Caribbean reopening in time for summer beach vacations

(CNN) — North American travelers may possibly not be able to check out the Mediterranean, Greek Isles or other iconic European destinations this summer for that idyllic beach vacation, but a dreamy seaside escape isn’t out of reach.

Some Caribbean islands, world-renowned for their miles of unspoiled beaches and crystal-blue waters, are warily and vigilantly reopening their borders to international visitors.

The island of St. Lucia began a phased reopening on June 4.

Courtesy of Anse Chastanet

The Caribbean is definitely an idyllic tropical paradise, and an easy distance from the East Coast of the United States. The region usually offers fantastic value during the summer low season, which coincides with the start of hurricane season.

Assuming one is prepared to accept the complications and risks related to traveling throughout Covid-19 (and this is still a pandemic), as well as the weather, these reopenings offer something of a vacation lifeline for the lockdown-weary souls.

Risk and reward

First, according to Carmen Teresa Targa, a co-owner of the San Juan, Puerto Rico travel advisory firm Condado Travel, these storms do not usually kick up until the finish of August and often peak in September.

Second, cases of coronavirus in the Caribbean have been relatively low.

According to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), at the time of June 15, the islands had 39,102 confirmed cases of the herpes virus and 1,021 deaths — in contrast to the 7.8 million confirmed cases globally. For perspective,the Caribbean is comprised of 33 islands, areas or territories and has a population of 44 million people.

Recovery experts

Finally, the Caribbean’s knowledge of relief efforts following various devastating disasters has resulted in a hard-won fluency in the language of recovery, making a scenario that enables for opening its borders sooner rather than later.

Frank Comito, the CEO and director general of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, says, “Given our experience at surmounting Zika and devastating storms, we know how to rebound quickly, and it’s no different with Covid-19,” that he says.

Half Moon Jamaica is once more welcoming visitors.

Courtesy of Half Moon, Jamaica

Comito adds that his association has known Covid-19 since January and had a webinar with the region’s hotels concerning the virus in early February that discussed health protocols.

Exactly how open the Caribbean is always to international travelers depends on where you want to go. Overall, Comito says that 69% of the region’s 2,000 hotels are required to most probably, either partially or fully, by the finish of July.

Turners Beach is a delightful spot on the southwest coast of Antigua.

Turners Beach is a delightful spot on the southwest coast of Antigua.


More fights

American Airlines, one of the primary carriers to the Caribbean, resumed its service between Miami and Antigua in early June.

On June 15, it resumed service to Jamaica from Miami, Dallas/Fort Worth and Charlotte, and on July 7, according to spokesperson Laura Masvidal, more operations to the location will resume as more destinations open. (American’s service from the usa mainland to San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Croix continued to operate through the pandemic, although the amount of flights were reduced).

With a June 1 opening, the US Virgin Islands was among the first in the Caribbean to welcome leisure travelers again. The phased reopening allows hotels, villas and Airbnb rentals to have over night guests, while bars and restaurants can serve diners at 50% capacity. Public beaches will also be open, but social distancing is a must.

Little Cinnamon Beach in St. John, US Virgin Islands

Little Cinnamon Beach in St. John, US Virgin Islands

Anne Finney/NPS

Targa says that her agency saw an interest in Caribbean vacations as soon as the usa Virgin Islands reopened for leisure.

“I hadn’t had sales or calls in months, but the phone has been ringing since June 1st,” she says. “The people calling are mostly travelers from the US, and many are inquiring about villa and home rentals for several weeks or more. They’re fed up with being home for so long.”

USVI, Puerto Rico are in demand

Keith Waldon, the founder and director of the Austin-based luxury travel agency Departure Lounge, had exactly the same experience.

“Our clients, being upscale travelers who wouldn’t normally go the Caribbean in the summer off-season, are calling and requesting luxury villas in St. Thomas,” he says. “Since it’s part of the US, people seem to be comfortable with traveling there as opposed to an international destination where they may be more tentative.”

Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Puerto Rico.

Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Puerto Rico.

Courtesy Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve

It’s this very reason why Puerto Rico can also be shaping as much as be yet another popular island to visit. Although not officially reopening for leisure until July 15, US citizens can go now without a passport since it’s a US territory.

