(CNN) North American travelers may not be able to head to 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 cautiously and carefully 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 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 beginning of hurricane season.
Assuming one is willing to accept the complications and risks associated with traveling during Covid-19 (and this is still a pandemic), as well as the weather, these reopenings offer something of a holiday 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 don't usually kick up until the end of August and tend to peak in September.
Second, cases of coronavirus in the Caribbean have been relatively low.
According to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), as of June 15, the islands had 39,102 confirmed cases of the virus and 1,021 deaths -- compared with 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.
Finally, the Caribbean's familiarity with relief efforts following various devastating disasters has resulted in a hard-won fluency in the language of recovery, creating a scenario that allows 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," he says.
Half Moon Jamaica is once again welcoming visitors.
Courtesy of Half Moon, Jamaica
Comito adds that his association has been aware of Covid-19 since January and had a webinar with the region's hotels about the virus in early February that discussed health protocols.
Exactly how open the Caribbean is to international travelers depends on where you want to go. Overall, Comito says that 69% of the region's 2,000 hotels are expected to be open, either partially or fully, by the end of July.
Turners Beach is a delightful spot on the southwest coast of Antigua.
American Airlines, one of the biggest 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 region will resume as more destinations open. (American's service from the US mainland to San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Croix continued to operate through the pandemic, although the number 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 overnight guests, while bars and restaurants can serve diners at 50% capacity. Public beaches are also open, but social distancing is a must.
Little Cinnamon Beach in St. John, US Virgin Islands
Targa says that her agency saw an interest in Caribbean vacations as soon as the US 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 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.
Courtesy Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve
It's this very reason why Puerto Rico is also shaping up to be 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.
And as Puerto Rico has been reeling in recent years, in constant recovery mode because of Hurricane Maria and multiple earthquakes, travelers can feel good about helping the local economy recover by spending their tourist dollars.
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, a few luxury hotels are promoting their exclusivity during a time when people are looking to avoid crowds.
An entry level room at the same hotel, however, doesn't have to break the bank. Targa says that she can book clients with rates starting at $299 that include breakfast, an as-available upgrade and a $100 hotel credit.
Coronavirus-free St. Barthelemy
On the higher-end scale as a vacation spot, St. Barthelemy, a luxurious island escape that has been coronavirus-free since April, reopened June 22 to international travel. On this date, according to a news release from the local tourism committee, all beaches, restaurants, boutiques and water sports can go about business as usual.
Hard to find a bad view on the tony island of St. Barthelemy
Brekke Fletcher, CNN
But entry isn't straightforward: Visitors will be asked to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test that was taken within three days before their arrival. In addition, if they're planning on staying more than a week, they are required to take a second test on the seventh day after they arrive.
"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 under the Rosewood umbrella, following a rebuild.
Aboard the Voyager ferry to St. Barts from St. Martin
Brekke Fletcher, CNN
But wait, there's more!
Other possibilities for a 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 press 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 press release stated.
The Ocean Club, Four Seasons, in the Bahamas is offering a fourth night free.
Rupert Peace / Four Seasons
Attractive packages and reduced rates are widely available on all three islands, even at luxury hotels.
A bargain? No. But it is less than half the price of what the same offer would cost come high season in December.
