October 7, 2020
The number of places around the world where American tourists are welcome remains distressingly low due to the high rates of coronavirus infection in the United States.
Many countries are off-limits entirely, while others might as well be, thanks to quarantine requirements that strand incoming visitors at their hotels for two weeks after arrival.
Fortunately for travelers seeking some wintertime sun, not all of paradise is roped off to U.S. vacationers. Several of the most popular beachy getaways in the Caribbean and Central America are reopening (or have already opened) for tourism just in time for the winter season—and many places don't require you to quarantine when you get there.
Here are some strong contenders for a memorable winter escape, Covid-19 notwithstanding.
Note: While accurate as of this writing, pandemic requirements have a way of changing at a moment's notice. Before you make any reservations, familiarize yourself with hotel and airline cancellation policies in case you have to call off the trip. Some businesses and attractions may be closed as well, and nightly curfews may be in effect.
Also—and this should really go without saying at this point: While you're visiting any of the destinations below, observe local rules, wear a mask when in public places, practice social distancing, and comply with any other safety protocols.
After initially following a plan of only allowing entry to Americans from states that were considered low-risk, Costa Rica will resume welcoming all U.S. residents, regardless of their state of origin, starting November 1.
To enter, each visitor must have a negative result from an RT-PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before travel. Tourists must also complete the online Health Pass form and show proof of medical travel insurance with coverage for at least $50,000 for medical expenses and $2,000 for Covid-related lodging expenses. You can either buy insurance from Costa Rica's National Insurance Institute or obtain a certificate verifying coverage from an independent insurer.
For more information: Go to VisitCostaRica.com.
The Bahamas reopened for tourism on July 1, then closed again shortly thereafter in response to a coronavirus surge in the United States. Then the island nation reopened again, but with a quarantine requirement. On November 1, the quarantine rule will be exchanged for a new system of pre- and post-arrival testing.
To enter the country, all visitors over the age of 10 must have negative PCR (nasal swab) test results no older than 7 days. Travelers should upload results when applying for the Travel Health Card online. This visa requires a fee (the amount depends on the length of stay) to cover the cost of testing.
Visitors must undergo rapid antigen testing upon arrival in the Bahamas, and again after 4 days if they're staying in the country longer than 5 days. Many hotels are helping to administer this last round of testing.
For more information: Go to Bahamas.com.
Even though it's an American state, Hawaii has its own set of rules for incoming tourists, and it has a workaround that enables visitors to avoid quarantining.
As of October 15, tourists may freely enter the Aloha State as long as they carry negative Covid-19 test results obtained within the previous 72 hours. There has been some local infighting on this point, so check ahead to see which islands are participating; Oahu and Maui, which depend on tourism, are the most likely to allow you to forego quarantine. Many airlines that serve Hawaii, including United, Hawaiian, and American, are helping passengers obtain the required test results ahead of their scheduled flights.
That's to get out of quarantine; visitors who don't arrive with negative test results, or whose results are delayed, will be required to quarantine—and the state enforces the rule.
There may be some restrictions on inter-island travel, so tourists should plan to spend their vacations on the island where their flights land.
For more information: Go to HawaiiTourismAuthority.org.
The land border between the U.S. and Mexico has been closed since March, but that doesn't bar flights between the two countries.
Popular resort areas such as Cancún, the Riviera Maya, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, and the Riviera Nayarit had all resumed tourism operations by the middle of June. As in the U.S., health and safety regulations in Mexico vary by state, but none of the states where those places are located requires Covid-19 testing for entry.
Instead, incoming tourists must fill out health questionnaires and, in some cases, submit to temperature screening via thermal imaging.
And that's about it.
That rule has since been replaced with a system of rapid tests administered at random to a small percentage (between 3% and 10%) of inbound arrivals at the airport. Each visitor must fill out a Traveler's Health Affadavit.
Until the end of December, all hotel guests will be given a complimentary "travel assistance plan" covering emergencies, telemedicine, lodging for prolonged stays, and costs for changing flights in the event of an infection.
For more information: Visit GoDominicanRepublic.com.
This U.S. island territory has had a rocky reopening, at several points discouraging all nonessential travel from the mainland.
But as of autumn, travelers may once again visit Puerto Rico, provided they complete the online Travel Declaration Form and receive negative results from a molecular Covid-19 test (nasal or throat swab) taken no more than 72 hours prior to visiting the island.
When you upload your negative results to the Travel Declaration Form via the online portal, you'll receive an airport exit confirmation number and QR code, which you'll need to present upon arrival.
If you don't want to take a test, you can opt to quarantine for 14 days—but isn't that what we're trying to avoid?
For more information: Go to DiscoverPuertoRico.com.
For a thorough rundown of entry requirements and restrictions, see our frequently updated inventory of travel regulations for destinations throughout Mexico and the Caribbean.