Targa says restaurants are open at 50% capacity, and most of the hotels are too. The luxurious Dorado Beach, a Ritz Carlton Reserve, has opened, although many tourist sites do not open before July 15.

And as Puerto Rico has been reeling in recent years, in constant recovery mode due to Hurricane Maria and multiple earthquakes, travelers can feel great about helping the local economy recover by spending their tourist dollars.

Puerto Rico

The charms of Old San Juan abound.

Brekke Fletcher, CNN

Waldon says that his company has seen many requests for Puerto Rico. “It’s a place that feels international, yet it’s not,” he says.

While travel values abound in Puerto Rico, several luxury hotels are promoting their exclusivity during a time when folks are looking to avoid crowds.

The St. Regis Bahia Beach, for example, has a package for stays in its Governor’s Suite Building which has a suite, three connecting units, full kitchen and butler service. Nightly rates to sleep in such style start at $4,500.

An basic room at the same hotel, however, doesn’t always have to hurt you wallet. Targa says that she can book clients with rates starting at $299 that include break fast, an as-available upgrade and a $100 hotel credit.

Coronavirus-free St. Barthelemy

On the higher-end scale as a secondary spot, St. Barthelemy, a deluxe island escape that has been coronavirus-free since April, reopened June 22 to international travel. On this date, in accordance with a news release from the local tourism committee, all beaches, restaurants, boutiques and water sports can begin business as usual.

Hard to find a bad view on the tony island of St. Barthelemy

Hard to find a bad view on the tony island of St. Barthelemy

Brekke Fletcher, CNN

But entry isn’t straightforward: Visitors will undoubtedly be asked to supply proof of a poor Covid-19 test that was taken within three days before their arrival. In addition, if they’re thinking about staying greater than a week, they’re required to have a second test on the seventh day after they arrive.

There are no nonstop flights from the US to St. Barts, but starting June 22, Tradewind Aviation will resume flights involving the island and San Juan; St. Maarten, which offers connections to St. Barts and has nonstop flights to and from and United States, has reopened its airport to passenger flights.
The Voyager ferry that transports travelers arriving in to St. Maarten to St. Barts is reopen, but notes that passengers will undoubtedly be subject to a preboarding temperature check, must wear masks on board and practice social distancing.

“St. Barts, like usual, is on the dream list of where people want to travel to,” says Waldon. “Besides summer, we’re already getting bookings through December and into the next year.”

And as wary travelers look to spring 2021, a refurbished St. Barts property, Le Guanahani, will again be welcoming visitors, this time underneath the Rosewood umbrella, following a rebuild.

The retreat closed in 2017 due to Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The renovated resort, cheerfully situated alone private, beach-front peninsula, will undoubtedly be called Rosewood Le Guanahani St. Barth.
Aboard the Voyager ferry to St. Barts from St. Martin

Aboard the Voyager ferry to St. Barts from St. Martin

Brekke Fletcher, CNN

But wait, there’s more!

Other possibilities for an even more immediate beach holiday in the Caribbean include the Dominican Republic, which opened to international visitors on July 1; Jamaica, which opened on June 15; and the Bahamas, with a July 1 reopening date.

According to a July 29 news release from Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. the island is reopening its borders July 12 — but with restrictions, “On arrival in Barbados, travelers will be required to present evidence of a negative result of a PCR Covid-19 test and bar code to clear immigration.” the news release stated.

The Ocean Club, Four Seasons, in the Bahamas is offering a fourth night free.

The Ocean Club, Four Seasons, in the Bahamas offers a fourth night free.

Rupert Peace / Four Seasons

Attractive packages and paid down rates are widely available on all three islands, even at luxury hotels.

Eden Roc Cap Cana, a resort in the Dominican Republic with a renowned golf course, four restaurants and a beach club, gets the Endless Summer deal for July: guests get all meals, discounts on golf and the spa and accommodations in one-bedroom oceanfront suite having an upgrade to a two-bedroom upon availability. Prices start at $1,980 for two nights.

A bargain? No. But it is not even half the price of what the same offer would cost come high season in December.