caribbean than you would on Cape Cod, Fire Island, or Laguna Beach. You just have to be able to tolerate strong sun if you're considering coming in the summer.

In the off season, the beaches are less crowded, and you can get good deals. But restaurants close, and hotels offer fewer facilities and may even use the off season for construction. Make sure to ask what work is going on, and if you decide to go anyway, ask for a room far away from the noise. If you're single and going during off season, ask for the hotel's occupancy rate. You want crowds!

Because there's such a drastic difference in high-season and off-season rates at most hotels, we've included both on every property we review. You'll see the incredible savings you can enjoy if your schedule allows you to wait a couple of months for your fun in the sun.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.