The Best Socially Distant Caribbean Retreats5 min read
The pandemic has kept most of us stuck in our homes, with travel options limited to staycations and short road trips. But as more people get vaccinated in the U.S. and abroad, leisure travel is becoming a safer option for travelers and those that work in the tourism industry.
I’ve been able to travel to a couple of Caribbean destinations in the past few months and I’ve gotten to see firsthand everything all-inclusive resorts are doing to create a COVID-safe experience for vacationers itching for a relaxing getaway after the chaos of the past year. I was hesitant to travel again, especially to the typically crowded environment of an all-inclusive resort. But after moving to Mexico amidst the pandemic, I was also able to see how important travel is to the livelihood of those in the tourism industry in these countries.
Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are both currently open to US travelers, quarantine-free. While Jamaica requires a negative COVID-19 test to enter, the Dominican Republic does not. For my visit, I still made sure to proactively receive a negative test before visiting the Dominican Republic and I recommend all travelers do the same. It’s a simple way to help ensure you’re doing your part to keep those around you safe.
The following all-inclusive resorts and hotels are making the post-COVID travel experience as safe and enjoyable as possible for their staff and for guests with intensive cleaning protocols, limited resort capacity, mask mandates and much more.
Grand Palladium Jamaica Resort and Spa
From the moment I arrived at the Grand Palladium Jamaica Resort and Spa, I was greeted with strictly enforced COVID-19 protocols—which included free medical insurance for all guests, free antigen testing and mask mandates in all public areas.
While some all-inclusive resorts will loosen the guidelines while at communal pool bars and other outdoor gathering spaces, the Palladium staff strictly enforced mask usage when ordering and waiting for drinks with no exceptions. In addition, tables at restaurants were actually kept at least six feet apart and outdoor dining options were plentiful and exceptionally delicious, particularly at Poseidon’s beach restaurant, which offered beautiful sunset views.
Staff properly wore their PPE at all times and proactively enforced guests to do the same, despite the hotel operating at a limited capacity. While speaking with staff members at different points during our stay, I was offered their genuine gratitude for visiting the resort. In fact, multiple staff members made a point of telling me how important it was to them for people to be responsibly traveling during this time.
While at the pool, beach, and all restaurants, I always felt perfectly safe (never less than a six-foot personal bubble!) and I was able to fully relax and enjoy the vacation.
In addition to providing a safe environment, the Skylark Negril Beach Resort also has a well-established program for giving back to the local community through active support of the Rockhouse Foundation which has invested millions of dollars in the development and support of local schools.
The hotel is not an all-inclusive resort, but it does have a delicious restaurant on-site called Miss Lily’s that does a modern take on Jamaican cooking and is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant is an offshoot of the well-known and loved Miss Lily’s in New York City.
Skylark—which means “to laze about, to idle and goof off”—has the added pandemic-friendly benefit of being situated on Negril’s seven-mile beach, meaning there’s plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the solitude!
Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Punta Cana
It’s the sheer size of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Punta Cana that makes it particularly COVID-safe. The massive resort offers plenty of space to maintain a safe distance, whether it’s at the many pools, one of the biggest Casinos in the Caribbean or its variety of restaurants.
Plenty of dining options are a part of the all-inclusive package which allows guests to sit socially distanced whether it’s at the indoor Japanese Hibachi restaurant or outdoors by the beach at the rodizio-style Brazillian steakhouse. For an even more comfortable and safer dining experience, room service is available 24 hours a day to all guests.
In true Hard Rock fashion, the resort has continued with nightly live music, offered on the extensive Eclipse Terrace balcony, located off the lobby.
Barcelo Bavaro Palace
While speaking with an employee at the Barcelo Bavaro Palace, I asked whether any of the staff members had been able to start receiving vaccinations. I was proudly informed that, as of early June, all staff at the massive resort had received both their first and second vaccine doses.
The resort is home to a beautiful 18-hole golf course, driving range, miniature golf course, water park, wave pool, bowling alley, casino and plenty of space to spread out on the beach. All activities were adjusted to respect COVID-19 safety guidelines.
The best part of my stay at the Bavaro was the number of options for staying active. From enjoying a round of mini-golf to utilizing the resort’s soccer fields, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, pickleball courts and more. Non-motorized water sports are also covered by the all-inclusive price, allowing you to rent a stand-up paddleboard or kayak for some early morning time on the water.