- Pirates Of The Caribbean 6: 5 Things We'd Want In A New Movie (& 5 That We Don't) - Screen Rant - August 13th, 2020
- The Pirates of the Caribbean cast: who was the best love interest? - Polygon - August 13th, 2020
- Forecasters monitoring weak tropical systems in Gulf, Caribbean and Atlantic - USA TODAY - July 21st, 2020
- Quarterly Mixed Migration Update Latin America and the Caribbean, Quarter 2, 2020 - World - ReliefWeb - July 21st, 2020
- Setback for Caribbean crash investigation as ditched helicopter sinks - DutchNews.nl - July 21st, 2020
- Rum Journal: Rude Bwoy and the Spirit of the Caribbean - Caribbean Journal - July 21st, 2020
- New Cuba bill puts a strain on US-Caribbean relations - Global Americans - July 21st, 2020
- A sign of things to come? Bahamas welcomed, then shut out U.S. travelers - CNBC - July 21st, 2020
- Inter-American Foundation and USAID Launch Joint Initiative to Foster Caribbean Disaster Resilience - US Embassy in Barbados - July 21st, 2020
- Amber Heard Describes Three-Day Hostage Situation With Johnny Depp During Pirates Of The Caribbean Shoot - Deadline - July 21st, 2020
- Latin America and Caribbean Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Landscape Report: Assessing Regional Opportunities and Challenges in the Context of... - July 21st, 2020
- The Caribbean is Re-Opening and Welcoming Visitors - South Florida Caribbean News - July 21st, 2020
- 5 Reasons The New Pirates Of The Caribbean Reboot Will Work (& 5 It Won't) - Screen Rant - July 21st, 2020
- REVIEW: Islands of the Caribbean Brings a Delicious New Flan to the Taste of EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival 2020 - wdwnt.com - July 21st, 2020
- Simmons Beseeches Batsmen to 'Stand Up' in Wake of Defeat - caribbeannationalweekly.com - July 21st, 2020
- Barbados Not Worried by US Threat Over Cuban Medical Missions - caribbeannationalweekly.com - July 21st, 2020
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Why Zoe Saldanas Anamaria Didnt Return - Screen Rant - July 21st, 2020
- Pirates Of The Caribbean Reboot: 5 Things You Need To Know About Margot Robbie (& 5 About Christina Hodson) - Screen Rant - July 21st, 2020
- "Return to Love" - A Song of Inspiration by Bajan Singer Krisirie - Caribbean News - caribbeannationalweekly.com - July 21st, 2020
- Art Caribbean Fusion Cuisine brings island experience to downtown GR - WOODTV.com - July 21st, 2020
- 5 Caribbean Vacation Destinations Reopening This Summer - The New York Times - July 5th, 2020
- Latin America and the Caribbean Region COVID-19 Situation Report No. 5 (Reporting Period: 1 - 30 June 2020) - Argentina - ReliefWeb - July 5th, 2020
- Can Margot Robbie save Pirates of the Caribbean from irrelevance? - The Guardian - July 5th, 2020
- Jamaica becomes first Caribbean nation to submit tougher climate plan to UN - Climate Home - July 5th, 2020
- Caribbean Unveils Initiatives To Support Reopening Tourism - South Florida Caribbean News - July 5th, 2020
- Don't Worry, 'Pirates of the Caribbean' Hasn't Replaced Jack Sparrow -- At Least Not Yet - Showbiz Cheat Sheet - July 5th, 2020
- Royal Caribbean Shares Update on Cruising Start Date and the Future of the Buffet - TravelPulse - July 5th, 2020
- Garca: DR will regain its leadership in the Caribbean with the arrival of thousands of tourists - Dominican Today - July 5th, 2020
- Andersen Global Expands in the Caribbean - Financial Post - July 5th, 2020
- Le Creusets New Lotus Collection Has The Perfect Caribbean Blue Color - Yahoo Lifestyle - July 5th, 2020
- Steps towards Blue Carbon mitigation under NDCs in Latin America and the Caribbean - Center for International Forestry Research - July 5th, 2020
- July Best Bets: East Coast and Caribbean -- Biding Time Until the Dust Settles and Hurricane Surf Arrives? - Surfline.com Surf News - July 5th, 2020
- How to Visit Saint Lucia And Where You Can Stay - Caribbean Journal - July 5th, 2020
- A Guide to the Caribbean Islands Reopening this Summer - Cond Nast Traveler - June 22nd, 2020
- Elite Island Resorts Readying to Reopen in Caribbean Paradise - TravelPulse - June 22nd, 2020
- 8 Caribbean Islands That Are Reopening to US Travelers This Summerand Where to Stay When You Get There - Robb Report - June 22nd, 2020
- DIY Pirates of the Caribbean Skeleton Fountain - Inside the Magic - June 22nd, 2020
- Traveling to the US Virgin Islands, Explained Caribbean Journal - Caribbean Journal - June 22nd, 2020
- Enphase Energy and ProSolar Restore Solar Power at Bluebeard's Castle Resort in the Caribbean - GlobeNewswire - June 22nd, 2020
- Ritz-Carlton Reserve Reopening in Puerto Rico Caribbean Journal - Caribbean Journal - June 22nd, 2020
