How to (safely) go on a Beach Vacation this Summer

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As we move into August and the scorching summer heat, a beach vacation sounds irresistible. Many Caribbean islands and parts of Mexico are opening their doors to American tourists this summer, but with safety regulations and protocols in place.

All of the islands have a few more entry forms you’ll need to fill out, they will take your temperature at the airport, and they require masks to be worn at all times in the airports and on all flights. Like the rest of the world, masks, social distancing, and frequent hand-washing are always encouraged but each destination also has its own twist on their coronavirus safety efforts. Here’s what you need to know about traveling to the beach this summer {and please keep in mind that this information is accurate as of July 20th and may evolve over the coming weeks}:

Cancun & Riviera Maya, Mexico

over water bungalows on punta maroma mexico
[Photo credit: Ann Petronio, Annie’s Escapes]

Getting There

The requirements for flying into Cancun are pretty minimal. Currently, there are no restrictions on air travel to Mexico from the U.S. However, when you arrive you’ll need to complete a COVID-19 risk questionnaire. All travelers must undergo thermal screening, and if you exhibit symptoms upon arrival you’ll have to go through further screening and a potential quarantine. When you depart you will have to upload a second COVID-19 questionnaire. This can be tricky with the Cancun airport wifi so it’s best to complete it before leaving your resort.

On Vacation

Once you’ve landed you’ll find that business openings are dependent upon strict sanitary protocols, social distancing, and hygienic guidelines. Bars, casinos, and nightclubs remain closed but hotels, resorts, and restaurants that have received the Clean & Safe Check certification can open at 30% occupancy to facilitate social distancing. Staff will always be wearing masks and gloves, and depending on the resort you may be asked to do a temperature check at check-in. Many hotels also have a new app that allows guests to scan a QR code to see the restaurant menu on their phones to limit contact. The most notable differences in your Cancun or Riviera Maya experience will be having no buffets, lots of cleaning, and social distancing markers.

two shots of tequila and cribbage on vacation in Mexico
[Photo credit: Paige Van Norstrand via Annie’s Escapes]

In general, masks are required in all public spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. However, masks are not required in private areas like your hotel rooms and on the beach. The public beaches in the area are currently closed but resort beaches are open to their guests so you can still get plenty of sun and sand. If you’re looking for something more active, many water sports and private tours are still operating. Xcaret, Xel Ha, and Xplor are all open with limited capacity and required reservations.

The biggest focus in Quintana Roo is social distancing, so it’s still fairly easy to enjoy the warm sea and soft sand of these exquisite beaches as long as you’re far enough away from fellow guests.


stunning areal of the bay in antigua
[Photo credit: Rick Jamison via Unsplash]

Getting There

Antigua’s focus on the safety of locals and tourists means they are requiring everyone who enters to be tested for COVID-19. Knowing that your fellow travelers tested negative certainly offers greater peace-of-mind while relaxing on the beach.

Travelers heading to Antigua must upload a negative COVID-19 test certificate taken within a week before their arrival date. Every incoming traveler must be tested for COVID-19. So if they do not have a recent negative test certificate, it will cost around $100 to be tested upon arrival. Tests administered at the airport will take about 15 minutes to complete and results will be available within 48 hours (during which time you will have to quarantine at your resort).

Before traveling you must fill out traveler registration and traveler accommodation forms. Upon arrival, besides the regular immigration form, you will have to fill out a health declaration with coronavirus risk-related questions. When leaving the airport for your resort, you must use authorized certified ground transportation to help increase the effectiveness of contact tracing.

three beach chairs in antigua
[Photo credit: Danielle Acampora via Annie’s Escapes]

On Vacation

Antigua is taking the safety of locals and visitors very seriously so they can provide a safe environment for your vacation. There is strict mask enforcement in public locations throughout the island. Failure to wear a mask in public places and those places where social distancing is not possible can result in a fine up to $5,000 or 6 months in jail. Washing or sanitizing your hands before entering a new location such as a restaurant, grocery store, or hotel is also strictly enforced.

However, face masks are not required on the beaches when social distance can be maintained. While vendors and other staff will be wearing face masks and gloves at all times, beachgoers can enjoy the ocean unencumbered. All the beaches will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and there is a general mobility curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Guests are asked to, generally, stay inside their resort property and participate only in activities arranged by their resort. However, dependent on their negative test results, arrangements can be made to rent a car through the hotel.  


Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica
[Photo credit: Ann Petronio, Annie’s Escapes]

Getting There

All travelers to Jamaica must complete a Travel Authorization Screening within 5 days of their arrival date and present the result at the airport. The response is usually generated within 10 minutes after submitting the form. You will not be granted permission to travel if the COVID-19 risk is considered too great. On arrival, if you are considered high risk or exhibit symptoms, they may ask you to take a COVID-19 test and place you in quarantine until the results are available (usually within 48 hours).

Travelers from New York, Florida, Arizona, and Texas are considered high-risk and must have a negative COVID-19 test result from an accredited laboratory taken within 10 days of their arrival date before being allowed to board the flight.

enjoy a glass of champagne overlooking the resort pool and ocean with palm trees in Jamaica
[Photo Credit: Anne Marie McLaughlin via Annie’s Escapes]

On Vacation

Jamaica is asking that you remain within your resort bubble and comply with the face mask and social distancing requirements. They have created a “resilient corridor” on the north coast to manage the movement of tourists. Resorts and hotels in this corridor may only open after receiving a COVID-19 readiness certificate so you know they are following the 120-page hospitality guide. The hospitality guidelines include sanitation and temperature checks upon arrival, luggage sanitization, face masks and PPE for employees.

As long as social distance can be observed, masks are not required on Jamaica’s beaches. To help facilitate this, beaches will be restricted to 70% capacity with designated entrances. Like Antigua, there is a general mobility curfew on the whole island from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. but that shouldn’t affect your beach vacation too much.


ocean sunset with sailboat in Aruba
[Photo credit: Helen Pereira via Annie’s Escapes]

Getting There

Aruba has four main requirements for entry. Basic travel information, Personal Health Assessment, negative PCR test, and insurance. All of the forms and information are consolidated onto a digital ED card. Aside from the usual basic information, passengers must fill out a Personal Health Assessment with COVID-19 risk-related questions between 72 and 4 hours before boarding.

Residents from 20 high-risk states [AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, FL, GA, ID, IA, KS, LA, MS, NV, NC, OH, OK, OR, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WI, WY] must upload proof of a negative test result from an accredited laboratory taken between 12 and 72 hours before flying. Other states’ residents have the option of uploading the test or having one taken at the airport in Oranjestad for $75. If the test is taken at the airport then travelers are required to quarantine at their booked accommodation (remaining in their room and avoiding all contact with others) for 24 hours while awaiting results.

Finally, all travelers must purchase mandatory Aruba Visitors Insurance which costs around $15 per person per day and covers up to $75,000 in expenses should they test positive during their stay.

private beach umbrellas under the palm trees in aruba
[Photo credit: Paulo Evangelista via Unsplash]

On Vacation

The requirements to enter Aruba are greater than some of the other islands, but once there you can feel secure knowing everyone there has had a negative test result and you can relax at your resort. Like the other islands, hotels in Aruba are following protocols for extra cleaning, luggage sanitization, elevator safety, and contactless check-ins. Though social distancing and masks are not mandatory outside the airport, they are heavily encouraged in all public spaces.


couple enjoying their plunge pool in St. Lucia
[Photo credit: Nicole Fiero via Annie’s Escapes]

Getting There

Visitors to St. Lucia must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the past 7 days. They will also have to complete a travel registration form. At the airport, each passenger will be screened and their temperature will be taken. Anyone showing symptoms will be tested and quarantined at their expense. Travelers must also show confirmations for their stay at a COVID-19 certified accommodation before boarding the plane.

the ocean view from a beach-side cabana in St. Lucia
[Photo credit: Sara O’Brien via Annie’s Escapes]

On Vacation

To protect the locals and minimize risk, St. Lucia is restricting guests to an approved list of resorts that are cooperating with strict COVID-19 protocols, and is not allowing multi-resort stays (you have to remain at one property for the duration of your vacation). Throughout the properties, there will be sanitization stations and they have implemented strict cleaning protocols.

St. Lucia asks that you not explore the island on your own, but a small number of tours will be available through the resorts. Masks are required in public spaces and hotels are implementing limited contact check-in and check-out protocols. Additionally, hotels are required to check guests’ temperatures at each meal-time. As with the other islands, masks are not required on the beach as long as social distance is maintained.

Although a relaxing island vacation will require a few more steps than usual this summer, most of the Caribbean has seen low coronavirus numbers. That combined with their commitment to sanitization and testing should give you great peace-of-mind as you head to the beach. Fantastic resorts and all-inclusives usually mean you don’t want to leave your resort anyway. So, if you’re excited by the idea of soaking in the sun and enjoying the waves let us know and we can help you navigate the new rules and regulations for wherever you want to go!

