If you’re looking to extend your summer with a mini warm-weather getaway but are concerned by the growing threat of the Zika virus, there’s still a way to enjoy the sun and sand, sans stress. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the mosquito-borne virus has been slowly spreading throughout the Western Hemisphere (and some parts of Southeast Asia, including Singapore), making it difficult for travel, not just for pregnant women, but anyone of child-bearing age.
Dr. Laura E. Riley, a specialist in high-risk pregnancies at Massachusetts General Hospital, told The New York Times that even women who aren’t planning to start a family should avoid affected countries, as half of pregnancies are unintended. “Why would you ever sign yourself up for that? There’s enough in life to worry about. I wouldn’t add that to my list,” she says.
Zika virus has crippled beloved tropical destinations in the Caribbean, Central America, and even Florida, where it was recently found in certain parts of extremely popular Miami Beach, making it harder than ever to plan a short-haul warm-weather trip. If you’re looking for sand and sun but aren’t prepared to take the risk, add one of these seven Zika-free destinations to your itinerary.
Despite common misconceptions, this tiny island nation is actually not located in the Caribbean, but directly on the same latitude as North Carolina, making it very far away from Zika mosquitoes and very close to a preppy tropical paradise. Dusty sands, blue skies, and lush green hills make this a great place to relax and absorb the mix of British and island influences. The weather is fairly temperate year-round but does dip in the winter months, so check the forecast before booking.
Once the haunt of British pirates, this sweet little seaside town north of Chile’s capital of Santiago boasts white sand beaches and a trendy vibe. Its inland is made up of Chile’s deserts, making it the best of both sand and sea on this narrow strip of a country. The turquoise waters are crystal clear, and there’s even a calm cove fit for children—or those who aren’t partial to mega waves. The Mediterranean climate keeps Chileans and other South Americans coming here all year round.
This tiny Caribbean British Overseas Territory (similar to the Bahamas and Bermuda) is one of the very few left in the region that have had no local transmissions of Zika virus, and it’s still relatively unknown, making for a peaceful, truly off-the-beaten-path vacation. There are only 5000 residents, and there is a deep mix of British, Irish, and West African cultural history here. There are no major hotel chains, and no large hotels at all—bed-and-breakfasts and guesthouses are the way to go, which makes this an intimate, super-remote break for anyone truly looking to unplug on one of the island’s black-sand beaches.
Punta del Este
This down-to-earth beach town off the coast of Uruguay has long been a summer sanctuary for those in Buenos Aires and beyond, and for good reason: temperate climate, beautiful beaches, and cultural icons abound, such as Casapueblo, the iconic home of sculptor Carlos Páez Vilaró. Known worldwide as a “living sculpture,” this landmark took 36 years to build. Also look out for the region’s whale sanctuary and offbeat attractions such as La Mano de Punta del Este (the hands of Punta del Este), a large sculpture of a hand buried in the sand.
Whether you’re hiking the verdant cliffs of Kauai or driving the unbelievable road to Hana, all of Hawaii’s islands have something to offer. The national and state parks are excellent examples of tropical paradise, and the bounty of the land is abundant, ranging from the mundane banana to the exotic noni, which is said to have all sorts of healing properties. Influences as far flung as Portugal and China, plus the native Polynesian culture, help make this state the most diverse in the nation—and their white (and black, green, and red!) sand beaches aren’t too shabby, either.
It’s said that San Diegans are some of the happiest people in the country, and it’s easy to see why: Temperatures are lovely year-round, and the sun just keeps on shining without dumping buckets of humidity on you. It’s Southern California living at its best—and there are those adorable seals and sea lions, too. Take a day trip out to Coronado Beach, or explore the world-famous San Diego Zoo, which turns 100 this year. Try your hand at surfing, or just soak up the sand and sun; whatever you choose to do, know it’ll feel a little bit brighter and better in San Diego.
Zika has been found in South Florida, but it has yet to make its way north to the barrier islands. Amelia Island is a peaceful, family-friendly place where the marsh meets the ocean in a beautiful low-country sunset. Nature takes center stage here, with whales, sea turtles, birds, and more nestled between the narrow waterways and the island dotted with live oaks. Thirteen miles of pristine beaches can be experienced at either resorts, condos, or vacation rentals, making this the perfect place for a group trip.