Skip to content

These Caribbean islands are successfully combating the pandemic -- here’s why you should think twice before visiting

June 19, 2021
8 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.


The Caribbean and the islands of the North Atlantic Ocean were some of the first regions in the world to reopen to U.S. travelers, as these destinations rely heavily on tourism. And they've managed to keep their infection rates low with strict mask mandates and quarantine measures. Breaking the rules can even land you in jail.

But that doesn’t mean you should immediately hop on a jet to trade cold weather and snow for rum punch and white sand beaches. A coronavirus outbreak could be catastrophic for residents, and as positive cases and deaths in the U.S. and around the world continue to soar, it's clear why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging travelers to stay home.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

These Caribbean islands are handling the pandemic well -- but do they really want tourists? And should you visit? Here’s what you need to know about the Caribbean islands with the lowest COVID-19 infection rates.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Islands with the lowest infection rates

Unsurprisingly, the islands that have kept the coronavirus at bay have several things in common: low populations, remote locations and few direct flights connecting them to the U.S.

In fact, five islands in the Caribbean have recorded no deaths at all. The combined islands that make up the Caribbean Netherlands -- Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius -- have recorded just three deaths.

The table below shows the 10 islands with the lowest COVID-19 rates (we’ve lumped the Caribbean Netherlands together). The positive rate data comes from the CDC, while positive cases and deaths are pulled from Johns Hopkins University, which has tracked the spread of the novel coronavirus.

There’s little data on how many hospital beds each island has, but some of these countries appear to be better equipped than the United States. For instance, the U.S. had just 2.83 hospital beds per 1,000 people in 2014 while Grenada, with a population of 112,000, had 3.7.

NamePopulationPositive casesPositive rate per 100,000 peopleDeaths
Dominica71,808121156.90
St. Kitts and Nevis52,8343970.20
Anguilla18,0901792.40
Grenada112,003148130.31
British Virgin Islands30,030114372.11
Montserrat5,38713241.31
St. Barts7,1163605,3261
St. Vincent and the Grenadines110,5891,059940.22
Saba, St. Eustatius & Bonaire25,9871933
Cayman Islands64,948400617.82

While many Caribbean nations have been largely spared from the virus, that doesn’t mean you should immediately plan your next vacation there. In fact, you might not even be allowed to go. The Cayman Islands, for instance, is currently closed to the majority of visitors. Even some islands with the lowest positive rates, including Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, now carry “Level 4: Very high” warnings from the CDC -- which means you should avoid all travel.

Challenges facing Caribbean destinations

The Caribbean is often treated like a sunny playground for travelers, but the effects of the coronavirus disease uniquely impact residents. More than 15% of people in the Caribbean are employed in the travel sector, and tourism represents just under 14% of the Caribbean’s total gross domestic product. That means the region is heavily dependent on the travel and leisure industry whether the region wants tourists right now or not.

But the coronavirus poses more than financial threats to the region.

Last summer, I wrote about the struggles facing the Caribbean when it reopened to tourism. At the time, infectious disease specialists warned reopening too soon could result in overwhelmed healthcare systems.

When I spoke to Dr. Yohann White, the medical director at Para Caribe Consulting in Kingston, Jamaica, he put the situation in the region bluntly: “We do not have the health system capacity to accommodate a significant surge in cases … already, our health system is on a strain,” Dr. White said in June.

A large share of travelers to the Caribbean are from the U.S., which is currently experiencing a surge in positive COVID-19 cases and deaths. And dangerous new variants of the disease have been discovered around the world.

Unfortunately, there’s some correlation between an increase in positive cases and reopening borders. In August, Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis put the country on lockdown after ICU beds were at capacity and deaths from the coronavirus spiked. U.S. travelers were initially banned in July from entering by plane or vessel as cases spiked, but the ban was later amended to allow Americans to visit following a 14-day quarantine at a government facility. Americans can now visit the Bahamas with a negative RT-PCR (swab) test taken within five days of arrival and a Bahamas Travel Health Visa (including mandatory insurance).

That means if you are planning to visit the Caribbean, you should do so with extreme caution.

Tourism during a pandemic

Because the region is so dependent on tourism, it has had to adapt to serve travelers despite the ongoing pandemic. One way it did so is by offering tests to travelers returning to the U.S.

The CDC recently issued an order requiring anyone flying to the United States to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days before departure. It’s a necessary requirement to stop the spread of the virus, but it’s also a new hurdle for travelers and a potentially devastating blow to resorts in places like the Caribbean.

Related: What it was like flying home now that the US requires a negative COVID-19 test

However, the region appears to have quickly adapted to the new mandate.

Several resorts quickly announced plans to provide on-site testing to guests. The entire network of Sandals resorts across the Caribbean will provide free COVID-19 tests to guests through the end of March. You can also find on-site COVID-19 testing facilities at multiple properties across St. Lucia, Barbados and Antigua, for instance.

Depending on where you’re headed in the region, you may be required to quarantine or show negative a coronavirus test to opt-out of isolation. Many islands also require travelers to fill out a health declaration form before arrival. For instance, the only way to avoid a 10-day quarantine in Bonaire (at your own cost) is to present proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken 72 hours before arrival.

As reported by Travel Market Report, St. Barts has reopened to travelers who can provide proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test three days prior to arrival (or a negative rapid test two days prior to arrival). The CDC has even lowered the advisory risk in St. Barts from a Level 4 to a Level 1.

And, destinations like Anguilla, Aruba and the Bahamas require that you purchase mandatory health/travel insurance that covers COVID-19 as a prerequisite to entry.

Bottom line

Cases around the world are beginning to drop, and while much of the Caribbean has been spared from the grim numbers we’ve seen in other parts of the world, the stakes there are much higher. That means if you're planning to trade your cramped apartment for the Caribbean sun and sand, you may want to rethink your plan, especially if you’re coming from the U.S.

Additional reporting by Stella Shon.

Featured image by Jane Sweeney/Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 6X points
6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.

Intro offer

Earn 100,000 points75,000 points
Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

Annual Fee

$125

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees