Holiday travel is nowhere near as carefree as it was during our pre-COVID days, although with the proper precautions it’s still possible to enjoy a little getaway this spring. Information around travel is changing daily, and while this list was current at the time of publication, it’s suggested to check these locations are still open and accepting tourists, as well as the guidelines and advisories required to travel there through the CDC. Most, if not all, of these cities require a negative COVID test and some places, like Jamaica, administer them on arrival at the airport.
With that in mind, here are a few of our top destinations to travel to now if an American passport is what you hold. A diverse list of exploration-worthy adventures, bucket-list trips, or perfect places for rest and relaxation, rest assured that no matter which destination tickles your fancy our hotel picks will keep you fully indulged during your travels.
Images Courtesy of Palace Elizabeth Hvar
While Hvar is known as a warmer weather stop due to its balmy summer climate and coveted position in the Adriatic sea, the fall and winter months are still inviting (think temps in the 70s and 80s) to enjoy all the city has to offer. Take a speedboat around the Pakleni islands for a day, indulge in the freshest fish for every meal, wander around the city squares at night, or get lost in the monasteries on a lazy afternoon to take in all the wonders that make up this ancient island. Hvar has a rich history that’s reflected in its culture and architecture from the ancient Greeks who were there in 384 BC to the Venetians who used it as a major Naval base, to Napoleon’s rule over it for a spell after which it became part of the Austrian Empire, remnants of all these dynasties are seen everywhere.
In the heart of Hvar and situated on its main square is the former Duke’s residence from the Venetian era which has been converted to the Palace Elizabeth Hvar. With a nondescript entryway built into the archeological site that is the former southwestern wall which once upon a time surrounded the city, this hotel is a place that melds its palatial identity with modern amenities and design to elicit a serene experience. Guest rooms are done in subtle whites and the palest of pale baby blues with moldings and archways reminiscent of its history without it becoming overpowering. This minimalist-meets-heritage aesthetic is accented with rich textures in the form of wall coverings, carpets, and curtains and best of all, most rooms have views of the sea.
Images Courtesy of Amuelta Boutique Hotel
The United State’s neighbor to the south has remained open for most of the pandemic and Americans have been making the most of it. From Baja to Tulum to Mexico City to Oaxaca, everyone’s feeds have undoubtedly been peppered with friends flaunting their Mexican sojourns. With so much to offer including a compelling art scene in Mexico City to stunning beaches, and with hardly any travel time to get there, it makes sense that Americans have been enjoying all that Mexico has to offer.
One of the most under-the-radar, yet buzziest, places to visit is Zijuantaneo. It sits on a half-mile stretch of beach along a protected bay and epitomizes laid-back culture with its shoes-optional dress code and sleepy, seaside village vibe. To say it’s totally undiscovered wouldn’t be true; it’s been frequented by cultural icons including Andy Warhol, The Rolling Stones, and Jack Kerouac, but has been able to maintain its isolated vibe because direct flights into the town have been unavailable (a layover in Mexico City has always been required) plus it’s bordered by jagged mountains. In recent times, though, direct flights from six US cities have become available and it opened borders just a bit, but not enough to spoil the vibe.
Just because it’s small doesn’t mean it’s devoid of luxury, which is why a stay at the Amuelta Boutique Hotel is a must. A property with only five suites and unobstructed Pacific Ocean views, the hotel takes on the relaxed nature of Zijuantaneo and adds to it its own twist of understated elegance. Each thatched-roof suite creates warmth through a subtle color palette, wood details seen in the architecture and furniture, a generous use of bamboo, and all of which is accented with seductive lamplight. Each one of the five suites features a terrace, a rain shower, and a private plunge pool overlooking the ocean.
Images courtesy of Sugar Beach
Life within this Caribbean island means living under the gaze of two giant peaks named The Pitons, a UNESCO World Heritage site. These two giant peaks covered in trees and jungle can be seen from anywhere on the island, making them an imposing yet awe-inspiring part of the Saint Lucian experience. This tiny, volcanic island sits just between Martinique and Grenada and is made up of high peaks, low-lying beaches, and interior jungles. The island is so close to the equator that the water and air temperature are always invitingly warm, and as the island’s center is densely forested, there’s plenty of room for adventure—including lush hikes or trips to the sulfur springs for a renewing dip in the mud baths.
Sugar Beach is the spot to stay in Saint Lucia. Part of the Viceroy Hotel chain, Sugar Beach is situated on one of the island’s most serene and secluded areas and has its own private beach, with no other properties in sight. It is comprised of a collection of villas of varying sizes, each with their own private pool. The larger villas are expansive mini-mansions hanging on ledges over the sea with infinity pools, hot tubs, and private access to the beach. Done in contemporary colonial style of soothing whites, tall columns, and indoors that open to the outdoors by the opening of floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, Sugar Beach is a magical Caribbean getaway.
Images courtesy of Dromoland Castle
With its green rolling hills and unique Irish charm, it’s the perfect time to get to Ireland and cross it off the bucket list. Fly to Dublin and spend time exploring its medieval cathedrals, reading books at the must-see Trinity College library, laying around in the 1,700-acre Phoenix Park, or indulging in one of Ireland’s most famous and finest exports, wool, for the coziest blankets, sweaters, and shawls. When you’ve had your fill of Guinness—this is the land from which it comes, after all—rent a car and drive two hours through the countryside to arrive at Dromoland Castle.
