The North Atlantic hurricane season of 2017 brought 17 named storms, including 10 hurricanes, and immense damage to numerous islands across the Caribbean. Hurricanes Irma and Maria were particularly disruptive, hitting within a week of each other and becoming two of the costliest ever, causing more than $140 billion in damage.
Just over a year later, most islands have nearly recovered and are ready to welcome guests. Some hotels that sustained minimal damage reopened as quickly as possible, while others took the blow as an opportunity to reassess their properties’ designs and make timely improvements.
Those hotels not only made repairs and strengthened fortifications but also added restaurants, infinity pools, and redesigned guest rooms. Here are some of our favorite hotel transformations.
Hurricane Irma hit Anguilla on September 6, 2017, damaging homes, businesses, and much of the island’s infrastructure. It prompted many larger resorts to consider extensive changes. Four Seasons Anguilla closed but was back in business in March, showcasing renovations to its restaurant and new balconies on guest rooms throughout the property.
CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, meanwhile, is set to open in November with redesigned interiors and new restaurants, including a beachfront dining venue and a 5,000-square-foot ballroom. The Belmond Cap Juluca redesigned all 113 rooms and added a sea-view infinity pool, an oceanfront spa, a beach bar, and restaurants. It will start accepting guests in December. Also reopening, on December 15, is Malliouhana, Auberge Resorts Collection, which has updated its 46 rooms and added cabanas to its infinity pools and a new beach bar.
British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands were struck by Hurricane Irma as a Category 5 storm. The larger islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke have mostly recovered and begun welcoming visitors again. On Virgin Gorda, Oil Nut Bay reopened last year, but the resort unveils a Marina Village area in December, complete with several villas, a waterfront restaurant and bar, and several boutiques.
The smaller islands are bouncing back too: Guana Island, an 850-acre privately owned isle that’s home to an exclusive resort, resumed operations last summer with 18 refreshed suites, an expanded organic farm with three more greenhouses, and a clean bill of health for its coral reef, which was covered by debris after the storm. Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island reopened in October, with two new guest rooms and an expanded Great House, the resort’s communal area.
Tiny Dominica’s recovery has been slower than that of some larger islands—it sustained $1.3 billion in damage—but its main attractions, including its beloved hiking paths and dive sites, have been cleared.
So far, around half of the island’s hotel rooms have reopened, and two of the best spots will do so soon. When the secluded Secret Bay begins accepting guests in November, its six restored villas will be accompanied by a new on-site restaurant and a wellness pavilion, complete with a yoga deck and luxurious treatment rooms. Citrus Creek Plantation will welcome back guests in December with fully renovated cottages alongside the Taberi River.
Many of the luxury hotels on this French island took their time to rebuild, and the transformations are some of the region’s most profound.
Hotel Christopher has welcomed guests since mid-October to a refurbished resort with three restaurants, suites remodeled by French interior designer Olivia Putnam, a waterfront spa, and a luxury boutique.
Hotel Le Toiny has also been back in business since mid-October, with eight new freestanding villa suites and a beachfront pool in addition to updates to its 14 original villa suites, restaurant, and open-air bar. Le Sereno opens on December 1 with a beach restaurant, a spa and fitness facility, and a boutique. A debut category of room called Bungalow Piscine offers more space and fully refreshed interior design, and new waterfront Grand Suite Plage Sud rooms feature outdoor bathtubs perched in private gardens.
Finally, Le Barthélemy Hotel & Spa unveils a number of additions on October 28, among them a rooftop bar and a hydrotherapy section in its spa that will include hot and cold baths, a sauna, a hammam, and a tea salon.
Puerto Rico suffered a double whammy, with both Irma and Maria doing significant damage across the island. In the coming months, two Hilton properties will reopen: the iconic Caribe Hilton, in May following extensive renovations, just in time for its 70th birthday celebration, and El San Juan Hotel, part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, which is restoring its rooms, oceanfront villas, public spaces, pools, and outdoor landscaping for a winter opening.
Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, is accepting bookings as of October with refreshed rooms, a full renovation of the five-bedroom villa Su Casa, thousands of plantings on the grounds, updated restaurants and lounges across the property, and a refresh of its spa and fitness center. And the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort is open for business starting December 15 after a $60 million renovation to its rooms and suites, the St. Regis Bar, the seaside pool and esplanade (which has a new casual restaurant), the spa (now called the Iridium Spa), and the oceanfront golf course.
St. Martin/Sint Maarten
One of the hardest-hit islands, St. Martin has had more to overcome during its comeback. This winter will see some of the family-friendly island’s most anticipated reopenings. Sonesta Ocean Point Resort will be fully operational on December 14, and its sister property Sonesta Maho Beach Resort opens in February 2019 after a complete overhaul that will make its buildings able to withstand sustained 200-mph winds.
On December 10, Belmond La Samanna opens with rooms and public spaces refreshed by design firm MuzaLab and a newly invigorated Baie Lounge Bar.
Devorah Lev-Tov Devorah Lev-Tov is a Brooklyn-based food and travel journalist who has been published in the New York Times, National Geographic, Vogue, Bon Appetit, and more.