- Virgin Atlantic to fly to Miami, Johannesburg and the Caribbean from August - Evening Standard - June 22nd, 2020
- Latin America and Caribbean exceed 2m cases as it happened - The Guardian - June 22nd, 2020
- Caribbean business leaders worried about second wave of COVID-19 - Jamaica Gleaner - June 22nd, 2020
- Why Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Stocks Just Got Torpedoed and Are Going Down - Motley Fool - June 22nd, 2020
- Saharan Dust Could Spread to Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and US Into Next Week - The Weather Channel - June 17th, 2020
- When Are Popular Vacation Spots in the Caribbean and Mexico Reopening? - InsideHook - June 17th, 2020
- Pack a mask with your swimsuit the Caribbeans reopening - Boston Herald - June 17th, 2020
- Latin America & the Caribbean countries need to spend more and better on health to be better able to face a major health emergency like COVID-19... - June 17th, 2020
- Food systems and COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean: The opportunity for digital transformation (Bulletin 8) - Guatemala - ReliefWeb - June 17th, 2020
- St Barth to Reopen for Tourism on June 22 Caribbean Journal - Caribbean Journal - June 17th, 2020
- Reopening Tourism Tracker Launched for the Caribbean | Business - The Weekly Journal - June 17th, 2020
- The Caribbean, Uniquely Vulnerable to COVID-19, May Take Years to Recover - World Politics Review - June 17th, 2020
- Jamaican Appointed as New IFC Regional Manager for the Caribbean - caribbeannationalweekly.com - June 17th, 2020
- Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Introduces Reopening Tracker - TravelPulse - June 17th, 2020
- Karisma Hotels to Reopen in Mexico and Caribbean - RusTourismNews - June 17th, 2020
- Haitians join with Caribbean community to demand justice - Haitian Times - June 17th, 2020
- Why Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise, and Royal Caribbean Stocks All Popped Today - The Motley Fool - June 17th, 2020
- DaniLeigh and Fivio Foreign head to the Caribbean for Dominican Mami visual - REVOLT TV - June 17th, 2020
- Latin America and Caribbean Market for Hosted IP Telephony and UCaaS: Increased Remote Working Due to COVID-19 Opens Up Interesting Opportunities for... - June 17th, 2020
- Pirates of the Caribbean 6 release date, cast, plot and trailer - Looper - June 17th, 2020
- When Can We Return To The Caribbean? - Forbes - May 19th, 2020
- Outlook into the Latin America and the Caribbean Furniture Market to 2021 - ResearchAndMarkets.com - Business Wire - May 19th, 2020
- Latin America & The Caribbean - Weekly Situation Update (11-17 May 2020) As of 18 May 2020 - World - ReliefWeb - May 19th, 2020
- Joint statement by the heads of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, the Caribbean Community, and the Pacific Islands Forum... - May 19th, 2020
- Esri and IDB Offer Solution to Combat COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean - Geospatial World - May 19th, 2020
- 4 Incredible Experiences to Have in the Caribbean - Femina - May 19th, 2020
- IDB, Esri offer solutions to combat COVID-19 in the Caribbean - Jamaica Observer - May 19th, 2020
- UK Armed Forces step up support to the Caribbean Overseas Territories during coronavirus pandemic - GOV.UK - May 19th, 2020
- Over 1,000 Jamaicans on Royal Caribbean cleared to disembark - Stabroek News - May 19th, 2020
- US Deportations Are Exporting COVID-19 to Latin America and the Caribbean - Truthout - May 19th, 2020
- Royal Caribbean Can Make It Through to 2021, but Whats Next? - Yahoo Finance - May 19th, 2020
- Ambassador Edmunds recent comments on Caribbean tourism in recent Latin America Advisor publication of the Inter-American Dialogue - The Voice St.... - May 19th, 2020
- Good news for visitors to the Caribbean as St Lucia looks to open borders from June 4 - The Voice Online - May 19th, 2020
- Five Caribbean countries among 100 to get World Bank aid - Nation News - May 19th, 2020
- 'Pirates of the Caribbean 6' producer breaks silence over Johnny Depp's future - Micky News - May 19th, 2020
- Popular Caribbean joint in Toronto is now doing roti meal kits for takeout and delivery - blogTO - May 19th, 2020
- 5 Caribbean Islands Where You Can Go Beyond the Beach - The New York Times - March 5th, 2020
- Caribbean tourism threatened by the region's first cases of COVID-19 - Global Voices - March 5th, 2020
- Is This The Next Big Vacation Spot In The Caribbean? - Forbes - March 5th, 2020
- Cruises and the Coronavirus: What Passengers Need to Know - The New York Times - March 5th, 2020