It's time to slip away to somewhere warm and wonderful. But...where? The Zika virus has made beach travel tough for many families and families-to-be. It even threw a wrench into Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's world tour!
While the threat of the mosquito-borne disease—which can be fatal to unborn children—has lessened, it is not to be underestimated. Zika is still extremely dangerous for anyone pregnant or trying to get pregnant in the near future, and both men and women are at risk.
That being said, according to the CDC, zero local mosquito-borne Zika virus transmissions were reported within the US in 2018. And several destinations have recently been officially cleared. The CDC keeps track of where the infection has spread, or not, and it's constantly changing, so despite what you read here or anywhere else, always check their website first.
What we can confirm is that right now there are several beautiful destinations which are beachy, tropical, relaxing, and risk-free, from the Bahamas to St. Barths. Keep in mind, while not necessarily island-like, the entire European continent is also Zika-free, which means waterfront family hotels like Lo Scoglio on the Italian coast and Hotel Dubrovnik Palace in Croatia are yours to enjoy.
Here's the inside scoop for parents on which Zika-free destinations you want to visit, and where you want to stay, from budget hotels to luxury resorts, to the best of Airbnb. Follow our lead. Do some research to make sure you feel safe with the decision. Make it happen. You deserve it!
There are only two ways to do The Bahamas with your family: the luxurious, swim-with-dolphins, go to a Fergie concert, Atlantis Bahamas or the super-chill, low-key, local seafood, tiny beach bungalow, Lenny Kravitz Bahamas. Ideally, you can find a way to do both, as both experiences are equally blissful and compliment each other well. If you're going to go the Atlantis route, keep in mind that you can book rooms at The Atlantis via Airbnb which can be much more cost-efficient—and you can also hang out offsite at places like Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas, a trusted tour operator that offers snorkeling, diving, and boating adventures for the entire family. If you go the more rugged route, get yourself to Eleuthera and choose from a variety of family-friendly hotels, motels, and inns from the ultra-affordable The Rainbow Inn to the uber-desireable The Other Side. Get yourself to Dunmore Town to explore boutiques, galleries, souvenir stores, and colonial architecture by golf cart.
In a word, Bermuda is: easy. Sure it's a little extra golf-y—and there seems to be a heck of a lot of corporate conferences going on—but it's also very safe, stroller-friendly, and stress-free. When all you want is a beautiful, sparkling clean beach and a little rum-something, Bermuda truly does the trick. Just keep in mind, it can be a little cooler in the winter, so pack some fleece! As for hotels, the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club is only a quick two-hour flight from JFK. The legendary hotel is big and bright with a fabulous art collection and a terrific "Prince & Princess Kid's Club."
This Zika-free French Island in the Caribbean is a hidden treasure for kids and parents seeking la belle vie. Especially if you can snag a big villa on the beach like this one via Airbnb—which can house a ton of children and parents and cousins and grandparents and aunties and uncles and godparents and imaginary friends. Not only is renting a villa the most affordable route to go for a big family, but it allows for (French?) cooking with local ingredients and for kids to run wild without the judgment of anyone but their own brood.
Where to begin in Zika-free Hawaii? Well, with Moana, of course. At the Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Oahu, there are exciting activities for everyone including a "Moana Meet and Greet." Families can experience the KA WA'A Luau, Aulani's signature Luau that portrays the local islanders' story of discovering their deep cultural roots in canoe exploration, which brought the first ancient explorers to the shores of Ko Olina and made Oahu the unique and bustling island it is today. Children ages 3 to 12 will love getting a fun fashion transformation—and a brand new look—from the Painted Sky: HI Style Studio and parents can relax in the hydrotherapy garden at the Laniwai Spa.
Speaking of Moana, what was previously considered a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list trip, the French Polynesia is now more easily attainable for families thanks to French bee, the first low-cost long-haul airline offering direct flights from San Francisco, CA (SFO) to Papeete, Tahiti. Lower transportation costs mean more splurging once on the island. And if you still don't want to splurge too much, the Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort is a practical, 91-room beachfront hotel located on Lafayette Beach, in the famous Matavai Bay, with a Kid's Club, complimentary sporting activities and a local arts and crafts market. What's extra nice is that the hotel is eager to present the very best of Polynesian culture to kids, with numerous shows cultural events, dance lessons, and art classes.
6. Mexico City
While beachy Mexico has not been cleared, because of its high altitude, Mexico City has. And while you won't find sand in your toes there, you can still drink mouthwatering margaritas and give the kids an exotic trip that includes excursions to La Casa Azul (Frida Kahlo House) and Chapultepec Park—a massive park featuring museums, restaurants, an amusement park, and a zoo. The St. Regis Mexico City features a kids' club and indoor children's playground; Holiday Inn Express Reforma is a budget-friendly option with free, daily hot breakfast and is conveniently located at the intersection of Paseo de la Reforma and Insurgentes, two of the most important avenues in Mexico City.
7. Key Biscayne, Florida
The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami is a Zika-free, unexpected, island getaway just minutes from the city's cosmopolitan center. With its lush tropical gardens and endless ocean views, the resort is easily accessible and the only hotel on the island of Key Biscayne. It's home to two swimming pools (one for families and one that's adults-only), a secluded stretch of white sand beach, a heavenly spa and expansive tennis center. Kids can embark in an educational journey with the property's Ritz Kids program in partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society. There are multiple dining outlets on property, including an oceanfront Mexican restaurant. Plus, no passports needed.
8. St. Barths
There are many reasons to celebrate that St. Barth is on the CDC's list of Zika-free destinations. The beaches are some of the most breathtaking in the world. The locals are warm and diverse and hospitable. And there's always a good chance you'll spot Jay and B. and the babies hanging out on some enormous yacht. With an array of exceptionally fabulous hotels, like Le Sereno and Eden Rock, your really can't go wrong anywhere, but families really love The Christopher—which just reopened following a refurbishment after last year's hurricanes. Located on the mostly residential Pointe Milou, among some of the nicest villas on the island, the property has spectacular sunsets, big villas, and a brand new spa which overlooks the waves.
9. Cayman Islands
For families who are pure beach bums, who don't need much else besides soft sand, some scuba gear, and a great sunset—the Zika-free Cayman Islands are a great vacation option. Cayman has long been a no-brainer escape for families because of its crystal clear water, awesome snorkeling, and beginners scuba diving. The Ritz Carlton in Grand Cayman is a slamdunk hotel, especially with its new "Starfish Cay," an interactive water attraction with access to the Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ambassadors of the Environment splash pool.