Sunsets and smiles

Long-time clients Kyle and Keith just came back from an anniversary “escape” to Sandals Ochi Beach in Jamaica, and had some great feedback to share with me about their experience. They honeymooned a year ago at the brand-new Sandals La Source in Grenada, which made for an interesting comparison with this larger, older property. But the key thing is that, with each trip, they learn a little more about themselves and their preferences, and they keep coming back to Annie’s Escapes to help guide and advise them 🙂

Hi Ann

We had a great time!! Always thanks to you and your insight and details, so thanks so much!

The resort (Sandals Ochi Beach) was great, though as you had warned us when booking, the split resorts is a bit of a challenge. We didn’t quite grasp that until we were there. The shuttles to the beach area can be very delayed, but they do try their best. We absolutely loved our room, and spent almost every afternoon there, when the sun got to be too much for our New England skin! The pool was great, as was the hot tub. The extra space with the living room and bedroom were awesome.

private pool at the Sandals Ochi Resort in Jamaica

Our butlers took care of our every need, and were so sweet to us- Melissa and Ladonna. The food was amazing, the drinks were plentiful and the atmosphere was great! The favorite restaurants were Kelly’s on the pier, and the French. We had the perfect time, day and seating for the most amazing sunset at Kelly’s on the pier- pictures attached. We are pretty laid back people on vacation, so  we didn’t take part in most of the entertainment/ games and such- as Keith says, we travel to not spend time at the pool, since we could do that at home!

stunning sunset over the ocean in Jamaica

There was simply no comparison to Grenada though, which we were sort of surprised about. Keith thinks there’s about 3 steps between this and Grenada, just from the level of service, and the beauty of the resort. I think since the resort is so large, it’s just very hard to keep up with. The level of grounds-keeping, cleanliness of the common areas and the beach were far below what we experienced in Grenada- basically you spoiled us rotten! If we had never been to another resort, I’m sure we would think this was incredible, but both the Dominican at the Iberostar Grand, and Grenada were just heads above this (totally our fault as we picked it!) They never cleaned the beach, so that there were gobs of seaweed and rocks everywhere, it was never raked. The first day we were at the beach there were only 6 chairs out (all full), and it took until around noon to actually have a seat. None of this stopped us from having a good time, but since you asked in comparison, this is definitely not what we expected from a Sandals property. Having said that, we would still recommend it to people who had not been to Grenada- or as we understand St Lucia.

As always however, we are looking forward to our next escape, and look forward to planning it with you! We are definitely realizing and learning the things that we value over others. We put the beach above all other things. We love a good beach, one that we can walk is great! Our favorite beach so far is Bavaro in the Dominican. We also love good food, and great service. We do spend a fair amount of time in our room, if it’s a little nicer than a regular room. No matter what, we love working with you, and look forward to working with you for the years to come!!

Keith and Kyle

Move over, honeymooners!

Why should honeymooners have all the fun? I think it’s important for couples of all ages and stages to be able to get away for a romantic “escape” every once in a while 🙂 Mike and Jo-Anne just spent a week at the very romantic Couples Swept Away in Negril (Jamaica), and were kind enough to send me their candid feedback about the resort. And some gorgeous sunset photos!

Hi Ann,


We had a fantastic, especially relaxing time and the resort [Couples Swept Away] was really great.  While it seems to be an older resort, it was very well kept and constantly being cleaned by a staff that was as friendly and happy to wait on you as any I’ve ever seen in the many resorts we’ve travelled to.  Our room was a beach front veranda 3rd floor room 3317 and was centrally located almost dead center of the complex which made it an easy walk to anything.  We were a roughly 30′ walk to the beach and every night from our balcony, we had a perfect view of the prettiest sunsets you could ever wish to see.  The beach was as beautiful as almost all others I’ve stayed on, with maybe the exception of Aruba.  I probably wouldn’t recommend the ground level suites because the walking paths are literally only feet from the front door or rear balcony so they didn’t seem to offer much privacy.  For the first five days, there was absolutely no (zero) seaweed and when some rough waters did blow some ashore, the staff had it raked up and buried within hours. The food at Swept Away was also as good as any resort we have ever visited and I tried and enjoyed things that I would never have thought about eating.


