6 beach destinations to consider if you are canceling your trip to Hawaii
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Hawaii remained closed to tourists for longer than the rest of the U.S. When it reopened to visitors in the fall of 2020, it instituted mandatory pre-travel testing, and only began waiving that requirement for fully vaccinated visitors in July 2021.
This lengthy timeline, combined with the limited number of international travel destinations Americans can (easily) visit, contributed to an explosion of pent-up demand for Hawaiian travel when the islands fully reopened. When the flock of visitors from the U.S. mainland began arriving en masse, however, it quickly became apparent that the situation would soon become untenable.
Hotel rates soared, there were rental car shortages, beaches were thronged, and restaurant reservations became unbookable. TPG’s own frequent Hawaii visitor, Clint Henderson, recently shared that while he loves Hawaii, he won’t’ be going back anytime soon.
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Now, Hawaii’s governor and other leaders are urging would-be tourists to cancel or delay their vacations as the islands are experiencing yet another surge in COVID-19 cases that is straining the medical capacity of the island chain.
If you’re one of the many travelers who have reluctantly decided your much-anticipated trip to Hawaii is not going to happen as planned, you don’t have to just stay home. There are a number of other islands and beach destinations that aren’t experiencing as intense of a COVID-19 surge are still welcoming visitors with open, socially distanced arms.
Here are six destinations to consider if you are canceling your trip to Hawaii.
Turks and Caicos
White sand beaches and aquamarine waters are key draws for visitors to the more than 40 islands and cays that make up Turks and Caicos. However, before you book that trip to these idyllic shores, be sure you are aware of the latest requirements for entry. The State Department currently lists Turks and Caicos at Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution.
Starting on Sept. 1, Turks and Caicos is requiring all visitors 16 and older to be fully vaccinated with any of the following approved vaccines: Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, AstraZeneca, Spikevax and Vaxzevria.
You’ll need to be prepared to show proof of vaccination either with a paper vaccination record, such as U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-issued card, a vaccine letter signed by a physician or registered nurse, or a printed vaccination record from an electronic vaccination database.
Visitors still need a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before arrival. Children under the age of 10 are exempt from the testing requirement. In addition, visitors will need to fill out TCI Assured portal authorization form online along with health insurance that covers COVID-19 medical costs.
When you are ready to book your trip to Turks and Caicos, you have several options for flights to Providenciales International Airport (PLS) from the U.S.
Turks and Caicos is one of the destinations for American Airlines via its Charlotte (CLT) and Miami (MIA) hubs. Some saver awards are coming in at 12,500 AAdvantage miles each way in economy for off-peak dates for the month of September. Remember, you might be able to score even better redemptions redeeming British Airways Avios on short-haul flights on American Airlines.
If you are a Delta SkyMiles member, the cheapest awards for a basic economy ticket are going for 14,000 miles one-way, flying nonstop from Delta’s Atlanta (ATL) hub. For United MileagePlus members, travelers flying through its Chicago (ORD) and Newark (EWR) hubs can find tickets starting at 7,500 miles for a one-way economy seat.
Southwest Airlines and JetBlue also fly to Turks and Caicos via their Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL) hub.
There are only a few hotels that are bookable using points in Turks and Caicos, but they do look pretty spectacular. Sailrock Resort and the Point Grace Resort and Spa are bookable using World of Hyatt points thanks to its partnership with Small Luxury and Hotels of the World. Nights cost 40,000 points apiece.
Marriott Bonvoy members will have to shell out 70,000-100,000 points per night for a stay at the recently opened Ritz-Carlton, Turks and Caicos.
San Diego, California
After months of being closed off to visitors for non-essential travel, the Golden State reopened on June 15, 2021.
While travelers no longer have to quarantine when visiting California, depending on where you go, you may still encounter local COVID-19 mandates and ordinances when it comes to masks, capacity limits and social distancing. In some instances, you may be required to show proof of vaccination such as when dining indoors. Beyond those regulations, if you’re looking to take advantage of California’s beach scene, this state has plenty of options to choose from.
