For those who might not have considered an island getaway before, this holiday season is, well, different. It’s time. And for those accustomed to going south to their favorite spot come December, some destinations are currently off-limits due to Covid concerns. We did the legwork with the State Department’s latest travel list to bring you five stellar options. To learn more about where to stay and how to get there, contact our New York office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The vibe: There are over 40 islands in this British Overseas Territory — only eight of which are inhabited. Still, you won’t find crowds on these pristine white beaches. Turks & Caicos tends to pull a self-selecting group for whom discretion, wellness, and luxurious modern (or colonial) design are essential.
Getting there: Direct flights from New York, Atlanta, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Fort Worth, London, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec, Chicago to Providenciales (PLS).
Don’t miss: In the case of T&C, it’s all about escaping to the middle of nowhere and spending the day by the pool — perhaps with a day snorkeling the barrier reef: It’s one of the largest (and healthiest) in the tropical Atlantic.
Covid reality: T&C is a Level 3 Advisory (travelers must be tested and provide a negative result within five days of arrival), with children 9 and younger exempt. Travelers must complete an online health questionnaire and carry travel medical insurance.
The vibe: As the second-largest Caribbean Island — and one of the easiest to get to — the Dominican Republic has a wide range of nature, culture…and golf offerings. Resorts in the DR can feel a bit country club at times, but the Amanera has 2,000 isolated acres on the northern tip of the island. That privacy is more than welcome these days — as is their gateside VIP meet and greet, which eases you through customs and luggage. Once in your villa, the stunning beaches and natural surroundings are truly transportive.
Getting there: Fly from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Miami direct to Puerto Plata (POP). (Amanera guests can skip the immigration line with their special meet-and-greet service.)
Don’t miss: Horseback riding through the countryside at Rancho Contento near the town of Veragua, where you can journey through small villages with colorful homes, immersing yourself in local life. For those interested in food, we recommend taking a Dominican cooking class, where you’ll learn how to prepare plantains and yuca like the Dominicans do: With unripe plantains, you’ll learn to prepare tostones and mofongo; with ripe plantain, you’ll learn to prepare the best pastelón; and with the yuca, you’ll get the techniques to make the famous bollitos de yuca.
Covid reality: Should you choose to overlook the fact that the U.S. Department of State issued a Level 4 (Do Not Travel) alert for the DR, travelers here no longer need to show a negative Covid-19 test to enter; they must simply fill out a health affidavit. Authorities will administer randomized breath tests to no more than 10% of passengers, as well as anyone displaying symptoms.
The vibe: From the beach party that is now Tulum to the inland artists’ enclave of Merida and the secluded luxury properties in between, there are many ways to experience the natural beauty and beaches of this still-laid-back region.
Getting there: Fly direct to Cancun. Tulum is a 2-hour drive; Merida is 3 to 5.
Covid reality: While on the do-not-travel list (level 4) due to Covid and security issues, US travelers can still fly to Mexico. No testing requirements are in place, but temperature checks and other screenings are done upon arrival.
Don’t miss: In Tulum, ask for a local guide to take you swimming in the magical cenote (underwater caves), ideally in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere. Merida is all about the food and architecture.
The vibe: With cruise ships gone and resorts almost empty, the focus is back on what makes St. Lucia so stunning: Its natural beauty. With its mountains and volcano, rainforests and waterfalls, it’s perfect for those adventurers who get beach-bored after a few days. The remoteness of dramatically sited mountainside hotels also attracts couples with no plans to hike or swim.
Getting there: From North America, direct service to Saint Lucia (UVF, Castries) is available from Miami, Charlotte, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Atlanta, Newark and Chicago.
Covid reality: St. Lucia is currently at Level 2 (exercise increased caution). Americans must present a negative Covid-19 test, taken within seven days of arrival, as well as complete a registration form. They must show that they have reservations at a Covid-certified property during their stay.
Don’t miss: While the northwest of the island is known for its lush valleys and azure coves, the volcanic landscapes of the south are even more breathtaking. You can see volcanic activity at the Sulphur Springs near Soufrière. You can hike (or drive) to discover it.
The vibe: Eco, with plenty of lo-fi chic. This notoriously pacifistic country has plowed its resources into preserving its natural gifts. Over a quarter of the country is a national park, ranging from rainforests to volcanic peaks, and it plans to be carbon neutral by next year. While there is certainly a strong beach and surf culture, discovering the riches of the lush interior has a serious draw. Those looking for the country’s most natural side gravitate toward Uvita.
Getting there: Fly to San Jose or Liberia from Newark, Miami, Houston or Dallas.
Covid reality: Americans from all 50 states can enter starting November 1, but note that the Department of State has issued a Level 3 warning. Upon entry, tourists must complete a digital health pass, obtain a negative Covid test within 72 hours of leaving the States, and purchase Covid-related travel insurance.
Don’t miss: In December, you can spot migrating whales on the Pacific Coast, and dolphins in the Golfo Dulce.