No resort is perfect and while I absolutely loved our stay here, I figure you want to hear the things people don’t like.  The resort was definitely an older crowd and I’d guess that we were middle to younger crowd and we are in our early 50’s.  The night before we left, a group of about 10 people in their mid-early 20’s came in but they were few and far between.  I’m sure they were going to be shocked to find that most of the entertainment is over about 10:30-11 and the place is a complete ghost town after 12.  I really would have liked a few more entertainment options available at night but it did make for a relaxing vacation.  The casino was very small and we did pretty well but they no longer have the video roulette table so they are limited to roughly 20 slot machines.  The biggest negative in the casino is there is no attendant or automated teller machine so if you win you have to hold the slip and cash it at the front desk the next day.  The drinks were plentiful at the bars and on the beach but you really had to beg the beverage staff to stock the mini bar in the room.  The last thing I would like to mention is the long ride to and from the airport.  Please stress to people that they have to leave a minimum of four hours in advance of their flight so an early morning return flight has you leaving the resort at an ungodly hour.  We were booked for an 8:45AM flight and would have put our luggage out at 3AM with a 4AM shuttle so I changed our flights at an added cost.


Overall, the place was great and we really did enjoy ourselves.  We both agree that we would go back and maybe in a couple more years we’ll be just fine with the ultra quiet nights.


Thanks again Ann for all your help, we’ll be sure to contact you for our future travel.



Mike & Jo-Anne

Tying the knot at Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall

I was fortunate enough to be invited, along with about a dozen other agents, to spend the weekend at the adults-only Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We were there to tour the new resort and learn about how it appeals to the romance travel market (destination weddings and honeymoons), and we got to meet the wedding/event staff and experience a “mock” wedding ceremony and reception. Most of my “FAM” (familiarization) trips are filled with dozens of hotel inspections, but since this one included a little more free time to enjoy the destination, I figured I’d share it as a trip report. Enjoy!


Fam group

I flew in from Orlando on Friday afternoon, and after a quick stop at Customs and Immigration, I was welcomed into the Hyatt Zilara/Ziva airport lounge. It’s a beautiful, serene oasis, where you can enjoy a cold drink, do your advance check in for the resort, and relax while you wait for your shuttle. Perfect way to arrive in Jamaica!

Airport lounge

The shuttle ride is about 10 minutes, on a nice main road, and we were welcomed into the Zilara lobby with tropical drinks and chilled towels. My room was not yet ready, so I headed off to the beachfront Jerk Shack for some lunch. My deliciously juicy jerk chicken was accompanied by “festival”, potatoes, and an icy cold Red Stripe beer – perfection!

Jerk Shack


Zilara 2

Afterwards, I was able to check into my room — an oceanview junior suite, with a large balcony overlooking the pool and beach. The rooms at Zilara are gorgeous! Light, airy and modern, without feeling cold or sterile. There’s a big daybed (for two) on the balcony, and another spacious seating area inside the room. The king-sized bed was one of the most comfortable hotel beds I’ve experienced in a long time, and behind the bed there’s a very unobtrusive desk for those who simply can’t get away from work. Sitting at that desk, with the views of the ocean, made answering emails a pleasure 🙂


I’m really picky about hotel bathrooms, and this one gets a “10” in my book. Large and open, but with sliding pocket doors you can pull for privacy, double sinks, lots of shelves/storage, a huge shower, and a deep soaking tub. Plus, the bathroom has a low-level motion-activated light that illuminates when you walk into the room in the middle of the night – genius!  The lighting overall was really well thought-out  — all the switches are labeled, there’s a subtle nightlight you can leave on in the entry hallway, and a master light switch right at the bedside.

Room 45

As at most all-inclusives, there’s a stocked mini-fridge with soda, beer and water, and the Zilara also stocks the room with some snacks, and three full bottles of alcohol (rum, vodka and gin). There’s a pretty extensive room service menu available as well. I did discover that room service operates on “island time”, as my breakfast took over an hour to arrive, but as long as you plan accordingly that’s fine.

Room 3


Room 2

I was able to go enjoy the beach for a couple of hours before our welcome dinner that evening, and I had no problem finding a shady palapa to sit under. To me, that was a MAJOR discovery, since most resorts these days seem to have too little shade and too many people “saving” chairs/umbrellas that they’re not using. I kept an eye on this all weekend, and I have to say I did not see any chair-saving at all, and there were always plenty of available shady seats. The resort said they were at about 50% occupancy for that (off-season) weekend, but even if there were twice as many people, it would not have been a problem.