San Diego may be the perfect mix of beach getaway and city excitement you’re looking for while Hawaii waits on the backburner.
From Carlsbad to Coronado to Point Loma, there’s no shortage of beaches in the San Diego area. With historic neighborhoods such as the Victorian-era Gaslamp district as well as sprawling Balboa park to explore, not to mention its famous zoo, San Diego has many places to explore in addition to its chill beach scene.
Related: Planning a family trip to San Diego
If you are local to California, one option is to visit “America’s Finest City” by train. Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner has stations in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. Check the daily train schedule for updated stops. For 1,278 Amtrak Guest Rewards points or pay $36, you can take this 3-hour train ride from Los Angeles’s Union Station to San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot on a coach seat.
If you’re flying in, you won’t have trouble finding flights from the major players — Delta, United, Alaska, American and Southwest all fly regularly into San Diego International (SAN).
For hotels, you have many choices to use your points, the question is really where in San Diego you want to relax and kick up your heels. Those with Hilton Honors points can book the Hotel La Jolla, which is part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, for 52,000-60,000 points a night, or the Hilton San Diego Bayfront for 60,000 points a night this fall.
If you are a Marriott Bonvoy member, you can cash in your points at Sheraton Carlsbad Resort and Spa for 40,000-60,000 points a night or the newly renovated Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter at 30,000-40,000 points per night if you want to stick to downtown. You could also consider using 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night at either the newly renovated Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad, or the nearby Alila Marea Beach Resort in the charming surf hamlet of Encinitas.
If you’re looking for a quick island reprieve, Bermuda may be the destination for you (it’s also currently at the State Department’s Level 2).
Like many other Caribbean destinations, Bermuda has revised its rules for entry due to COVID-19. As of Aug. 23, all vaccinated travelers will be given a red wristband when they arrive. Vaccinated travelers who pre-test negative within four days of arrival must wear it until they received their negative arrival test according to the country’s Department of Health. A vaccinated traveler who does not pre-test must wear the wristband until receiving a negative test on day four.
A vaccinated traveler is someone who has received the full doses of any of the following approved vaccines: Pfizer BioNTECH, AstraZeneca, Serum Institute of India, Jansen/Johnson & Johnson, Moderna Sinopharm/BIBP and Sinovac.
In addition, all travelers two years old and above must show a negative pre-arrival test taken within four days of arrival. Unimmunized children must wear their wristbands until cleared with negative tests on days eight or ten.
Aside from pre-travel testing, visitors will also need to apply one to three days before arriving in Bermuda for a Travel Authorization form (which includes a $75 fee) where you can upload your vaccine card and negative PCR test results. Failure to complete this form can result in a $1,000 fine upon arrival. You’ll need this complete form, ready for scanning upon arrival. You will also be tested on your tenth day (assuming you stay that long).
In terms of getting into Bermuda (BDA), JetBlue flies nonstop from Boston (BOS) and New York (JFK), Delta flies nonstop from Atlanta (ATL) and New York (JFK), while American Airlines offers nonstops from Charlotte (CLT), Miami (MIA) and Philadelphia (PHL). Prices remain relatively reasonable. Round-trip nonstop flights on JetBlue from Boston to Bermuda, for instance, are running at around 23,800 TrueBlue points on many dates this fall.
As for hotels if you’re looking to book a stay using points, Bermuda doesn’t offer as many points properties as some other destinations. But you could splurge and book a night at the new St. Regis Bermuda Resort for 70,000-100,000 points per night.
Los Cabos, Mexico
A popular destination for West Coasters who might have been considering Hawaii, Los Cabos offers an easy trip to unwind and enjoy the beach (or pool). Currently, all air travelers can enter Mexico without providing a negative PCR test or quarantine on arrival. However, the land border between the U.S. and Mexico remains closed for nonessential travel through September 21.
