A Guide to the Caribbean Islands Reopening this Summer 🌴
We'd all love to lay out on a beach right now—and no one does beaches better than the Caribbean. But more than toes in the sand, what the Caribbean and its economies need right now are tourist dollars. According to the Inter-American Development Bank, 14 of the 15 most tourism-dependent nations in the world are in the Caribbean, with Aruba, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Bahamas in the top three spots. But as many of these island nations and territories reopen to kick start their economies, health and safety questions for travelers remain: Do you need to take a COVID-19 test before arriving? How are hotels and resorts stepping up cleaning efforts? Will you be able to rent snorkel equipment? And, importantly, do you have to wear a face mask on the beach?
To help you sift from all the information out there, we broke down exactly what to expect if you're heading to the Caribbean in the coming months, for every destination with a reopening plan. Note that not everyone is rushing to welcome travelers back: you won't find the Cayman Islands, Guadeloupe, or Curaçao below—as they don't plan on open their borders anytime soon. Read on for what to know about visiting the Caribbean this summer. And as you plan your visits, remember to keep checking in on local government and tourism board sites, as coronavirus updates come often. Antigua and Barbuda This dual-island country officially reopened its borders, and its international airport on Antigua, on June 1. (As of publishing, American is flying the only route from the U.S., with a daily flight from Miami.) Visitors have two options when it comes to Antigua and Barbuda's mandatory coronavirus testing: you can pay $100 for free test at the airport upon arrival and quarantine in your hotel for about 24 hours until you get the results; or you can quarantine at your hotel or rental for the first 14 days of your stay.
You'll have to wear a mask in all public places, and when interacting with others outside your family circle—but you won't have to wear them at beaches or pools where social distancing is possible, Colin James, head of the country's tourism board told the Telegraph. At beach bars, stools will be removed and tables will be at last six feet apart; and, for now, local restaurants outside of hotels will be restricted to takeout. All hotels and villas are also being certified by the local government to ensure they're following local health and cleaning guidelines. Check back on the government's COVID-19 site for continuing updates. Aruba Aruba is reopening its border in stages. First, on July 1, European, Canadian, and Caribbean tourists (with the exception of the those from the Dominican Republic and Haiti) will be able to visit. Then, on July 10, that will extend to U.S. travelers. No date has been announced for travelers from countries not mentioned above. Like a number of U.S. airlines, Aruba is requiring visitors to both complete a health questionnaire and upload negative COVID-19 PCR test results, within 72 hours of arriving, as part of a new embarkation and disembarkation (ED) card process. (You can also prepay for a COVID-19 test upon arrival at Queen Beatrix International Airport.) Once you've filled out that ED card and received approval to visit, you're set to fly.
As for the experience on the ground, masks are not required, but are requested in situations where social distancing is difficult. Hotels have installed plexiglass barriers at front desks, and many are offering contactless check-in. Outdoor restaurants have been open since late May, restaurants with seating inside (as well as spas) opened June 1, and bars and nightclubs opened on June 10. The island has also instituted a Health & Happiness Code—essentially a certification that shows that a tour operator, water activities coordinator, car rental company, or spa is complying with suggested safety guidelines.
Aruba reopened to American travelers in July.
At this point, we should expect a better idea of how the virus is affecting the market when the April numbers come out next month. Sellers and buyers alike seem hesitant at this time.
The 700 islands that make up the Bahamas have a two-prong plan: First, international boaters (including yachters) and those with private planes were allowed to visit starting June 15. Then, as of July 7, all international visitors are welcome as long as they can show negative COVID-19 results from a test taken within seven days of arrival. (There are be temperature checks at arrival points, too.) All visitors, no matter what mode of transportation they're using, have to fill out a questionnaire, or "travel health card," before flying for government approval and to help with contact tracing.
Hotels, villas, and Airbnbs also opened to guests on July 1, with enhanced cleaning in guest rooms and public spaces, and readily available hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes required by the health ministry across properties. Some hotels are limiting the number of guests in elevators. Masks are only be required when social distancing is not an option (like at the airport), and government officials ask that visitors "pack appropriate PPE such as face masks, just as they would their swimsuits and sunscreen." You'll be able to eat in at restaurants that separate their tables to provide social distance, and most shops, equipment and beach rentals, and boating companies are be open.
Between June 17 and July 7, Barbados has reported just one active case of COVID-19, and is moving forward with plans to reopen to visitors on July 12. (Flights from the U.S. will pick back up on July 25 on JetBlue and August 5 on American Airlines.) To enter the island nation, you'll need to take a coronavirus test within 72 hours of leaving—or you can get one on the ground, but you'll have to quarantine at least 48 hours while you wait for your results. Like a few other countries on this list, you'll also have to fill out a Embarkation/Disembarkation card confirming that you have not had any COVID-19 symptoms within 72 hours of departure. (You can find out more on the tourism board's site.)