Zilara 3

A quick note about the beach…this area of the coast is rocky, and the resorts have, for the most part, blasted out little “cove” beaches protected by jettys and breakwalls.  Hyatt Zilara (and sister property Hyatt Ziva next door) are no different. The beaches are small – no seven-mile- long stretches of powder white sand here – but perfectly fine for lounging, or a dip in the water. A true beach fanatic would probably be better off in Negril, but I thought the pools more than made up for it.

Room view

On Friday evening we enjoyed cocktails in the PotionZ lobby bar, and I had my first taste of Rum Cream (yum!) After that, there was a delicious welcome dinner in the open-air beachfront restaurant HoriZonZ, where my food was significantly better than I’ve experienced at other all-inclusive resorts, but the service was a little shaky (again, I put it down to “island time”  — we had a large table, and some people had not yet received appetizers while others were enjoying their entrees)

On Saturday we were treated to a fun catamaran excursion that included snorkeling at Doctors Cave Beach and a stop at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. I’ve snorkeled in the Caribbean, Mexico and Hawaii, and this was the first time that I’ve been swarmed by a school of fish! Tiny, colorful fish were all over and around me, and it made me wonder if they’re used to being fed by swimmers along this beach. Very cool! At Margaritaville, we were able to jump off the boat and have a snack/drink at the restaurant, or just play on their water slide and floating trampolines.

Sail 1 Sail 2 Sail 3 Sail 4 Sail 5

Back at the resort that afternoon, I had time for a shower, a nap, and a visit to the pool bar (not necessarily in that order!) before our evening reception. Our visit that weekend coincided with the annual JAPEX tourism expo, for which the Zilara/Ziva were hosting a beachfront reception that night, and we were invited. There were cocktails and appetizers near the wedding gazebo, with a bartender slicing open fresh coconuts and pouring in some coconut rum, and then they led us along a lantern-lit path to a toes-in-the-sand reception featuring international food stations from each of the resorts’ restaurants. We feasted on sushi, fresh hand-made gnocchi, French crepes, and Brazilian steak, and then the band cut loose and the dance floor opened. Walking through the rest of the resort that evening, I could see couples snuggled up around the fire pits, and families enjoying a Michael Jackson tribute show on the open-air stage on the Ziva side of the resort. We had a nightcap at Union Jacks (the British pub / sports bar) and then I called it a night.

Ziva firepit

Sunday morning I had a relaxing breakfast on the patio at FlavorZ, in the Zilara lobby, and then reported for our site inspection. We toured rooms, public spaces,  restaurants and function rooms at both resorts, and then had some classroom training about Hyatt Ziva and Zilara resorts in general (they have properties in Mexico as well as Jamaica) and what they can do for destination weddings. Weddings are held on the Ziva side of the property (which is for everyone, families included, as opposed to the adults-only Zilara), and there’s a wide variety of function spaces, from the oceanfront wedding gazebo to the sexy Sky Lounge. I loved the FeZ rooftop bar, which can be used for private events during the day, and the expansive terrace outside of the main ballroom, which can be used for all sorts of private events.


Ziva fez1

Ziva fez2

Our weekend culminated in a “mock wedding” on Sunday evening, where two of the agents stood in as bride and groom. We had a sunset ceremony in the gazebo, followed by cocktails and dinner on the ballroom terrace, complete with music and a wedding cake. The surf and turf menu was fabulous (easily the equal of any wedding dinner I’ve enjoyed here in the states) and the tropical setting was just magical. It’s easy to see why so many couples are choosing to get married in the Caribbean!

Wedding 1 Wedding 3 Wedding 5

Monday morning came all too soon, and it was time to check out and meet my shuttle in the lobby. I had pre-purchased “Club MoBay” VIP service at the airport, so I checked in at the Club MoBay desk and they walked me through the security line and sent me on my way to the VIP lounge. There, I was able to relax on a comfy couch, enjoy open bar and buffet snacks/lunch, and wait for my flight. If I had wanted to, I could also have ordered a full lunch from Margaritaville (at an extra charge) or booked an on-site spa treatment, but I was MORE than happy to sit and read my book with a cold Red Stripe and some Jamaican meat patties and plantain chips. The cost of the Club MoBay service is more than worth it, and it can be purchased for arrival OR departure. Having done it now, and knowing what the regular gate area is like (jam-packed and chaotic), I would never fly home without it!

zzz club mobay






You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)