It’s important to note that, while you don’t need a PCR test to travel to Mexico, you will need a negative PCR test within 72 hours before you make your return to the U.S. Mexico is also rated at the State Department’s Level 3: Reconsider Travel, which might (understandably) put you off.
While this resort-filled stretch of Baja California is a go-to location for spring breakers and celebrities, it’s also a destination that offers a lot of bargains for points and miles redemptions.
Whether you’re staying at a hotel at in Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo, you’ll start your journey by flying int San Jose Del Cabo (SJD). You can find bargains through the oneworld Alliance via American Airlines AAdvantage miles, Alaska Mileage Plan miles or British Airways Avios.
Southwest Airlines is another option that offers round-trip flights for as low as 10,000 points during off-peak dates in September.
As for hotels, if you are a Hilton, IHG, Marriott, Hyatt or Choice fan, you’re in luck. Depending on what type of accommodations you are looking for, you can snag a stay 13,000 points per night stay at Holiday Inn Express Cabo San Lucas to the Category 6 The Cape, a Thompson Hotel from Hyatt for 25,000 per night. Have Marriott Bonvoy points? Consider spending 40,000-60,000 of them per night at the JW Marriott Los Cabos.
Known for its warm year-round climate and famous barrier reef, Belize is an outdoor wonderland just waiting to be explored. From wildlife sanctuaries to sandy cays, there’s plenty of windsurfing, swimming and fishing to be had.
To enter Belize, all travelers regardless of vaccination status must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 96 hours prior to departure. If you cannot take a test before departure, you must take a test upon arrival for $50. If you test positive, you will be required to quarantine for 14 days at an approved hotel. The country currently sits at the State Department’s Level 3: Reconsider Travel.
American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines all offer nonstop flights from each of their respective hubs — Dallas (DFW) and Miami (MIA) on American, Atlanta (ATL) on Delta, and Houston (IAH) on United — to Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (BZE). This fall, you can find economy round-trip awards from various cities on Delta for just 18,000 miles, 25,000 miles on American, or 35,000 miles on United.
As for places to stay on points, you can book a stay at Radisson Fort George Hotel & Marina for 30,000 points per night and grab a room at Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza for 24,000 points a night.
Instead, you might want to try the new Alaia Belize, which is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, for 40,000-60,000 points per night, or the barefoot-chic Mahogany Bay Resort & Beach Club on Ambergris Cay, for just 45,000-59,000 Hilton Honors points per night (prices go up to 80,000 points per night closer to the holidays).
A place where the Old World meets the new, this U.S. territory offers a sunny getaway with beautiful beaches and majestic mountains, all without requiring you to carry your passport. Puerto Rico is open for visitors but you will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival.
You’ll find flights to Puerto Rico’s San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) from all the major U.S. airlines, including American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United. If you fly on American, you can often snag an off-peak ticket for just AAdvantage awards chart 12,500 miles each way, while you’ll only need around 15,000 Rapid Rewards points round-trip on some days with Southwest.
Another way to book a United-operated flight to Puerto Rico for less is via the Turkish Miles&Smiles program (a transfer partner of many popular card programs) that has awards available for 7,500 miles each way.
There are many accommodation choices among the Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and IHG chains with properties on the island. depending on where you are staying on the island. For example, you can book nights at the convenient Caribe Hilton in San Juan for 50,000 points per night, or the tony St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort for 70,000-100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
While Hawaii is a popular place to experience a slice of paradise, it’s not the only place to get your fill of beach, sun and island culture. While local officials are offering visitors to steer clear, there are other beach options available.
Even if you do end up canceling a long-awaited trip to Hawaii, you can still find other places for a getaway that also offer unique experiences in the sand and under the sun while you wait for the right moment to head to Hawaii.
Additional reporting by Eric Rosen and Summer Hull.
Featured image by Matt Anderson Photography / Getty Images.
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