The Atlantic hurricane season of 2017 inflicted unprecedented devastation across wide swaths of the Caribbean. Responsible for 3,364 deaths and resulting in a damage total of nearly $295 billion across the region, the storms included three Category 5 hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, and Maria) responsible for the majority of the destruction. Particularly hard hit were Puerto Rico, the U.S. and the British Virgin Islands, and the northern Leeward Islands including Dominica and Sint Maarten/Saint Martin.
The following storm season saw fewer and overall less violent systems, but 2019 brought Category 5 Hurricane Dorian, historically the strongest storm and most costly natural disaster to sweep over The Bahamas. For the Caribbean region, thankfully, 2020 has proven (as of press time) relatively tame in terms of storm-related property damage and loss of life. This year brought a different kind of disruption, that of an economic tsunami in the form of COVID-19, which impacted every country and territory across the entire area.
But just like the beauty of these islands’ shores, the spirit of their people can not long be suppressed, and their love for their homes and cultures time and again has brought rebirth and rejuvenation after every trial. Areas hit hardest over the past three years stepped up to the plate and provide examples of that resiliency.
“Unfortunate events present opportunities for growth.” With that statement, the British Virgin Islands’ Tourist Board launched its Seeds of Love initiative in the spring of 2018, just months after hurricanes Irma and Maria scoured the territory. The goals, to replant indigenous trees and vegetation destroyed by the storms and to prevent erosion and protect the ecosystem, acknowledge the relationship between tourism and the environment, and the need to protect the environment as the territory develops ecotourism. Citizens and schoolchildren joined in to plant and maintain thousands of fruit trees, coconut palms, and other flora alongside the islands’ guests looking for voluntourism opportunities.
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THE BREAKERS PALM BEACH
ARRIVAL/CHECK-IN: We arrived at 1 p.m. and were greeted by the valet team, who introduced themselves and took our bags. The front desk team were enthusiastic, and in a short time we were in our beautiful room, where a cold bottle of Champagne and some delicious chocolates greeted us. The bellman supplied some information, and we were ready to sit on the deck and look out at the beach and ocean. The view was expansive and soothing.
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RANCHO BERNARDO INN
ARRIVAL/CHECK-IN: I had been itching for a road trip or staycation for a while and decided to take a few days away from Los Angeles and head down to sunny San Diego and explore downtown and Coronado Island.
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ARRIVAL/CHECK-IN: Talk about a grand entrance! After driving across the state of Pennsylvania and spending the last 40 minutes of our journey in a snowstorm, Nemacolin’s The Chateau coming into view was a welcome and gorgeous sight.
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Crane's Beach House
Guest Quarters: A few hours before I checked in, I received a text message that Crane’s Beach House had an opening, and I was upgraded to its luxury villa. Needless to say, I was eager to see what awaited behind the doors of Villa No. 7; the door, by the way, was sealed with a “sanitized and sealed” sticker, and I later found the same sticker sealing the refrigerator door and toilet as well.