Can you just picture yourself relaxing under a palm tree on a beautiful beach with a tropical drink in your hand? When you are ready to plan a vacation to the Caribbean, get ideas on the best islands and resorts from Caribbean Expert Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon. Just keep in mind that some reopening plans have changed or rolled back for Americans since we recorded this episode. Please always check the latest regulations before planning a trip — this is a good time to use a travel agent that is up to date on travel restrictions.
ON THE PODCAST
00:30 – Talking with Tamara about her Florida trip
12:45 – Talking with Sarah
15:00 – Open Islands and regulations
21:25 – Islands to visit
27:38 – Visiting from a cruise
30:50 – Beaches for families
34:43 – Active adventures
40:58 – Getting out
44:30 – Places to stay
52:50 – Final Tips
57:32 – Sarah’s Favorite Travel Gear
ABOUT SARAH GREAVES-GABBADON
Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon (aka JetSetSarah) is a travel writer, on-screen host and self-described “Carivangelist,” who goes to the beach and beyond to share the culture, lifestyle and personalities of the Caribbean with the world. Based in Miami, she creates content for outlets including Travel + Leisure; Islands.com; AARP; Essence magazine; the U.K.’s Telegraph and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspapers. Sarah is also jetsetter-in-chief at JetSetSarah.com where her passions – travel, style and fitness – meet.
TIPS FOR VISITING THE CARIBBEAN ISLANDS
- The Caribbean has surprised the world with how well it is doing with respect to the virus. As of June there have only been 16,000 cases. The islands of Anguilla, Saint Barts and Nevis have all been declared Covid free.
- The islands of Saint John, Saint Croix, Saint Lucia, Jamaica, Antigua and Saint Barts are all open. They are expecting to open the islands of the Bahamas, Grenada, the Dominican Republic, Aruba, Puerto Rico and Turks and Caicos soon. (Although some have since been closed to Americans — please check updates!)
- Each island that is open has different regulations in terms of safety. There was a time when one could just hop on a flight and explore a different island on a whim. Now you will need to plan ahead and find out exactly what is needed for each specific island. Some might need proof of a negative test that was done within three days while others say that they will test you as soon as you arrive, or even both.
- If you are planning a trip soon to the Caribbean make sure to budget extra money if you end up in a situation where you need to quarantine for 14 days. Though quarantining in the Caribbean may not be so bad. Certain islands have quarantine hotels where you can’t leave the hotel, but you are allowed to go from your room to the beach!
- You should also keep in mind that if you have to get tested at an island it will cost you roughly $100 each person. They can not afford to test for free.
- When it comes to choosing an island, if you are looking for the total package, Jamaica is the island for you. Great food, great people and direct flights onto the island, especially if you are coming from the East Coast of the US.
- The Grand Cayman may not have any all inclusive resort, but they do have some great hotels. This is a really great family island to visit. They have very pristine waters and it is actually where scuba diving was invented.
- They don’t expect cruise ships to start visiting the Caribbean until possibly the fall. Even when they do start the ships will be at 50-75% capacity. They will also most likely be shorter, three to four night cruises and include stops on private islands. Cruising can be a great way to see a few islands in one trip and then decide on places you want to go back and explore more fully off the cruise.
- Doctor’s Cave Beach in Jamaica is really beautiful and well maintained.
- On Turks and Caicos there is a beach called Bambarra Beach that may seem a bit tricky to get to since you have to take a ferry and drive a bit. But when you get there you will realize it was worth the travel. The water is crystal clear and stays about knee deep for about a quarter mile out! There are no places to eat on this beach so you need to pack a picnic, which may be the only downside for some.
- On Grand Cayman there is a beach called Smiths Cove that is about a twenty minute drive from Seven Mile Beach. It is pretty small, but very relaxing.
- Jamaica has some really great mountain biking trails in the Blue Mountains. Dunn’s River Falls is a must do for visiting Jamaica. You will take a hike with a group that leads you to the top of a 600 foot high waterfall. Not recommended for children under seven.
- Saint Lucia has great hiking on a volcano called Gros Piton. You can also tour the drive-in volcano, which collapsed long ago. Your guide will tell you all about it. Right next door there are sulphuric mud pits that are supposed to be very healing.
- If you are staying at an all inclusive resort don’t be afraid to get out and really take in the culture. If you are not sure where to go it is always helpful to ask the front desk or your driver, but a really great person to ask is someone on the house keeping staff. They seem to have really great recommendations and they are coming from their own experiences not just off a list they may be paid to promote.
- Staying on a private island is not cheap but so relaxing! If you have the money to splurge on a vacation a private island stay may be for you.
- There are so many islands in the Caribbean, all with different languages, music, culture and more. If you have never been, look around and find one to visit! If you have been to an island, don’t think that you have been there, done that. Find a different one to explore and enjoy!
- December through April tends to be the busiest for travel. So if you can, try to plan your trip just outside of these months.
- Like the US tipping is expected and though you don’t really need to worry about exchanging money or credit cards too much it is good practice to keep some cash handy for tipping.
FAVORITE TRAVEL GEAR
MENTIONED ON THE PODCAST
Petit St Vincent – Private island resort
Fowl Cay Villas – Private island resort
Compass Cay Marina – Private island resort
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