Editor's Note: Those who choose to travel are strongly encouraged to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19 and take personal comfort levels and health conditions into consideration before departure.
Searching for a sunny, secluded vacation spot abounding with outdoor and romantic adventures that you can also visit without submitting to a mandatory two-week quarantine upon arrival or return? St. Lucia, a Caribbean destination with nonstop flights from eight major U.S. cities, may be your best bet. The island nation is currently open to American travelers, with health and safety protocols in place. I recently ventured to the island paradise in October, and learned a lot before, during, and after my trip. Here are a handful of tips for visiting St. Lucia during the COVID-19 pandemic
1. Stay at a COVID-certified property.
St. Lucia is sprinkled with a variety of all-inclusive resorts, boutique-style villas, and luxury hotels, but only a handful are currently available for booking, as the island remains in phase one of its reopening. (You can find a list of hotels open in 2020 here.) My boyfriend, Francis, and I booked a seven-day retreat at Stonefield Villa Resort, a four-star property with 17 one-, two-, three-, and five-bedroom villas overlooking Petit Piton and the sea. Most of the villas here include a private plunge pool, sitting area, well-appointed kitchen, air-conditioned bedroom, outdoor (but hidden) shower, and hammock with an epic view. Stonefield hooked us up with daily complimentary breakfast (don’t miss out on the French toast, coconut pancakes, and homemade breads and jams) and a serene, candlelit dinner in our villa, the Flamboyant, on our final night.
For a small fee plus the price of groceries, Stonefield will stock your kitchen prior to arrival. Give Valna Stephane (the property’s top-notch reservations coordinator) a shopping list and she’ll have a Stonefield staff member grab fresh essentials from local grocers, so you can whip up your favorite delicacies in your home away from home.
Stonefield also boasts two beautiful pools, a 24-hour fitness center offering outdoor yoga classes, and weekly happy hours with live entertainment, free rum punch, and light appetizers.
Note that Stonefield isn’t beachfront, but you can hop on a quick shuttle to a surrounding beach every Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., packing your own snorkel gear to explore the Caribbean’s clear, blue waters. (Keep in mind that the shuttle schedule will likely evolve as the island continues to reopen.) If you're craving daily ocean time, consider a stay at a beachfront property, like Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort or the all-inclusive Sandals Grande St. Lucian.
Several folks we met during our vacation chose to resort-hop, staying at one COVID-certified hotel for a couple of days before moving on to another. Rosie Harkness, a retired public relations executive from London, raved about Ladera Resort, a property nestled deep in the rain forest without Wi-Fi, phones, or television monitors. She said, “You can completely unplug and recharge at the same time.” Another couple from Essex, England, spoke highly of the service and sophistication at Jade Mountain Resort, ranked as one of the best Caribbean hotels in Travel + Leisure’s 2020 World’s Best Awards.
2. Prepare to spend a lot of time at your hotel.
In order to maintain a low number of COVID-19 infections to date, St. Lucia’s government won’t allow visitors to call an Uber to a random beach at a moment’s notice or mix and mingle with locals at bars and restaurants. That said, select a property where you’ll be comfortable and happy spending hours. You’ll also likely cook in your villa or eat most meals at your hotel’s restaurant(s).
3. Plan in advance — not on the fly.
Schedule a COVID-19 test seven days before your departure, then share your negative test results and submit St. Lucia’s mandatory travel registration form three days prior to travel. You’ll receive a confirmation email from the island’s Tourism Authority one day or so before departing. Print all of these documents and keep them safe and handy as you navigate airport check-in and customs when entering St. Lucia. Also, read the country’s International Arrivals page closely before leaving.
Plenty of St. Lucia’s iconic attractions are open to international tourists, so collaborate with your hotel’s concierge or a COVID-certified guide (we worked with a lovely local, Gaston Thompson) to schedule adventures and excursions before your trip. Otherwise, the limited spots allocated to hikers, zip liners, snorkelers, sailors, and shoppers may already be taken. Not all expeditions are open to foreigners at this time, so reference this site when planning your Caribbean journey.
Francis and I chose to hike Gros Piton. This mountain towers neighboring Petit Piton, but is less steep and strenuous, just as scenic, and can be conquered in two to three hours. You’ll summit the apex with a skilled guide who can speak to St. Lucia’s history and the flora and fauna you pass along the way. You can also stop at several scenic overlooks during the trek to rest, snap pics, and sip water (bring plenty, as you’ll sweat through your shirt and shorts).
We also indulged in mud baths at Sulphur Springs St. Lucia, emerging with smooth skin, and a quick, picturesque hike through the rain forest to the warm, Instagram-famous Piton Falls.
4, Bring bug spray, aloe, and all other necessities.
Although Stonefield’s beds are draped with netting, mosquitoes still attacked our skin every night, and SPF 30 sunscreen wasn’t quite strong enough to save us from light sunburns, even on cloudy, late October afternoons. Drugstore essentials aren’t at arm’s reach in St. Lucia, so pack smart and avoid hampering your holiday with bites and burns.
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