Set upon 450-acres with the pedigree of being the seat of the O’Brien family since the 16th century, who descend 1,000 years from Brian Boru one of the last High Kings of Ireland, Dromoland Castle delivers on every Irish dream. The 5-star estate starts with its stone facade behind which lives the grandeur one would expect from a noble ancestral home. It’s opulent, extravagant, rich, yet inviting and cozy at once. Expect roaring fires, indulgent cuisine, and guest rooms that are bright and inviting in place of the darker tones one might expect of Irish decor. There’s also an in-house genealogist to help trace Irish roots, an 18-hole golf course, and even a falconer to lead guests in falconry experiences.
Images courtesy of Round Hill Resort
Jamaica has always been a tourist hotspot for Americans seeking a quick and easy Caribbean getaway. Roughly a three and a half hour flight from New York non-stop to Montego Bay, the flight options are seemingly limitless with several major carriers operating daily services from major airports.
Jamaica is known for rest and relaxation so it’s not the place to visit if you’re looking for tourism beyond that, which is why when you head to Jamaica you should go directly to the Round Hill Resort. Only a 30-minute drive from the airport, the Round Hill Resort is a lush, luxury property with its own intimate private beach. With only 36 rooms designed by Ralph Lauren in simple plantation-style decor and 27 hillside villas, the grounds are curated to make guests feel all-encompassed in flora and fauna as they make their way around the property to play a game of tennis on the grass courts or take a dip in the infinity pool. For added fun, Round Hill is a playground for the British elite, especially during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, where guests are sure to peep British nobility and royalty.
Image courtesy of Royal Mansour
For something far-flung and deliciously different, consider Morocco for a visit. Situated at the northern coast of Africa it’s a country that glows reddish-amber from the color of its desert sands, spectacular sunsets, and the tones its architecture takes. Head to Marrakesh to explore its vibrant energy and absorb the multi-sensory experience that is the definition of this city. Visit the various souks and haggle with the vendors or take in the ritual of tea, which is a much-loved tradition executed with great care by Moroccans as a show of hospitality and friendship. Make sure to visit Ben Youssef Madrasa and marvel at its 14th-century Islamic architecture, the Maison de la Photographie to indulge in contemporary photography of the region, get lost in Medina (the old town), and take a cooking class in local cuisine with Souk Cuisine. For lovers of architecture and style, the Jardin Majorelle is a bucket-list destination. Purchased by Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Berge in the 80s who restored it to its original French Orientalist glamour, the two and a half acre property consisting of a villa designed by Paul Sinoir and elaborate gardens also houses the Islamic Art Museum, The Berber Museum and the recently-opened Yves Saint Laurent Museum.
While in Marrakech, the place to stay is the Royal Mansour hotel. The most opulent of Moroccan hotel experiences, the property is the only all-riad hotel in Marrakech—meaning there are no “rooms” here, but a collection of 53 private homes in the Moroccan style. A quiet oasis with an open-air courtyard with the scent of orange blossoms wafting through the air, the palatial estate is owned by the King of Morocco. The Grand Riad is the crown jewel, with a rooftop terrace spread over two levels with a pool that offers views out to the Atlas Mountains.
It’s important to note, Morocco is experiencing a country-wide curfew from 8pm to 6am as part of COVID protocol. While this may affect dinners outside of the Royal Mansour, it does leave enough time during the day for tourists to visit sites and markets.
Image courtesy of Mashi Pi Lodge
Ecuador is a nature-lovers dream. Between its remote beaches, glacier-capped Andes Mountains, colonial cities, and lush jungles the small South American nation delivers on its tourism slogan of, “All you need is Ecuador.” It’s home to the Galapagos Islands which is known for spotting diverse wildlife like flamingos, penguins, sea turtles, and even whale sharks. If a city-escape is what you’re after, then visit UNESCO-listed Historic Centers Quito and Cuenca. Quito is considered the least altered historic center in all of Latin America and it feels like being transported to a different time. Cuenca, on the other hand, has a more European flair, earning it the nickname of the “Athens of Ecuador” because of its centuries-old colonial architecture. Add to this Ecuador’s many waterfalls, Incan Ruins, volcanos, crater lakes, and romantic train journeys there is so much to do here that it’s too long to list.
For the best of the best in accommodations, check into the Mashpi Lodge. An indulgent experience amongst Ecuador’s rainforest, this property is a luxury wildlife experience. A five-star hotel, the Mashpi is also a research station that is leading the charge when it comes to rainforest protection. Set within this 2,500-acre preserve, the Lodge offers access to activities like hiking, waterfall exploring, or sky biking, a unique experience that has guests pedaling carts strung along the forest ceiling. After a day of exploring, return to the indulgent hotel where guests are treated to contemporary and modern design done in steel, stone, and glass, a restaurant where the food and cocktail creations are taken on as an art form. It’s an outdoor experience like no other.
At this moment, Ecuador is imposing a quarantine period upon arrival, and it’s best to check the CDC’s website for the most current information on this.