For all of its power and fury, Hurricane Dean caused relatively minor damage as it thread a fine needle through the Caribbean before making landfall in Mexico near the Belize border earlier this week. Tourism is fast returning to normal in most areas, although travelers might find hotel landscaping in disarray and some facilities temporarily closed.
Our advice to travelers: Call ahead to find out about local conditions. But don’t be quick to cancel vacation plans. Most of the heavily traveled tourist areas in the path of the hurricane suffered only minor damage, if any. And what damage there is should be cleaned up relatively quickly. The one exception is the Mexican port town of Majahual, which was particularly hard hit.
Travelers to some areas, especially rural locations and beaches with high surf, may encounter minor inconveniences, including downed power lines and road closings. At some properties, swimming pools and facilities may be closed because of wind damage and churning seas, and docks may need to be rebuilt, limiting guest access to larger boats.
Access to roads may be blocked in some areas, so expect travel to and from the airport to take longer than usual.
Here is a wrap-up of conditions in the areas affected by Hurricane Dean compiled by our editors in New York City and writers in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Belize.
Hurricane Dean made landfall near the port town of Majahual — 200 miles south of Cancun — where it trampled homes and businesses, flooded streets, and tore away pieces of concrete docks. Residents and tourists were evacuated, and cruise ships were diverted from the area.
The uninhabited regions along the Yucatan Peninsula were also hard hit, although the ecosystem of reefs and mangroves served as a buffer between the coastline and the more densely populated areas inland. Life in Cancun, Cozumel, and much of the Mayan Riviera returned to normal Wednesday with the reopening of airports and the resumption of international flights. The Hilton Cancun Golf & Spa, which was evacuated for the hurricane, expected to reopen Thursday.
Quintana Roo Gov. Felix Gonzalez Cantor told NPR’s “All Things Considered” that he expects the region to recover quickly. Most of the damage around the state capital of Chetumal, north of Belize, was limited to downed trees and power lines. He estimated that it would take three weeks or so to clean up the town completely, and perhaps a total of three to six months to fix all of the roads in that region.
The Holiday Inn Puerta Maya, in Chetumal, reported that electricity has been restored and that the hotel is open for business.
Most of the damage in Belize occurred in the northern Corozal and Orange Walk districts, which border Mexico. Initial reports indicate the damage was limited to downed trees, flattened crops, and a few dozen tin roofs blown off houses. A spot check of several hotels in Corozal Town, 20 miles south of the Mexican border, revealed no major structural damage, although electrical power was out in much of the area.
The popular tourist area of Ambergris Caye, popular for its diving, fishing and access to Belize Barrier Reef, reported power outages, beach erosion, damage to older piers, and a few broken windows at hotels, but most of the region expected to be ready for the return of vacationers by Wednesday afternoon.
Belize City, the nation’s capital, was largely unaffected by the storm, experiencing 40 mph winds and light rain.
TomCayman, a frequent poster to our Forums and manager of the Reef Resort on Grand Cayman’s east end, toured the island on Tuesday and reported no widespread damage from the storm, though he said some roads are still covered with sand and many trees are down. Flooding is widespread, particularly in low-lying areas.
The island experienced flooding and downed trees, and a mud slide caused two fatalities, but all hotels are now fully operational. However, travelers to the island may still find that certain hiking trails are closed. Most tourist attractions are expected to reopen today.
Both the Kingston and Montego Bay airports were back in business on Tuesday, August 21. According to major airline Web sites, flights are back on schedule as of today.
Hotels along the south coast sustained some minor damage. The Island Outpost property Jake’s will remain closed until October 1 but most other major hotels will begin accepting guests next week. With power still out, the Mandeville area of Jamaica may have more serious damage, so if you are planning to travel in that area, check with your hotel to make sure that it is accepting guests. Damage to hotels in Negril was light, and most expect to be fully operational by this weekend; Tensing Pen is closed until August 25. In Montego Bay, the Ritz-Carlton is closed until August 23. North of Kingston, Strawberry Hill is closed until August 24.
In Kingston, the Jamaica Pegasus is closed, due to a fire on Tuesday that is believed to be unrelated to the hurricane. It’s unclear at this time when the hotel will be able to reopen.
The Martinique Promotion Bureau reports that the island suffered no major damage. While landscaping was damaged across the island, no hotels are closed at this writing. The airport reopened the day after Hurricane Dean passed through.
Initial damage estimates were minor, and there are no reports of closed hotels or major damage.
Most cruise lines diverted ships from Western Caribbean itineraries to Eastern Caribbean itineraries for the duration of Hurricane Dean, and it may be August 26 before all ships are back on normal schedules.
Royal Caribbean announced that its ship Freedom of the Seas would call in Ocho Rios on Wednesday, making it the first cruise ship to visit Jamaica since Hurricane Dean. Most other cruise lines aren’t returning until the week of August 27.
Cruise passengers should expect continued changes in itineraries, particularly in Belize and the Yucatan, where some shore excursions may be canceled or altered due to hurricane damage. The Costa Maya cruise port suffered heavy damage, so all port calls there will be canceled until further notice.
More Hurricane Info
From the Forums: September 1st Vacation- Hurricane Dean Effects
“We’re scheduled for Playa del Carmen on Sept. 1 and we are going. That area was hit a little harder than Grand Cayman, but everything is up and running.”
From the Wire: Caribbean-Bound This Hurricane Season?