While social distancing will be in effect while on the island, Barbados is actively looking to bring tourists back—and giving them the chance to stay for much longer than your average vacation. Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has proposed a 12-month visa of sorts that allows visitors to live in Barbados while they work remotely. "This will allow people from the United States, Europe, and Latin America to come and do their jobs digitally for a couple of months and then go back home, if they feel they can work better in a more relaxed atmosphere such as next to a beach," she said at a press conference in early July. So far, additional details on so-called Barbados Welcome Stamp are scarce.
The Dominican Republic officially reopened its borders on July 1, but tourism will be slow to return. Just 23 of the country's 101 resorts reopened at the start of July, with a few planning to wait until August—and most delaying reopening until November, according to English-language news site Dominican Today. The hotels that have opened will be taking guests' temperatures at check-in and disinfecting baggage at check-in. Restaurants and bars are open and regularly disinfecting high-touch spaces, though bars are limited to 35 percent capacity and restaurants are separating tables. Boating, horseback riding, sightseeing, zip lining are all on tap, though there are a number of safety and cleaning precautions in place as well. (The tourism board has a full list of what to expect on the ground.) As for arrival protocol, travelers will fill out a health questionnaire along with their regular customs forms on board their flight, confirming that they haven't had coronavirus symptoms in the last 72 hours and provide contact information for contact tracing. You'll also have your temperature checked when deplaning and may be subjected to a rapid coronavirus test at the airport if you have a temperature of 100.6 degrees or higher, and will have to quarantine until you receive the results.
Jamaica was among the first Caribbean islands reopening to international tourists.
Jamaica's international borders officially reopened June 15, but tourists are only allowed to travel within a specific stretch of coast, between Negril and Port Antonio (which includes Montego Bay and Ocho Rios). Set up with many of the top tourist attractions in the region, this corridor is intended to limit exposure from international travelers and provide easier contact tracing, should someone develop COVID-19 symptoms. "The most important thing is to be able to trace the visitors and to contain their movement," said Edmund Bartlett, the country's tourism minister, at a press conference in early June.
Before flying, travelers will need to complete an online health assessment (found here). Temperature checks will be required on arrival as well, but travelers do not have to present or take a COVID-19 test. Restaurants are currently limited to 70 percent capacity (without buffets), social distancing is required on beaches and at pools, and you cannot congregate in groups of more than 10. Visitors should note that a country-wide curfew is still in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. nightly, through June 30.
The island will be reopening to tourists July 15, as a phased reopening rolls out for locals: As of June 16, restaurants have reopened and are operating at 50-percent capacity with required temperature checks; public beaches, natural reserves, and golf courses are open (although groups must limit themselves to members of the same household); and visits to national parks like El Yunque are possible, by appointment only.
Travelers arriving in July will have to undergo a health screening at the airport, and may be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, regardless of symptoms, or take a rapid results test at the discretion of the National Guard and health officials. Note, only the reopening of air travel has been announced—cruising is still on pause until further notice. Full details for incoming visitors have not been released, but in the meantime, be sure to check out Puerto Rico's health and safety guidelines for hotels, villas, and Airbnbs before your stay.
St. Lucia is rolling out a sanitization certification for hotels and rentals.
St. Lucia began welcoming travelers back on June 4, as long as they could provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours of boarding their flight. A pre-flight health assessment, and temperature checks at the airport, are the norm now as well. Hotels and rentals are getting sanitization certification to ensure health and safety for guest—if you're not staying at a certified accommodation, you'll have to quarantine for 14 days, so ask your hotel or host if they've been certified in advance. Restaurants on the island are currently only open for delivery or takeout. The country has created an extensive COVID-19 Q&A online, which it's updating with new information as the reopening continues.
Turks and Caicos
Made up of nine main islands, this territory is officially reopening to international visitors on July 22. Travelers will have to submit an online health screening questionnaire and show proof of both a negative coronavirus test taken with 72 hours of arrival and medical or travel insurance that covers medevac, any costs related to quarantine, ambulance care, or care at a local hospital. Upon approval, you'll get a Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) Assured sticker and confirmation that you're all set to travel.
That TCI Assured sticker is something you'll want to look out for elsewhere too, since it's a literal stamp of approval from the government for public transportation, car rental companies, hotels, villas, guesthouses, restaurants, and more. It ensures that hotel and restaurant workers are regularly getting temperature checks, that social distancing is being followed (including at the beach and pools, where umbrellas and chairs must be at least six feet apart), and cleaning protocols are also in effect. Restaurants in TCI will also be serving at 70 percent capacity and encouraging take-out—and you'll be asked to wear a mask or face covering in public (including on beaches if social distancing isn't an option).
The portal to get your TCI Assured sticker for arrival is still in the works, but a full FAQ and more can be found on the tourism board's website.
U.S. Virgin Islands
Among the first Caribbean islands to reopen on June 1, St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Croix are currently accepting visitors. Most hotels have reopened with additional cleaning measures in place, and restaurants are operating at 50 percent capacity (or no more than 50 guests, whichever it hits first). Masks are required in public places and where social distancing of six feet is difficult to maintain. And, most importantly, beaches are open as long as social distancing is practiced.