IIf ever there was a winter to take a break, it surely is this one. The viral darkness has lasted long enough; Once the lock is lifted, the idea of spending a carefree week or two on a tropical beach is sure to be more enticing than ever.
Instead of something to be avoided due to the potential health risks, long haul travel suddenly looks like something to embrace – a much needed escape from a dire reality. And for once, there has been some good news for winter sun seekers in the last few weeks. The Seychelles and, most importantly from a financial point of view, the Canary Islands have all been put on the government’s “green list” so you won’t have to quarantine when you return.
But can both be in line with the attractiveness of the Caribbean? Nowhere is there a better winter climate – reliable sunshine, tropical temperatures tempered by the sea breezes, and a mild sea to cool off in. And when it comes to the pandemic, rest assured that the region has been fortunate enough to escape fairly easily so far. Certainly the infection rates are generally much lower than here.
But where should you go That’s the point of this week’s Caribbean special: our seasoned writers review the best options, including our top 10 best Caribbean holidays this winter. Nigel Tisdall reports from Barbados that it has tightened its quarantine rules so that tourists can stay in their resorts. James Henderson reviews the newest plantation hotels and reflects on their troubled history. And Michelle Jana Chan visits the exclusive sanctuary of St. Barts with its mix of billionaires and bohemians. We also select the best bird watching holidays in the area and keep you informed of the latest quarantines and restrictions from Covid-19 on all islands (see below).
If you are tempted and want to travel in high season, don’t delay your booking too long. Tour operators are reporting brisk business, and Christmas, New Years and February are already selling pretty well. However, in early December, the chances are good to find a deal that will keep you away from all this doom and darkness.
From the tourist corridors to testing, stay tuned
Thirteen Caribbean countries and territories – about half of the entire region – are currently on the UK government’s green list. Both are exempt from advice against international travel and do not require quarantine on their return to England. (Those not featured on these lists include the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.)
Each island has different protocols for incoming passengers that you need to consider before booking. You’ll find it a lot easier to keep up to date when you book a package tour with a tour operator specializing in the Caribbean. Consider Caribtours (020 7751 0660; caribtours.co.uk), Tropic Breeze (01752 880880; tropicbreeze.co.uk), Just Grenada (01373 814214; justgrenada.co.uk), Just Bequia (justbequia.co.uk) , Elegant Resorts (01244 897581; elegantresorts.co.uk) and Carrier (0161 464 7842; Carrier.co.uk).
In addition to being familiar with the latest protocols, these companies offer the reassurance of working with trusted local agents in their most popular islands and they should have a thorough understanding of the destinations and each hotel they have. They also promise to be as flexible as possible with bookings.
To visit most of the Caribbean from the UK, you will need proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken before the flight. Tour operators can suggest testing facilities in the UK.
Before deciding on an island, you should be aware of all quarantine and second testing requirements. These come from Great Britain and are needed in Barbados, but not in Antigua or St. Lucia.
If you’re traveling to a country where you need to be quarantined in an approved hotel for the first few days of your vacation, consider adding a few extra days to your trip to make up for this. Pay attention to the hotel’s quarantine arrangements. Will you be confined to your bedroom If so, make sure it is a nice one with its own patio or balcony.
All-inclusive breaks on some islands are very popular. Pick a location with a good variety of restaurants.
How much can you explore outside of your hotel? In St. Lucia you are not allowed to do this yourself, but have to go on organized excursions. In Cuba, access to some areas such as Havana is not permitted. In Barbados, Antigua, and Grenada, there are no additional restrictions if you choose to have a Covid test and go for a negative test after four days of your stay.
For privacy and isolation, consider a villa. Barbados has a good selection of Covid certified properties.
Consider a hotel on a private island. There are options in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the British Virgin Islands, as well as in Jumby Bay off Antigua.
Tour operators say that peak demand for Antigua, St. Lucia and Barbados is high in the coming months, as the islands are a safe bet and some competing Caribbean islands and other destinations (think Florida, for example). are taboo.